Previously, I wrote on the fact that all real church problems are doctrinal. Doctrine drives behaviour, and your behaviour shows what you really believe. Doctrinal error, whether taught explicitly in word or implicitly in action (applied doctrine) is at the root of all problems in a church.
I also wrote followed up on a comment by Dr Al Mohler about “the third way” with the fact that there is no “third way” on doctrine, that you can’t just go along with serious doctrinal error. When you do, your actions are saying that it isn’t serious, that it doesn’t matter.
In this article, I’d like to look at a real life case study of what can happen when doctrinal purity is abandoned. It can take someone who is “evangelical” to the point where they hardly bat an eye at applied doctrinal error resulting in gross sin.
The Evangelical Alliance and “Christian Today”
The Evangelical Alliance is the foremost evangelical grouping in Britain, claiming to represent the UK’s two million evangelicals:
From Skye to Southampton, from Coleraine to Cardiff, we work across 79 denominations, 3,500 churches, 750 organisations and thousands of individual members. And we’re not just connecting Christians within the UK. We are a founding member of the World Evangelical Alliance, a global network of more than 600 million evangelical Christians, and we work in partnership with Global Connections, the UK evangelical Christian network for world mission.
“Christian Today” is a member of the Evangelical Alliance. Among its Board of Editorial Advisers is Rob James, the head of Evangelical Alliance Wales and a member of the EA-UK National Council. Its parent, CMCI, is a Global Partner of the World Evangelical Alliance, along with World Vision, Wycliffe, and other well-known evangelical groups. Other WEA members include the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, the US National Association of Evangelicals, and denominations such as the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA) and the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada.
Writers for “Christian Today” include evangelical Anglicans such as Julian Mann, the new moderator of the Free Church of Scotland David Robertson, and beginning last week, the national director of the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches, John Stevens. The Free Church and the FIEC would rank higher than most on anyone’s list of British evangelicals as far as fidelity to Scripture is concerned, and with each, their current top representative writes for “Christian Today.”
“Christian Today” is right at the heart of British evangelicalism — but “Christian Today” publishes messages that are far from Christian.
I didn’t have any clue who Farrah Abraham was when I encountered an article about her on “Christian Today.” That lack of knowledge hasn’t hindered me in my Christian life — but articles like this could hinder many people.
The title pretty much tells you where it is going. “Farrah Abraham: ‘Whether it’s in a gentleman’s club or church, I know it’s my faith that guides me.”
Farrah Abraham isn’t exactly a conventional Christian, having penned no fewer than three erotic novels and starred in two adult videos.
She’s also performed in gentlemen’s clubs and bars, and is a single mom raising her daughter Sophia to late boyfriend Derek Underwood.
A ‘skirt to the knee’ Christian woman she is not, but the Teen Mom star doesn’t see any contradiction between her unconventional career pursuits and her faith.
That last sentence, the use of the word “unconventional,” is the closest the article comes to actually suggesting there is anything wrong here. It closes with this:
She believes that although the path she is taking now might not be the obvious one to lots of people, she is just following the path God is carving out for her in life.
“No matter where I am, whether it’s in a gentlemen’s club or church, I know my faith is what guides me,” she said.
Doctrinal Error Galore
Some might say, “Well, she’s just sinful, that’s all.” That’s true. But in this article someone is proclaiming multiple heresies, and an evangelical outlet is spreading it without a single word refuting the error. For starters, she denied:
- God’s unchangeable nature by asserting that He would give her a path contrary to His Word.
- His holiness by claiming He would guide her to do sinful things.
- Scripture’s authority by saying she is guided by “faith” to do things contrary to God’s Word.
- The true meaning of faith.
- Repentance is necessary to be a Christian.
- The work of sanctification in the life of the believer, the need for purity and holiness.
“Following the path that God is carving out for her life”? So God wanted her to engage in immorality as a teen, write pornographic novels, and commit fornication in front of the cameras? He wants her to go into “gentlemen’s clubs”?
And “Christian Today” (at the heart of British evangelicalism) simply allowed her to spread this blasphemy with the only disclaimer being to quietly suggest that it is “unconventional.” Apparently, it would be too judgmental to say she is spreading falsehood about what salvation and the Christian faith really is?
This is an evangelical Christian publication?
The Fruit of Doctrinal Corruption
There may be more than one factor bringing a publication to the point that it will publish such statements without demur. But one thing is certain — in a publication where the editors, the editorial board, and the owners care about the purity of doctrine, such an article would never see the light of day.
Editors who cared about truth would say, “No, we won’t allow assertions on our pages that this is the Christian faith — or at the very least, not without a Biblical refutation right in the very article.” If the editors did not care enough about truth to say that, the editorial board should replace them. If the board did not care, the owners should replace them.
