Monday, March 10, 2014

The Myth of Orthodoxy


The Scriptures are full of all kinds of truths. Of course the foundational truths are those which expose redemption. The non-negotiable truth is that man is sinful, Jesus died for our sins and resurrected from the dead, and only through faith in Jesus can a sinner receive eternal life. That is called the gospel.

But within the true body of Christ there are groups which have decided who is orthodox and who is not. Let us agree that there are many heretics today who deny any number of redemptive truths. Some deny the exclusivity of Christ or the substitutionary death of Jesus or even the bodily resurrection. And many in the orthodox crowd pick up their doctrinal billboards and parade them as if they are God’s exclusive spokespeople. The word “orthodox” has come to mean a handful of truths which people must embrace. The virgin birth, the deity of Christ, the bodily resurrection, the inerrancy of Scripture, and others comprise the platform for orthodoxy.

But here is where orthodoxy as defined by those same men comes up painfully and Scripturally short. Can you be orthodox and not love sinners? Can you be orthodox and not deny self? Can you be orthodox and not be observably humble? Can you be orthodox and join hands with unbelievers for political purposes? Can you be orthodox and complain about persecution or the economy or liberal politicians or the gay agenda? You see, this business of orthodoxy has been molded and shaped to a small checklist while many other unscriptural speech and attitudes are given license. That is not orthodoxy, that is open disobedience.

So what this all boils down to is a short doctrinal list which overwhelmingly requires no observable deeds which substantiate the claim that we believe them. What deeds undergird the belief in the Trinity? If I say I believe in the Trinity how can you tell by my life? If I say I believe in the virgin birth how which deeds substantiate my belief claim? But if I say I believe the Scriptures command us to minister to the poor there are deeds which can substantiate that belief. If I say I love sinners there are deeds which can provide some kind of proof that I do love them. But somehow those tenants of the faith are not included as being “orthodox”.

But therein lies a major problem with the modern version of the faith. In the so called orthodox community the teachings about meekness and love and feeding the poor and being clothed with humility are electives and not part of the foundational fabric of what is called Christianity. And it has become very popular and very comfortable to present a set of doctrines and call them “orthodox” but without any observable proof that we actually believe them. And in this process we have minimized and in many ways ignored many New Testament doctrines but as long as we can nod at these few we are called orthodox.

But let us examine just one of these orthodox doctrines we call hell. This word represents an eternal place of torment where unredeemed souls go for all eternity and endure conscious suffering forever. Do not just gloss over those words. The doctrine we call hell which is a vital and non-negotiable part of any orthodox doctrine teaches that unredeemed or lost souls spend a conscious eternity in great distress and suffering. How terribly easy it is to write or say those words. They roll of the doctrinal tongue with great ease and articulation. And many theologians have presented a Biblical basis for this doctrine and with that have earned the moniker “orthodox”.

But how can we say we believe that doctrine and yet live as we do? Of course Calvinism presents a wonderful cover since believers have little part to play in the work of the gospel. If people are not reached no one will wind up in hell who wasn’t inalterably headed there anyway. It’s all part of a grand script which God wrote long ago and He is just watching it happen just the way He has written it. So not only does God only offer redemption to a select and miniscule few but He also makes them believe. And yet that is considered "orthodox"?

But most of the church has the existence of hell in its theology. Imagine a man sits in his living room watching football. His neighbor has come to watch the game with him. The neighbor points to a bunch of papers the man has on his coffee table and asks what they are. The man says that they clearly show that a large bomb will hit this house and destroy it sometime in the next few minutes. The neighbor is astounded and alarmed, but because he sees his friend relaxing and watching football just as he is doing it comforts him. After a while the neighbor is once again fully relaxed. He does not believe a bomb is going to hit the house and because his friend seems so at ease he assumes he doesn’t believe it either.

So when the world see believers climb into their cars on Sunday and “go to church” and have a good time and return home to pick up where they left off they assume that religion is a part of some people’s lives but that the doctrines of eternity have little if any effect on them. And when an unbeliever is presented with the doctrine called hell he rejects it because even those who say they believe it live without the passion that such a doctrine would surely create. The doctrine of hell is so profound and so startling and so unnerving that to actually believe it in your heart and not your statement of faith would revolutionize a person’s life. In fact, he would have to reign in some areas because that person would have a tendency to become a raving lunatic.

But a raving lunatic who spends countless hours on the street corner warning people about hell is much closer to believing the doctrine than the millions upon millions who claim they are orthodox. The entire set of truths laid out in the New Testament are mind boggling when taken at face value. Just take one truth for a moment. Any sinner who believes on Jesus will spend eternity in heaven and any sinner who does not will spend eternity in hell. Pretty elementary stuff, no? But if we truly believe that then what in God’s dear name are we doing? Like a person who claims he is a vegetarian but eats a thick steak every night so is the church that claims to believe in eternity but lives for the temporal every single day.

