This note is added after I finished post. This qualifies as a rant, but I think it as obviously true as many of the rants I have read on the internet. They’re not all true, but many rants are the most well-said articles on the internet.
I saw this quote today:
If one doesn’t think they need apologetics, one has to wonder if they have tried evangelizing lately.
Okay, I understand the idea. Here’s the problem.
Most apologetics is a bunch of nonsense, cutting up the Bible into sections, ignoring large sections of Scripture, misinterpreting a large portion of rest, and turning the whole Bible, and especially the New Testament, into a morass of contradictions, which they call “difficult” and “clear” verses.
Worse, most apologists claim to teach the historic Christian faith, and they don’t. In fact, the majority teach straight Calvinism, and there is nothing less historic than that other than symbolic sacraments/ordinances (baptism & Lord’s Supper) and salvation by faith alone (the modern reformed Reformation version).
Note: My apologies to European apologists. I am not talking about you. I’m only talking about American apologetic organizations.
The Real Church and Attending Church
No one trained in an actual church needs apologetics.
Christian organizations are not churches. The Assemblies of God. the Presbyterians, the Churches of Christ, the Baptists … they are not churches; they are organizations.
Anything you can “attend” is not a church. It’s as simple as that. You can’t attend a church, you can only join one.
Have you ever attended a family? You may attend a family reunion, and you may attend a family Christmas dinner, but no one says, “I have to attend family tonight.” A prospective wife may ask to meet her husband’s family, but she doesn’t say, “Can I attend your family with you? When is the next time you have family?”
As long as you can talk about attending church or having church, know that you are misusing the word church. The church is the family of God (1 Tim. 3:15).
Now, to be fair, the assemblies of the church are sometimes called church in the Bible, but that is rare. Surely 90% or more of the use of the word “church” in the Bible is talking about the family of God.
I mourn all the time that the family of God feels obligated to attend organizations that claim they are the church. They are travesties. A “travesty” is a caricature of the real thing. I believe “travesty” originally meant a play designed to parody something. A building owned by an organization and run by a staff with Biblical-sounding names like “pastor” and “elder” is not a church. It is an organization masquerading as the church.
They steal the loyalty Christians owe to one another and they take it to themselves.
The next time you can do something for someone, but you’re going to miss it for “church,” don’t. You can find Biblical precedent for helping other Christians–supposedly more your brother and sister than your biological family–and for encouraging, building up, and prophesying to one another. You can’t find any Biblical precedent for “attending” a speech with songs.
Look for it. It’s not there.
Secondarily (Gal. 6:10), if you’re going to miss out on helping a lost person, then skip the speech with songs, too. The Bible has tons to say about helping the poor. You’re lending to the Lord and practicing true religion! (Prov. 19:17; Jam. 1:26)
What about good pastors? What about people who come to know Jesus in those Christian clubs? What about missionaries they have sent out? What about missions they do in cities among the poor?
That’s irrelevant to anything I’m saying.
I’ll thank God with you for the good things these organizations have done. I’ll sit down and listen with you to a organization’s main speaker, especially if he’s a really great teacher like Frances Chan or Mr. Platt from Birmingham or, sorry, that somewhat heretical Rob Bell.
That does not give organizations the right to masquerade as churches and make Christians forget what it’s like to live as part of the family of God.
The huge majority of Christians in the US have no idea what it’s like to be in the church. The church is so powerful that Paul called it “the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Eph. 1:23). It is so able to teach the saints that Paul called it “the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). The church, together, can brush off “winds of doctrine” (Eph. 4:11-16) and, without a teacher, know what is “true and not a lie” (1 Jn. 2:27).
So many good things being done by organizations, though most still do nothing except train Christians that being a Christian means sitting in a pew once or twice a week and listening to a speech about Christianity, usually full of really bad Bible interpretation.
Sure, let’s start with any Protestant club with a pastor and a board of elders. I’ll bet every such club claims to lean on the Bible alone for faith and practice.
Is it really that hard to look at the words pastor and elder in the Bible? The following teaching has been floating around Christian circles for 40 years. Pastor is only used as a verb once in the New Testament, in Eph. 4:11. Elders are mentioned repeatedly, and in Acts 20:28 and 1 Pet. 5:1-4, we are told that they pastor (shepherd) the church. So you shouldn’t have a pastor and elders. The elders are the pastors, and they come in groups (e.g. Eph. 20:17; 14:23).
That’s picky, but it’s just one brick in a wall that has hidden the church of King Jesus from us. There’s many more bricks in that wall, but the errors are not difficult to find. They are obvious.