But unfortunately, for much of modern evangelicalism, this is normal. Just about anyone who claims to be Christian makes the grade — even those who engage in actual, verbal, and visual fornication like Farrah Abraham.
Too few will say, “That’s not faith, that’s not Christianity, that’s not God’s leading, that’s blasphemy.” In the interests of loving our brothers and sisters, for years evangelicals have been allowing (and affirming) errors in doctrine and practice that have completely changed what it means to be a Christian. One doesn’t have to read “Christian Today” very long to learn that what they will accept as “Christian” is far from Biblical.
A Need to Divide
I began writing this article a week ago, as a follow-up to my “third way” post, disappointed (but unsurprised) in the silence of evangelicals. The middle of last week, encouragingly, David Robertson spoke out on this very article (and some other atrocious ones) in one of his articles for “Christian Today.”
Rev Robertson closed with this from Charles Spurgeon:
The problem is that people bear the Christian name but act like worldlings and love the amusements and follies of the world. It is time for a division in the house of the Lord in which those for Christ go into one camp and those against Christ go into the other camp. We have been mixed together too long.
Whether it be a “third way church” on homosexuality (as mentioned in my previous article), a public fornicator (like Farrah Abraham), one who dabbles in universalism (like Billy Graham), those who call Roman Catholicism a difference to be appreciated (like Rick Warren), someone who errs on the work of Christ (like Steve Chalke), or teachers of a false gospel and a form of modalism (like T.D. Jakes), it is time for a division. These things are not Christian, and even if the person is merely deceived rather than actively seeking to teach error, such teachings have no place in a church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Those whose teachings are against Christ are unlikely to divide. They have become servants of the father of lies, and it is quite useful to his purposes for them to continue to have the name “Christian” while spreading doctrinal and moral corruption. The division will have to come from those who are for Christ.
Two Camps or Three?
Spurgeon spoke of two camps, but today’s evangelicalism has three, I guess. There is the camp that is for Christ, the camp that is against Him, and there is the “third way” camp. The “third way” camp effectively says that there aren’t really two different camps, that it violates Christian unity to speak of two camps. Therefore, it treats those from the second camp, the Farrah Abrahams and the Steve Chalkes and the TD Jakes, as members of the first camp.
To use Dr Mohler’s words again, “To allow the affirmation is to affirm,” and “there is no third way.” Those who try to bring the two camps together under the name “Christian” are not doing the work of the Father, but of the adversary — they are serving the wrong camp.
The “third way” camp is merely a branch of the second camp. To permit Farrah Abraham’s claims to go under the name “Christian” is to deny the Gospel. There may be Christians involved in “third way” groups (such as “Christian Today” and many others), but the philosophy is not Christian. There are two camps, and many who claim to be Christ’s are not His, many who claim Christian faith are proclaiming lies.
To allow those claims and lies, to treat them as if they are Christian, is sin, a work of darkness. Whether “third way” people are Christians or not, in this matter they serve the second camp — and the result is disastrous.
In this article, I’ve given but one of many examples showing where this “allowing and affirming” leads. It won’t always produce the lie that God approves of pornography, but it always leads to error. Evangelicalism has been rendered a wasteland by those who have allowed and affirmed all manner of error in the name of “love” and “Christian unity.”
It is Time
I Peter 4:17
For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?
If Spurgeon said, more than 100 years ago, “It is time,” how much more so today? How can we effectively reach those who “obey not the Gospel,” those who are facing the wrath of God, if the house of God is a doctrinal and moral wasteland?
It is time to stop allowing and affirming, time to stop endorsing error, time to draw a line. It is time to stop pretending that everyone is in the same camp, to recognise that pretence as of the devil, a work of the camp which is against Christ. It is time to stop endorsing the pretence’s error, too. It is time to stop pretending that groups like “Christian Today” which repeatedly advocate the “third way” approach are Christian, whatever one may think of the people involved.
I’m thankful David Robertson spoke out — but will he continue to write for a group that publishes the things he condemns? I hope not. Will evangelicals speak out? Will those that do speak out also act, or will they merely speak out, quoting Spurgeon’s call for division (as many evangelicals have done through the years) but not actually dividing? Will they continue to allow themselves to be identified with “third way” groups? Will they continue to support the conferences, the schools, the coalitions, the evangelism campaigns, the websites, that have chosen the “third way” approach?
“We have been mixed together too long.” Thus it will remain as long as Bible-believing evangelicals remain part of “third way” groups that deny there are two camps, lending their names and their implicit support to the darkness of the “third way” error.
And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.