But in the end we can claim we are orthodox. And if someone questions us we can always show them our creeds and doctrines. You see our faith is now about living creeds instead of living deeds.


Cherie c. said...

Dear Pastor Rick,

I could not go on reading the entire post because the sixth paragraph took my breath away and not in a good way. I couldn't breathe with what you wrote about hell. No matter how much someone hurts me, I cannot wish hell on them. I want to, my flesh screams out to get so called justice, but I am broken and torn and the struggle is exhausting.

How, how can we not get on our knees for these people?! How can we let day after day go by and not fall on our knees in sobbing for this?! I had a disagreement with a loved one yesterday, and my flesh was so pushing for me to condemn, disparage, and rebuke. My so called orthodoxy is a sham if I do this. This is the great deception! It has to be. Orthodoxy over love. We believe the Word of God, so we are great and others are below us if they do not agree? What is that? What kind of treachery is that? I am guilty of it and it is so painful to confess. How can we profess to be followers of Jesus and be so hard hearted?

Sorry, I just had to write this comment, and at the same time, I cannot continue. American Christianity and all its so called Orthodoxy is the cruelest and so mean I can hardly stand it.

My husband says I need to get a little happy about things. Huh? Who can be happy and watch those we love, work with, say good morning too and even those we don't like so much head down a path to pain and continued sin for the rest of eternity? Who can be happy knowing this? Well, I cannot. Every one seems comfortable in their theology. No one seems to care about the life eternal. They only care about the present. Orthodoxy should include an eternal view of life, either in heaven or hell, but it doesn't. It speaks like it does, but its behavior says otherwise.

I know some here think I am a loonie, or over emotional, or even over the top ( I get that a lot). But I cannot help but care, and feel, and pray and sob, and want to pound my fist in frustration because those with doctrinally superiority think they know better, but feel nothing. How can you not weep at this present situation and lean on orthodoxy?

I met my son's friend's girlfriend at dinner last night, and she says she believes in ghosts. She is already on a road to hell, and I was so filled with fear, compassion and love for this lost girl, but was unable to say anything. Her father who is Christian kicked her out of the house because she is dating this young man who is like a son to me, because he does not go to church. Oh, by the way, he is divorced. Do you see what I mean? It is cruel to be orthodox.

My so called orthodoxy got on its high horse yesterday and I am now dealing with remorse so strong I may not be able to go to work. Worse than any pain I have been living with these past few months. How timely is this post?

Orthodoxy, I a sick of it and I am bordering on hating the word itself. To me it is just an excuse to me mean.

Thanks Pastor Rick. At the risk of sounding like a groupie; again your post is being used by God for correction and chastisement. To God be all the Glory, and may He have mercy on my disobedient heart.

Now, I will try to read the rest of the post. No guarantees at the moment.

To those who will lambaste my comment:
Yeah, save your breath, I'm over the top again. So what

your sister in Christ Jesus

Anonymous said...

This is hearty meat. So much to think on and I can't articulate.

I don't know how to reach people. I hate talking about hell first, lest they come back at me as self-righteous. Yet, I know it's our command to preach Jesus, and yes, hell is a consequence of rejecting Him, and it's required for a disciple to mention it. I assume most people know about hell, so if I speak to unbelievers here in the West, I talk about God's forgiveness first, and I'm praying that they'll receive conviction by His Spirit about the consequences. I kind of do the first part, and pray the Lord will do the other parts, true conviction and consequences to sin.

Jesus said to do to others as we would have them to do us. I remember christians trying to reach me (into a greater relationship) with Him, and they never talked about hell at first. They gave their testimony, they showed Him in their lives through their actions and so willing to show me time. It was Him that I wanted. Of course, in the back of my mind I remembered the hellfire teachings of catechism from my youth, and consciously remembered those, but was so in love with Jesus. So, being taught in a merciful manner about the Lord, I talked to others about His mercy. Maybe I'm too much on the love-side, and not enough on the eternal damnation-side. Moderation in all things.

In John chapter 20, after Jesus' resurrection, Thomas couldn't believe, and in verse 26 through 31: "And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands, and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing". And Thomas answered and said unto him My Lord and My God. Jesus saith unto him "Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou has believed; blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.". And many signs truly did Jesus in the prescence of his disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that he might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through his name.

So many denominations and doctrines with orthodoxy, but even Jesus didn't rebuke his disciple Thomas and tell him he was going to hell, when Thomas didn't have faith. He mercifully showed him evidence, proof so Thomas could believe. I think if we would be more merciful and forgo telling unbelievers they're going straight to hell if they don't do what we do, and if we pray for them, Jesus might be waiting in the wings to prove himself to them, like He did to Thomas.


Cherie c said...

