Tag Archives: Social Gospel

Video – The Great Commission: Social Work, Political Action, or Evangelism?

Last week in a book review of Radical, I made a statement that author David Platt perhaps had an “overemphasis” on the ‘Great Commission’ and because of that he should have developed his idea further, giving readers direction and guidance on how to proceed in this biblical mandate.  A point of clarification: in stating this as an example of ‘Great Commission’ overemphasis what I meant was that it seems a common practice these days among evangelicals to latch on to a verse in order to form support for a movement, mission, agenda, etc.  This is often done to the neglect of the remainder of the Bible and as such tilts the scales in living a biblically balanced life.  The ‘Great Commission’ is such an example because it is often used as a platform to promote missional agendas, social work, or political action, as we looked at yesterday in “Is Social Justice Biblical?”, and doing so can actually cause us to miss the passages meaning entirely.

In this brief video, Pastor John MacArthur provides a clear answer as to what the ‘Great Commission’ (Matthew 28:16-20) is about and how we as Christians are to implement it.

When the liberal/social “gospel” intersects the One True Gospel

Friday I included a small blurb and a couple links to a story bucket drop about author Ann Rice’s “leaving” Christianity.  Since then, I’ve also included an excellent blog post from the folks at Pyromaniac’s (Frank Turk) that takes an objective, Biblical response to not only Ms. Rice, but also Russell Moore from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, whose post I also included.  In the blurb I included the following statement, “I’m not one to judge her heart, but it sounds like she has either been damaged by those who claim Christ, but may not be believers themselves or she is having a difficult time herself understanding the true Gospel.”  What I meant by this was that it’s common these days for false professors of Christ to spread messages so contrary to the Gospel of Christ they actually become a stumbling block unto themselves.  Now I don’t know who Ann Rice fellowships with (in fact, before this story I wasn’t even sure who she is), but rest assured if she is involved with a body of true believers, then this shouldn’t be an issue, because as I wrote on Friday those of us on the front lines are in a constant battle against false prophets, teachers, and slanderers of the name of Christ and if anything it encourages us to stand up for Christianity and our fellow believers to ensure that the true Gospel is represented.


With that said, it’s with the second assertion in my comment that I must expound, namely I’m not sure if Ms. Rice understands the true Gospel.  With these statements from Rice’s announcement, “As I said below, I quit being a Christian. I’m out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of . . . Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen,” it became evident to me that Rice, like so many these days, has confused their “liberal/social gospel” with the One true Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The liberal gospel attempts to give homosexuality a minority status, either defining it as an endowed right of choice or a biological result of birth.  As such, any opposition to this idea is either unethical or intolerant.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ takes quite a different stance. 


The Apostle Paul writing in I Corinthians 6:9-11 makes the following declaration, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”  Despite Paul’s exclusively discussing male homosexuality in this passage, he includes both sexes in Romans 1:26-27, “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.”  Paul uses language such as immoral, dishonorable, unnatural, and shameless to describe homosexuality, quite the contrary to the liberal gospel stance.  Additionally, Paul states that homosexuals will not, “inherit the kingdom of God” and instead will receive, “due penalty for their error.”  This Biblical view is so dissimilar to the liberal gospel that it’s understandable how someone holding onto the views that are accepting of the sin of homosexuality, such as those that Ann Rice stated, might have their belief system rocked when they encounter the truths of the Word of God, as quoted from the Apostle Paul above.  It’s important to note here that in the passage from I Corinthians that Paul details God’s magnificent and amazing grace in that those who once practiced homosexuality have been justified and sanctified, having been washed by the blood of Christ upon accepting Him as Savior.


The next point from her statement is that of “anti-feminist” most likely refers to the lack of female leadership within the Church and could be directed towards Paul’s letter to Timothy in which he states, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” I Timothy 2:12  Leadership, quite simply, begins in the home.  In Ephesians 5:22-28 Paul outlines the marriage roles between a man and a woman, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.  In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.”  Paul isn’t describing this relationship between husband and wife as something to belittle women in saying to submit, in fact quite the contrary.  What is exemplified here is the relationship that Jesus has with His bride, the Church, and that pattern should be modeled within our homes and churches.  Men are called to be the spiritual leaders within the home and church, just as Paul outlines to Timothy regarding overseers:

“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.  Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.  He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?  He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.  Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.”


