Audio: A False Gospel

Rob Bell Love Wins Back Cover

Back Cover of Love Wins

I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.” Galatians 1:6-10 NKJV emphasis mine.

About a year and a half ago Rob Bell, who at that time was the pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, MI, published a book titled “Love Wins”. The book instantaneously became a New York Times bestseller and caused a considerable amount of controversy in the evangelical church and beyond. The book even made the cover of the April 25, 2011 issue of Time Magazine.

As the controversy raged I found myself reading blog posts by both the supporters and detractors of the book. What I read shocked me… the detractors of the book claimed that Rob Bell denied the very existence of a literal hell and that in the end love will “win” — meaning everyone will spend eternity in everlasting bliss.

Could such accusations be true? Could a pastor of an “evangelical” church teach such things? To find out I purchased a copy of the book and read it. What I read in Rob Bell’s book Love Wins astounded me. From my reading of the book it seemed that the book’s detractors had actually understated the severity of doctrinal error!

After studying Love Wins in the light of God’s Word I had the opportunity to speak about it.

Recorded: Sunday April 17, 2011 at the North York Gospel Chapel, York, PA

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E-Learning Past Mistakes

Church History

When protecting the United States from counterfeit money, federal agents do not only study real money. If that were the case, they wouldn’t have come up with new methods to ensure that the money you have is the real thing (ie: microprinting ink, new notes every 10 years, etc. ). They long realized that in dealing with the real they had to know what the counterfeiters were doing to keep ahead of them.

In a previous post, I pointed out that it is important to learn corporately and not in a vacuum especially from church history. I quoted a bit saying those who don’t learn heresy are forced to repeat it.

The immediate question might be “What? Learn Heresy?”

Today we deal with a whole mess of counterfeit-Christianity, more-so when you step into the pluralistic quagmire that is the internet. These errors have long been addressed. In that other post I warned that we shouldn’t be studying in a vacuum; here I want to equip you with other tools that show you how Christians historically responded to error:

E-Reading

  • On the Incarnation by Athanasius (alternate link). He stood against Arius (and apparently the mass of Christians) that were falling for the Arian heresy. Arius believed that the Son of God was not eternal but rather a created being. You’ll see Arianism today with Jehovah Witnesses, Oneness Pentecostalism, Mormonism (probably a modified Arianism) and Christadelphians.
  • Against Praxeas  by Tertullion (alternate link). Tertullian stood against the belief that God is one person who revealed himself in different modes or roles which is known as modalism or sabellianism. He is the one who coined the term trinitas which is to say that God is three persons in one essence over against this teaching that says that there are no multiple persons in the Godhead. United Pentecostalism teaches this today. Also read On The Trinity by Hilary.
  • The Refutation of All Heresies by Hippolytus (alternate link). Here you’ll find a refutation of the matured heresy that Paul deals with in his letter to the Colossians—people who make a wrong division between the physical and the spiritual and all that that entails. Some of the error was even making a difference between the God of the New Testament and the God of the Old—as if there were a difference! You’ll find Gnosticism all over the modern church. Also read Against Marcion by Tertullion (alternate link) where he shows the tight connection between the Old and New testament
  • Institutes of Christian Religion by John Calvin (alternate link). Calvin (like all these writers) had his own issues but he systematically worked through Scripture in a response to the Roman church.
  • The Fundamentals. This twelve book set covered a ton of topics all in response to liberal Christianity. There were no councils during this era, so you won’t find a creedal statement—but you will find teaches that are grounded on the fundamentals of the faith.
  • Mysticism and Christianity by B B Warfield. Heavy reading that breaks out of the early centuries of the church but still manages to address a lot of the love for experiences we see today.