J, now you know I love you dear sister, but I have to say this, because I received all Grace and no Law (sin and judgement), I was on my way to hell. Why is it so bad to tell the truth about The Gospel? Why?

It wasn't until I heard Jimmy DeYoung speak on Revelation that I got saved.

Jesus gave us His Word because He won't be "waiting in the wings". That is why now is so important. We don't want to discuss hell because it offends us and others. So what? Jesus had no problem telling the Pharasses that they were going to hell. He even called them a brood of vipers.

Hell is a destination that no one wants to go to, but if we don't talk about it, people will be deceived. It has already happened. Rob Bell in 2008/2009 published a book about hell and how eventually everyone will get out of hell who goes there, but it's a lie. Jesus spoke about it quite often. "Where the worm dieith not" is part of one description.

My comment earlier is one of many times I am overwhelmed by this. I see the boys and my husband without a care in the world so to speak about tomorrow. When I hear of a death I wonder if that person was saved. When I hear about their life I get sad because "we will know them by their fruit".

No J, you must speak the whole counsel of God. We all must pray for the lost. It is said so often it is almost cliche, but true none the less.

May God place on our hearts an urgency to seek Him about the lost so that as many as possible can escape he'll and the wrath to come. God can and will cast the unsaved into hell. It pleased Him to crush His own Son when He became sin. He must exact judgement, He is holy and must judge us, all of us.

When we purposefully ignore all the parts of the Bible that we find unpleasant, we are in essences taking away from the Word and Jesus mentioned that in Chapter 22 of Revelation. Whole counsel of God J. The good, the hard to take, and the ugly. I purposely left out bad because God is not bad. To God be the Glory.

your sister in Christ Jesus

Anonymous said...

Well said, Cherie! A very important verse to study and learn is Rev. 20:15 which says, "And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire."

From this verse we learn that all unsaved people are thrown into the lake of fire. This is the very lake of fire that Jesus warns His creation about in Matt. 18:8-9

Reine Gnade

Anonymous said...

You described the point of orthodoxy perfectly here Pastor Rick. It is so very easy to beat people over the head with orthodoxy and yet live like hell itself.

I have never heard sound preaching on heaven and hell in my church from a Scriptural foundation. Oh yes, those who claim orthodoxy love to throw those books, cd's, and dvd's at me from those "who have been to heaven or hell and back". Their personal experiences make for best selling, moneymaking, and narcisstic road tours promoting their lies. And their Bibles remain in the corner of the room in an unfold and untold condition. It is far easier for the entertainment craved heart to listen to these heretics and push their wares and tares to the masses in the name of orthodoxy, than it is to give out a Bible and share the Gospel with another.

If we asked church goers of this day "What exactly is the Gospel Message," would it flow from the mouth in a stream of Biblical context?

Or would the answer come from the experience of a movie, book, cd, or some extra Biblical source like visits to the third heaven.

And Jesus is still waiting......knocking, knocking, and knocking.

Cherie c. said...

From the Berean Call: Interesting and scarey at the same time.


"Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD" (Amos 8:11).

The thorny acacia tree is not the usual food of the Kudu antelope. But because of overcrowding on game farms, the antelope began eating the leaves of this tree. Eventually, the kudu starved to death, even though there were plenty of acacia leaves to eat. Scientists learned that when antelope feed on the acacia, the tree begins to produce a chemical called tannin k. The tannin combines with other chemicals to give the leaves a bad taste. But worse for the antelope, the tannin impairs their ability to digest food, and eventually they starve to death. Scientists found that while tannin is not normally found in high concentrations in acacia leaves, within 15 minutes of leaf damage, the tannin levels in the leaves nearly double. They also found that the trees warn other trees about browsing animals in the area. When a leaf is chewed, it releases a scent that causes neighboring acacia trees to begin to produce tannin!

There is a spiritual lesson in this: In those places of the world where Bibles are easily available, Bible reading is decreasing. It is primarily where Bibles are hard to get that people appreciate the power of God's Word. God has provided us with plenty of food for our souls. Let's not overfeed on the world's food and starve the soul by neglecting God's Word.

OR, could it be that the American Christian is so poisoned with lies and deception they cannot digest the Word as truth any longer. But they have their Orthodoxy. It is poisoning them.

just saying.....

your sister in Christ Jesus

Anonymous said...

When I examine the content of newspapers, magazines, books, radio, television and the internet it is apparent that the God of the Bible is allowing a famine worldwide of the hearing of the words of the LORD.

Unsaved man has to search hard to find places where God's word is taught from a loving heart.

Unsaved man's great need is to be taught by the Teacher of Teachers, Lord Jesus Christ.

His most urgent need is to gain an increased insight into what Our great King of Kings is doing! Whether you are saved or unsaved let Him embolden and encourage you to honor His holy, loving name!

May the only true God, the God of the Bible bless your honest efforts to glorify His most wonderful name.

Reine Gnade