Heresy and Humanism: The Breakdown of Evangelicalism

Wes Moore is a conservative Christian author as well as the founder of Evidence America, an apologetics and evangelism training ministry. In a blistering commentary, "Marketing the Kingdom to Death," Moore observes that the Kingdom of God in America is in serious trouble: " general, 70-85% of churches in America are plateaued or dying, and 66-80% of our youth are leaving the church after their eighteenth birthday and never coming back."

Moore adds that the all-too-common reaction is to,

".... get ourselves a logo, a catchphrase, and a marketing plan. Let’s poll the pagans down the street and see what they really want in a church and a god, and then let’s raise thousands of dollars for billboards and ad campaigns and exceed their expectations!"

In the end said Moore, marketing is the,

"process of identifying the wants and needs of a target group of customers (called the “target market”), designing products and services that meet those needs, and then persuasively communicating the value of those products and services to that predetermined market."

Right there in the definition we find the core problem, said Moore. The Postmodern-pagan customer and his wants become the center of the church instead of Almighty God Whose,

"...dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:34b-35; emphasis mine).

But compromised, human centered churches are exactly what people want today. They want an all-loving God Who gives them what they want, unconditionally accepts any lifestyle they choose, never speaks a harsh or offensive word such as sin, and above all, requires no personal change or sacrifice.

And is this not,

"...the god we’re seeing preached in so many places around America today, even in churches that have been otherwise conservative and biblical? I can tell you from personal experience, it most certainly is."

The people en masse are not,

"looking for a God like the one in the Bible. He simply doesn’t fit their demographic.... they don’t want to hear about sin, Hell, judgment, holiness, or repentance; they hate the truth about homosexuality, Islam, and atheism; and they despise the requirements for sacrifice, suffering, and persecution that Jesus Christ himself set down."

Like many other concerned watchmen, Wes Moore foresees a major collapse of evangelical Christianity:

"The breakdown will follow the deterioration of the mainline Protestant world and it will fundamentally alter the religious and cultural environment in the West. Within two generations, evangelicalism will be a house deserted of its occupants—This collapse will herald the arrival of an anti-Christian chapter of the post-Christian West.” (The Coming Evangelical Collapse, Christian Science Monitor, Mar. 2009)

Over and across the entire denominational spectrum said the Pew Forum, Christians are falling away. Most no longer,

“....believe their own faith is essential for salvation. Seven in ten…..believe other religions can lead to eternal life and that there is more than one way to interpret the teachings of their faith.” (Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025? Patrick Buchanan, p. 53)

The evangelical church is falling into apostasy, and this is the constant theme of "The Present Evangelical Crisis" edited by John Armstrong. Humanism and heresy characterizes modern American evangelicalism.

Among the many contributors to the book are R.C. Sproul, John McArthur, Leonard Payton, Robert Godfrey, Gary L.W. Johnson and R. Albert Mohler, Jr. Each writer illustrates trends among evangelicals which undercut scriptural authority. These include:

fun-based-feel-good preaching, charismatic revelations, entertainment-based worship, counseling based upon Freudian and Jungian principles of psychology, pop music over the psalter, and the exaltation of feelings and experiences over the objective doctrines of the Christian faith.

With laser-like precision, R. Albert Mohler points to the single most important cause of Evangelical apostasy. In his chapter, "Evangelical: What's in a Name?" he speaks of a self-conscious effort by prominent evangelicals to move "away from the Augustinian and Reformation bases" to the "human-centered focus of the Arminian tradition" (p. 34). Mohler writes:

"Arminius's self-declared heirs are now ready to finish his project ­to break with the traditional theism that was shared by the Fathers and the Reformers and to replace it with a more relational theology. Thus, some evangelicals now embrace the notion of a more user-friendly deity who waits passionately but impotently to see what His creatures will do" (p. 36).

In breaking with the universal faith shared by the Apostles, early Christians, the Fathers and the Reformers, "Arminius's self-declared heirs" have opened the door to Christianized humanism, a religion without any objective, historical reality and doctrinal authority. A religion based on each person's inner feelings and conflicting yet autonomous opinions.

Lacking Christian charity and the humbleness that comes from the recognition of personal sin, Arminius's heirs dogmatically condemn Roman Catholics and the Early Church Fathers as universal evils and even include any who are in any way connected, such as G.K. Chesterton, J.R.R. Tolkien and even C.S. Lewis, who though not a Catholic was Tolkien's good friend. This black and white view of good and evil smacks of Gnostic Manicheanism. Such a religion discredits and destroys Christianity in the minds of many.

It is not the case that the original Protestant Reformers rejected the early Church Fathers as contemporary Arminians claim but rather the reverse. Like the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches, the first Reformers relied on the doctrinal authority and historic witness of the early Fathers, for they are the organic connection between the Apostles and our own times. Thus when the early Fathers speak of doctrines they speak of them as universally held, as doctrines received and believed by Christians without interruption ever since the Apostles.

In “Supporting Protestant Doctrines Using the Church Fathers,” author Nicholas Chancy observes:

“The original Lutheran Augsburg Confession of 1531, for example, and the later Formula of Concord of 1576-1584, each begin with the mention of the doctrine professed by the Fathers of the First Council of Nicea. John Calvin’s French Confession of Faith of 1559 states,

“And we confess that which has been established by the ancient councils, and we detest all sects and heresies which were rejected by the holy doctors, such as St. Hilary, St. Athanasius, St. Ambrose and St. Cyril.”

Chancy observes that the Scots Confession of 1560 deals with general councils in its 20th chapter and adds:

"The Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England, both the original of 1562-1571 and the American version of 1801, explicitly accept the Nicene Creed in article 7. Even when a particular Protestant confessional formula does not mention the Nicene Council or its creed, its doctrine is nonetheless always asserted, as, for example, in the Presbyterian Westminster Confession of 1647.” (Supporting Protestant Doctrines Using the Church Fathers, Nicholas Chancy, OrthodoxBiz, May 2010)

In his book, "A Confederacy of Evil," the great Augustinian oratorian John Henry Newman writes that he follows the ancient Fathers in the instance of doctrines and ordinances:

"When they speak of doctrines, they speak of them as universally held. They are witnesses to the fact of those doctrines being received...We receive those doctrines which they teach...because they bear witness that all Christians everywhere then held them."

But if they were to say, "These are our opinions: we deduced them from Scripture, and they are true,' we might well doubt about receiving them at their hands. We might say, that we had as much right to deduce from Scripture as they had; that deductions of Scripture were mere opinions..."

But the Fathers do not speak of their private opinions, they speak of what has been held "by all the Churches, down to our times, without interruption, ever since the Apostles." (pp. 2-3)

In addition to being "witnesses to the fact of those doctrines being received" the Fathers were also tireless heresy hunters. And among the "sects and heresies which were rejected by the holy doctors, such as St. Hilary, St. Athanasius, St. Ambrose and St. Cyril” was Gnosticism with its exhaltation of man and his personal opinions (gnosis).

An old moral story teaches that for lack of a nail the shoe was lost and for lack of a shoe the race was lost. In our own time leading Protestant/Evangelical theologians have come to realize that for lack of organic continuity doctrinal authority has been lost, thereby opening the door to Arminian humanism, contentious personal opinions deduced from Scripture, Gnostic Manichean stone-casting, deterioration and ultimately apostasy.

@Linda Kimball

Marketing the Kingdom to Death

The Present Evangelical Crisis, A Book Review with Commentary Kevin Reed