It's tempting to hope the growing apostasy in American culture is local and that other Western cultures are holding fast. Sadly, that is not the case. Bill Muehlenberg from Australia has a blog called "CultureWatch". Why does he write? As he says,
We live in an age where we see evidence of cultural decline, the erosion of values, the decline of civility, the denial of truth and the elevation of unreason. Many people are asking, “Where is our culture heading?” This website is devoted to exploring the major cultural, social and political issues of the day. It offers reflection and commentary drawing upon the wealth of wisdom found in the Judeo-Christian tradition. It offers reflective and incisive commentary on a wide range of issues, helping to sort through the maze of competing opinions, worldviews, ideologies and value systems. It will discuss critically and soberly where our culture is heading ...
In 2008 he penned an entry here on his blog entitled "The Bitter Fruit Of Apostasy". Some excerpts,
Some denominations have so jettisoned the basics of the Christian faith, that they can only be described as apostate. And when the basics of the faith are abandoned, then anything goes. We have a perfect example of this in Francis Macnab, a Uniting Church minister in Melbourne. According to a story in today’s Age, the minister has taken his theological liberalism to its logical outcome. Here is part of what the article said:
“‘The Ten Commandments, one of the most negative documents ever written.’ With that provocative claim posted high over two city streets, controversial cleric Francis Macnab yesterday launched ‘a new faith for the 21st century’, a faith beyond orthodox Christianity. Dr Macnab says Abraham is probably a concoction, Moses was a mass murderer and Jesus Christ just a Jewish peasant who certainly was not God. In fact, there is no God, in the usual sense of an interventionist deity – what we strive for is a presence both within and beyond us. Dr Macnab, a noted psychotherapist and executive minister at St Michael’s Uniting Church in the city, said the new faith was necessary because the old faith no longer worked. ‘The old faith is in large sections unbelievable. We want to make the new faith more believable, realistic and helpful in terms of the way people live,’ he said.”
... The important point to note here is that these things do not arise in a vacuum. Apostasy does not occur overnight, but is part of a process.
The Uniting Church has been known for decades as a denomination which has for the most part abandoned orthodox Christian teachings and has adhered to rabid theological liberalism. Thus Macnab’s new faith is simply the logical outworking of a watered down and corrupted faith.
.... God is dethroned in liberalism, and man is deified. It’s the oldest trick in the book. It worked in the Garden with our first parents, and it’s been occurring ever since. Thus the liberal theologians stand as one with their atheist colleagues, as they embrace naturalism and deny supernaturalism.
Dorothy Sayers, perhaps better known for her Lord Peter Wimsey crime detection novels, was also very concerned about the importance of sound doctrine. In 1940 she gave a very important address entitled “Creed or Chaos”. She was quite right to argue that when we abandon creed and doctrine, we end up with chaos.
... Sayers put it this way: “Official Christianity, of late years, has been having what is known as bad press. We are constantly assured that the churches are empty because preachers insist too much upon doctrine – dull dogma as people call it. The fact is quite the opposite. It is the neglect of dogma that makes for dullness.
... She also said, “The thing I am here to say to you is this: that it is worse than useless for Christians to talk about the importance of Christian morality unless they are prepared to take their stand upon the fundamentals of Christian theology. It is a lie to say that dogma does not matter; it matters enormously. It is fatal to let people suppose that Christianity is only a mode of feeling; it is vitally necessary to insist that it is first and foremost a rational explanation of the universe. It is hopeless to offer Christianity as a vaguely idealistic aspiration of a simple and consoling kind; it is, on the contrary, a hard, tough, exacting, and complex doctrine, steeped in a drastic and uncompromising realism. And it is fatal to imagine that everybody knows quite well what Christianity is and needs only a little encouragement to practice it. The brutal fact is that in this Christian country not one person in a hundred has the faintest notion what the Church teaches about God or man or society or the person of Jesus Christ.”
... Of course Jesus warned about this very thing.
For example, he warned about false prophets who would come along and deceive many: “For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect – if that were possible. So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time” (Mark 13:22-23)
Paul and Peter also warned about this apostasy. Paul gave this warning in 2 Tim. 4:3,4, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”
Peter said similar things: “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them – bringing swift destruction on themselves” (2 Peter 2:1).
So we should not be surprised by such apostasy. It should shock us, grieve us, worry us and move us. But it should not surprise us. It will probably only get worse. All the more reason for those of us who still are true to Christ to redouble our commitment to him and to defend Christian theology anew.
I would identify apostasy as a 3-part process:
- the rejection of Sola Scriptura
- the distortion of Biblical truth
- the rejection of Biblical truth
- strong versus weak fellowship with true, orthodox believers
- church leadership that exercises loving correction and discipline versus leadership that just wants to "love" people (see my earlier entry here on a misguided understanding of love)
- spiritually mature elders versus elders that are new in the faith and appointed for reasons other than spiritual maturity
- formal accountability versus "rubber-stamped" accountability
- continuing theological education versus a mentality that says "I don't have time for that; ministry is more important"
- doing theology in community versus "lone-ranger" theology
... “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)