Saying What the Apostles Say
I have a really controversial teaching that I teach somewhat often. Almost everyone objects to it. The teaching goes like this:
“If the apostles said it, and it’s now in our Bible, then I can say it, and you should say it.”
Controversial! Terrible, isn’t it? Most–really, most–Christians complain and look for refutations when I teach this.
The reason is that the teaching is a little longer than that. I give examples. For example:
“We are justified by works and not by faith alone.”
If you never say that and can’t conceive a situation in which you would say that, then there’s a problem with what you believe. Simple as that. That is true of any such verse.
It’s not sufficient to say, “Well, I would quote that verse, but I would then explain that it doesn’t mean what it says.”
Sorry, I reject the teaching that you understand what James meant better than James understood what James meant. If you have to change his words to “We are not justified by works, and we are not justified by faith that is alone, but we are justified by faith alone.”
There’s plenty of others, not all related to faith and works, but I know that James 2:24 is a verse that no Protestant says, ever. Well, some of the more radical Christians influenced by the Amish-Mennonites and early church movement would (most divisive people on earth, worse than Protestants), and some more radical Pentecostal groups would, too.
We need to face the reckoning that would happen to us if we became people that were unafraid to say anything Scripture says.
In 1984 I found my Christian friends so divided among one another that I made the decision to say whatever the apostles said, even if I did not know why they said it or did not agree with it. It took me years, and the help of the writings of the early church to figure out how in the world I was supposed to understand and say “by grace through faith apart from works” (Eph. 2:8) and “by works and not by faith only” (Jam. 2:24). It gave Martin Luther so much trouble that he offered his doctor of theology cap to anyone who could reconcile Rom. 3:28 and Jam. 2:24.
The Bible as Sole Rule of Faith and Practice
I think anyone who claims that the Bible is their sole rule of faith and practice would somewhere, over the centuries of their denomination, figure out that in the Bible, the church is led by a group of elders who pastor God’s flock.
I think anyone who claims that the Bible is their sole rule of faith and practice would somewhere figure out that there are a lot of verses they never quote and never would quote unless they were denying the truth of those verses.
I think anyone who claims that the Bible is their sole rule of faith and practice and who says “faith alone” almost every day and at almost every songs-and-speech meeting would at some point notice that there’s only one occurrence of the phrase in the Bible, and it says, “not by faith alone.”
I remember when I got saved. I knew nothing of Protestant Christianity. I was 21, and I was pretty ignorant of the Bible except the Gospels. Reading them had a lot to do with my becoming a Christian.
I was told that Protestants just do what the Bible says, unlike Roman Catholics, who lean on tradition.
As a naive young man, I was sure that meant I was going to read about Sunday morning services with three songs, an offering, and a sermon. I was sure that I was going to read that Wednesday nights were for Bible studies or business meetings or other things that didn’t fit into Sunday morning. I was sure that I was going to read about Sunday school and training union.
The idea that the Protestants go by the Bible alone is bunch of BS. It’s amazing they have the audacity to claim it.
And if you’re offended by that, then your claim to go by the Bible alone is also BS. The Bible has nothing to say about words that inherently evil in and of themselves unless they are the names of false gods. American tradition says that stringing the wrong four letters in a row is automatically a sin, not the Scriptures.
Corrupt/filthy communication should not come out of our mouths. However, if we are actually depending on the Bible as our sole rule of faith and practice, then filthy means talking about murder and adultery positively, things which should not even be mentioned among the saints. Filthy does not mean stringing four letters together into a “cuss” word. The Bible talks about cursing, not cussing. It would do us good to learn what cursing is and avoid it because it happens all the time among Christians. “I can’t believe he did that. I hope he wrecks his car on the way home. Teach him a lesson.”
I don’t cuss as a matter of course. It’s disrespectful to the people you’re with. To me, if I casually cuss with someone, I am telling them, “I don’t consider you very important. I don’t think you’re intelligent and well-mannered. I don’t think you know how to speak the English language very well, so rather than use actual adjectives, I’m going to throw in low class, hoodlum words. Obviously, I think you don’t care much about life and are purposeless, and, as such, you’re mostly using up oxygen and resources on this earth.”
That’s what I think cussing says. So why did I “cuss” above?
To take a swipe at tradition, and because it was hard to find a word that would convey that the claim of Protestants to use the Bible as their sole or only rule for faith and practice is ludicrous. I think BS conveyed the idea better than ludicrous.