Additionally Paul outlines the office of deacon in I Timothy 3:8-13, but specifically he states in verse 12, “Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well.”  Are these guidelines anti-feminist?  This simply cannot be the case as God’s design in creation, namely in creating the male first and then the female, is significant in understanding the leadership role of man.  This is consistent with Paul’s explanation in I Timothy 2:13-15, where he follows up the bold statement from vs. 12 listed earlier, “For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.  Yet she will be saved through childbearing-if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.”


A third point, secular humanism, which Rice states she supports, is a philosophy which advocates human rather than religious values.  This is diametrically opposed to the Gospel.  Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”  While Proverbs 21:2 reads, “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart.”  By nature we are children of wrath, as Ephesians 2 states, we are born sinners like David declares in Psalm 51, and we suppress the truth about the knowledge of God, as Paul laments in Romans 1.  How then can secular humanism attempt to establish values based on human intellect or moral goodness?  We as humans are inherently sinful so to base any kind of moral or value system on ourselves is to create a flawed and sinful system from the start. 


Several of her other statements really make no sense.  Claiming the Church is anti-science I can only assume is some kind of reference to creation by evolution, which in any form or fashion is in direct contrast to Biblical creation by the hand of God as detailed in Genesis 1-3.  I’m unsure what the “anti-life” statement might be in reference to, but it seems to contrast her statement about “anti-democrat” since that political party is widely known for its support of abortion.  I can only assume that some of the other “anti’s” that Rice outlined, such as anti-artificial birth control, are directly aimed at the Catholic Church, at which point I will defer to the following response posted in Frank Turk’s post:


“The first measure of one’s approach has to go back to the problem of Catholicism — a problem I suspect Dr. Moore would minimize. Could it be that Mrs. Rice was an honest-to-God Christian inside Catholicism? Of course — I think I am famous for saying that there are many lousy Catholics who have great faith in Christ. But it seems to me that her faith is fully informed by Catholic dogma, and that the flaws in her acting out in faith are frankly the flaws of all thoughtful people inside Catholicism: because you have to disassociate so many unbiblical teachings from your core faith, you wind up dismantling your ability to respect right-minded religious authority. Because the only authority she has says it is infallible but in truth it is riddled with falsehood, she applies her skepticism of claims to infallibility to the Bible and makes it her own buffet of truths. What Mrs. Rice first needs is to be disabused of Catholicism to recover her faith in the church and in God’s authority over her moral and intellectual life.”


There are a lot of things going on here in these statements from Ann Rice; a lot of which I think are common thoughts/feelings from those who subscribe to the pervasive liberal/social gospel.  As I’ve stated, I cannot judge her heart to know whether she is truly a Christian.  Perhaps her statements are out of frustration and her beliefs stem from an immature relationship with Christ and a lack of knowledge of God’s Word and ultimately God Himself.  As I finish John Owen’s book, On the Mortification of Sin, he points out 3 types of man, some are merely “natural and rational”, understanding facts that God exists and that He sent His son Jesus to die on the cross.  Others have a “superadded conviction with illumination”, meaning they realize the difference between right and wrong and that God is offended and displeased by sin.  While the third group is truly regenerate having also those qualities of the former 2.  Based on her statements, one has to wonder (at least on the surface), which category Ms. Rice falls into.  She indeed needs to return to God’s Word to find out what He says about some of the issues she raised and quite frankly she needs prayer, that her eyes might be opened to what the true Gospel of Jesus is all about. 