Audio

  • Ancient and Medieval Church History podcast by David Calhoun of CTS

Paper Books

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Battles Over The Beginning

Recently the media has reported on the growing controversy over the historicity of Genesis. Well-known, self-described evangelical scholars are questioning the existence of Adam and Eve, the story of the flood, and other aspects of Genesis 1-11. Of course, this section of Scripture has been repeatedly attacked during the past two centuries – the assaults often being launched from the liberal wing of Christendom. Nineteenth-century German scholars declared that the Bible must be examined like any other work of literature, downplaying any notion of divine inspiration. Moreover, they typically set aside anything supernatural as unhistorical on the grounds that such things just do not occur and therefore must be myths and fabrications. That it comes from respected “evangelical” professors makes this latest criticism especially dangerous. These men are theological double-agents, undermining the church from within its own ranks.

Error in Christian circles is nothing new. False teachers have promulgated error from privileged positions within the church since the first century. The Lord Jesus warned of wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15-23.) Similarly, Paul warned the Ephesian elders that “…from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves” (Acts 20:30.) Christians must be vigilant against the inevitable attacks that come from within and without.

The conflict over the early chapters of Genesis is particularly dangerous because it undermines the authority of the rest of the Scriptures – thereby destroying the foundations of Christianity. Christian truth rests on the basis of the book of beginnings. What believers know about God, mankind, evil, sin, redemption, the purpose of existence, justice, future judgment, and many other doctrines find their origin in Genesis. The rest of the Bible rests on the belief that the first book is true history.

Genesis’ historical reliability ultimately depends upon the word of Christ Himself.

The New Testament makes it plain that He believed in the accuracy of this embattled book. For instance, He upheld the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman by referring back to the creation of the first human couple, saying: “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:4-6.) Elsewhere, Christ declared His belief in a personal Devil, Satan, also known as “the Father of lies” in language that hearkens back to the first temptation in Genesis 3 (John 8:44.) He also referenced other events such as Cain and Abel (Luke 11:51) and the flood of Noah (Matthew 24:37-38.)

The Lord Jesus is contrasted with the historical Adam regarding sin and salvation (Romans 5) and Christ’s triumph over death itself. If Adam is a literary invention than the basis of redemption and resurrection is undermined. One need not worry, however, for Jesus declared Himself to be the truth (John 14:6) and affirmed that “the Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35.) Genesis is true – we have Christ’s word on it.

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Sojourners Not Soloists

Church History

Martin Luther was forced to respond to the charge that Scripture in the hands of the people, in the language of the people, was a dangerous thing. On the contrary, responded Luther, the Roman Church had built up a wall around Scripture which denied reform of the Church’s teachings and practices. Scripture in the hands of the believers under the guidance of the Holy Spirit is the way things are supposed to be. Indeed, it was the motivating factor behind him translating Scripture into German—the language of his people.

Today we have the opposite problem.

If people are reading Scripture at all (and mind you, Biblical Illiteracy is exceedingly high) they are reading it in a vacuum from other believers—which is an inherent problem of modern technology. We have so many tools available that, those of us who are reading, tend to insulate our thinking from other minds. After all (quoting Scripture and following Luther’s argumentation) “we have no need for anyone to teach us.”

In so doing we might fall into error that has long been addressed in church history.

Recall that Christ ascended and gave gifts and some of those gifts were teachers. It is with those gifts that we are corporately built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God. Even those who have the giftedness of being a teacher can’t get away from the fact that they themselves are strengthened, and even built-up, by other members of the church.

We might have an abundance of tools available at our finger tips but we also have (and this is much better) over two thousand years of The Holy Spirit Himself teaching the church. Two Thousand years of a gifted church (with teachers, exhorters, evangelists, etc) corporately responding to error that has crept in.

As we sojourn in this life, and we individually study scripture on our way, we must make sure to also study in community (your assembly) and in light of history. We’re not soloists who play a one man tune, but are corporatelly a body that is being put together. We should learn from our past as well as our present so that we personally do not get derailed by errors that have long been dealt with. As Michael Patton warns, spring-boarding off a famous saying: “Those who don’t learn heresy are doomed to repeat it.”

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