“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘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

4-Point Spiritual Abuse

In the Church at Colossae, the young Christians were getting hammered spiritually by the abusive and intimidating tactics of the Gnostics.  As they begin to mix into the church, these heretics brought with them an assortment of doctrinal beliefs bent on confusing the Christians of Colossae, discouraging them, and most likely intending to either change their beliefs or force them to leave the church.  What’s fascinating is that the beliefs of the Gnostics almost 2000 years ago are nearly identical to the pervasive heretical belief systems that are being repackaged and reintroduced into today’s Church and the goal is the same, spiritually abuse the immature Christians and create division amongst believers.

In chapter 2 of Paul’s epistle to the Colossians we find him succinctly addressing each of these false doctrines.  Beginning in verse 8, Paul starts his discourse with a rebuttal of the human philosophies that were infiltrating the church.  Here we find the first wave of spiritual abuse, namely, philosophical Humanism“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” Colossians 2:8 ESV Within the context of this passage, Paul was speaking directly to the Gnostic beliefs which denied the deity of Christ Jesus.  The Gnostics had developed a humanistic philosophy that denied the incarnation of Jesus and subsequently his deity from His birth until His baptism by John the Baptist.  At this point they then claim that the presence of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove descended on Jesus and it was here He received His deification.  As I alluded to earlier, these historic false beliefs of the Gnostics in Paul’s day are the same in today’s church, simply repackaged and rebranded for a greater appeal.  Take for example the following quote from Rob Bell’s book Velvet Elvis:

What if tomorrow someone digs up definitive proof that Jesus had a real, earthly, biological father named Larry, and archaeologist find Larry’s tomb and do DNA samples and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the virgin birth was really just a bit of mythologizing the Gospel writers threw in to appeal to the followers of the Mithra and Dionysian religious cults that were hugely popular at the time of Jesus, whose gods had virgin births? 

Questions. Big questions, right?

Was Jesus born of a virgin?

What if…?

 But what if, as you study the origin of the word “virgin” you discover that the word “virgin” in the gospel of Matthew actually comes from the book of Isaiah, and then you find out that in the Hebrew language at that time, the word “virgin” could mean several things. And what if you discover that in the first century being “born of a virgin” also referred to a child whose mother became pregnant the first time she had intercourse? What if that spring were seriously questioned? Could a person keep on jumping? Could a person still love God? Could you still be a Christian? Is the way of Jesus still the best possible way to live? Or does the whole thing fall apart? If the whole faith falls apart when we reexamine and rethink one spring then it wasn’t that strong in the first place, was it? What if… Mary wasn’t a virgin in the way we understand it? The way you handle this question determines how you read this book. 

Bell’s assertion here is that if our faith so weak as to be unable to withstand the possibility of Jesus not being born of a virgin (which denies 1. the miraculous birth and 2. the deity of Christ in His sinless nature) then we likely have no faith at all.  This is the same philosophical false beliefs that were so pervasive 2000 years ago and it should be noted that Bell’s argument is a straw man designed to undermine the deity of Christ.  If we follow his logic in assuming the virgin birth did not happen, clearly this destroys our faith and makes the Bible a book of lies and Christ a sinner like us instead of a perfect, magnificent, and holy King.  Our response should be that of Paul’s, “For in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in Him, who is the head of all rule and authority.”  Colossians 2:9-10 ESV Anything contrary to this Gospel truth is simply heretical and the teacher of opposing doctrine should be treated as a heretic.

The second wave of spiritual abuse that the Apostle Paul addresses is Legalism.  In our Church today there is a common misunderstanding of this word, which at this point we need to clear up.  One pastor makes the following observation on legalism: “it is subscribing spirituality to man-made rules, [while] subscribing to God’s rules is obedience.”  It seems like the opposite definition has become “true” these days, in that no one wants to be told what to do or to be held accountable to an absolute moral truth, namely God’s commands, i.e. the Law.  God’s rules are perfectly holy, perfectly righteous, and perfectly just in holding us accountable and they are meant to point us to Christ (Galatians 3:19-24 ESV).  Likewise in Christ, as Paul points out in Colossians 2:13-14, the legal demands of God’s holy law have been met through Christ’s death on the cross for all who believe in Him.  It’s the institution of man-made rules for the purpose of righteousness that defines legalism, not God’s rules.  Paul addresses this in the verses that follow, “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.  These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” Colossians 2:16-17 ESV In the Old Testament, God instituted these rules to keep Israel a holy nation unto Himself, such that it would be impossible to intermix with other people, but as Paul reminds these observances were a foreshadow of Christ and upon the establishment of His Kingdom in the hearts of men, these rules and rituals were done away with.  The Gnostics however, were forcing these rules onto the Church at Colossae and in doing so proclaiming that Christ alone was not sufficient, but that the keeping of these additional rules was necessary.  In essence what they were teaching was “works-based righteousness”, a belief that prevails even to this day amongst the various world religions.  In fact as one pastor says, “Every false system of religion in the world says you get saved by works; Christianity is the only one that employs grace.  Satan counters grace with works.” 

In addition to these works outside of Christianity, within the Church has crept a sect of people who are simply repackaging these old Gnostic ideas into a social gospel/justice agenda.  As Christians, we are instructed to feed and clothe the poor, and care for the homeless, but all in the name of Christ, with Him being both the motive and the goal, an outworking of our love for Him.  However, the social gospel pushes a new agenda sometimes even in the name of Christ, but with man-centered motives and goals.  The Social Gospel seeks to meet peoples felt needs, i.e., their physical needs, while ignoring their spiritual needs, with the goal of “action” speaking louder than words.  The problem with this application is that it tells nothing of the substitutionary atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross and while a person may have clean drinking water, food, clothing, or shelter, they are starving just as spiritually as they were before hearing this “gospel”.  The Bible is crystal clear, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ.” Romans 10:17 ESV Ministering physical needs with Christ-like love is Biblical, but leaving out the spiritual needs, i.e. the Gospel, reduces the act to merely “good deeds”.  “But he answered, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”” Matthew 4:4 ESV  In a similar fashion, Social Justice seeks equality and rights of those “disenfranchised” or “lesser” individuals with the goal of cultural or societal reform.  The real Gospel of Jesus Christ produces holiness, the social gospel of man produces artificial happiness.

                The third characteristic of spiritual abuse that Paul addresses to the church at Colossae is Mysticism.  We read of this in the following passage, “Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in details about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.” Colossians 2:18-19 ESV The Gnostics that were infiltrating this early church were likely members of a religiously zealous sect of Jews known as the Essenes.  They believed in the worship of angels and were attempting to bring these beliefs into the church in order to promote a higher form of worship.  Like the previous two forms of abuse, this third form is also prevalent in today’s church and becoming more so on a seemingly daily basis.  Today, what we are beginning to see coming into the Church is the practice of contemplative spiritual meditation/prayer, which get’s its roots from eastern cultures and involves the chanting, mind clearing, breathing, and focusing techniques that fall far short of Biblical spirituality and instead create an altered state of consciousness conducive to satanic influences.  Make no mistake about it, it is prevalent, it is real, and it is very dangerous.

            As Paul alluded to in the earlier passage, the fourth wave of spiritual abuse is Asceticism“If  with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations – ‘Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch’ (referring to things that all perish as they are used) – according to human precepts and teachings?  These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” Colossians 2:20-23 ESV Asceticism is the practice of self-denial and it takes the inverse approach to legalism.  While legalism says “do this”, asceticism says “don’t do this” and both are dangerous traps by which man attempts to improve his standing with God through differing forms of self-righteousness.  Getting rid of everything you own, for the sake of feeling more godly is not a Biblical principle, yet this idea continues to lurk in the shadows of churches still.  The monastic lifestyle of a monk does not in itself create any higher standing with God than a person who is a responsible steward of the possessions that God has allowed. 

            As we’ve seen, the Apostle Paul’s encouragement to the Church at Colossae in the face of these spiritual abuses can be directly applied to the false teachings infiltrating the Church today.  Be encouraged Christian.  Don’t be swept away by the various philosophies of man, by legalistic “do this” rules, mystic practices, or ascetic “don’t do this” mandates.  Instead focus on Christ and be complete in Him for “Christ is all, and in all.” Colossians 3:11 ESV