Discernment Needed, Part 2

Eight Menacing Trends in the American Evangelical Church

Part 1 is available here.

When I pastored a country church, a farmer didn’t like the sermons I preached on hell. He said, “Preach about the meek and lowly Jesus.” I said, “That’s where I got my information about hell.”
—Vance Havner1

One day a North Carolina farmer and a Texas rancher were talking. The Texas rancher told his friend, “I want you to know that when I’m home I can rise early, even before dawn, climb into my truck, and begin to travel across my land. I can travel for hours, and when the sun finally begins to slip behind the horizon at the end of the day, I still won’t have reached the end of my property!”

“Boy! I sure do pity you!” said the North Carolina farmer. “I used to have a truck like that, too!”

Having a proper perspective is vitally important. Without a perspective aligned with reality, the North Carolina farmer missed the point his friend from Texas was trying to make.

This article will challenge the perspective and the conventional wisdom prevalent in the modern evangelical church. It very well may shake some of the assumptions you’ve held for many years. Read with an open mind as we seek to explore why, generally speaking, the church lacks discernment and no longer speaks with a prophetic voice. After highlighting two philosophical shifts that have occurred in history (one in the culture at large and the other in the church), we will seek examine several choices the church has made (perhaps even unconsciously) that have severely weakened its effectiveness.

Shift Number One: Society Rejects the Concept of Absolute Truth

In a sermon he preached on February 28, 1999, the late Dr. D. James Kennedy, long time pastor of the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, placed a spotlight on the one virtue that modern society upholds and seeks to demand of everyone—tolerance.2 Dr. Kennedy explains that the tolerance society now champions isn’t the same kind of tolerance Americans have practiced throughout the country’s history. Historically, tolerating someone has meant bearing with and putting up with him or her, even though a person didn’t agree with that individual. This kind of tolerance assumes mutual respect among parties that disagree and implies amiable relationships, despite differences. The new tolerance, by contrast, says that differing views are equal in value and are equally true. Thus, to tolerate someone in this sense is to esteem his or her opinion as just as valid as one’s own. Someone might disagree with someone else, but he can’t say that person is wrong. If every opinion is equally valid, then no one has a corner on truth. This is key, because if no one has a corner on truth, absolute truth does not exist, and a universal right and wrong cannot exist, either. The new tolerance says that all views must be endorsed and affirmed by everyone, because no view is inferior or superior in any way to any other view. In addition, to fail to endorse the perspective of someone with whom we disagree is to be intolerant.3

The new tolerance is a byproduct of the postmodern era. Every once in a while, says Dr. Kennedy, we should stick our heads out and look around to see what’s going on in the culture and in the world. The modern era lasted from the fall of the Bastille in France in 1789 to the collapse of the Berlin Wall in Germany in 1989—a period of 200 years. Sometimes called rationalism or the age of reason, modernism “reached its pinnacle in the atheistic, scientific, evolutionary, socialistic USSR—the Soviet Union.”4 Then, with the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the postmodern era dawned and brought with it a whole new set of assumptions. Principle among these assumptions was and is the idea that there are no absolutes and that everything is relative. While some will cite Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity to make the case that everything is relative, Einstein himself said, “Relativity applies to physics, not ethics.”5,6

Yet the consensus in American culture is that even in the ethical realm, no absolute truth exists. What are the implications of this as a cultural belief? Dr. Kennedy explains,

Postmodernism says that rationalism has failed. The modernist said, “Faith has failed. We must be rational.” The postmodernist has said “Reason has failed. We must resort to feeling.”

How often do you hear people say, “Well I feel that so-and-so. I feel that Washington, D.C. is the capital of this country”? I don’t feel that. I think it. But it’s always not “I think” but “I feel.” The only important thing is how they feel. And we have even invented a new civil right. And that is the civil right for my feelings not to be hurt.…

We cannot have anybody’s feelings hurt. And part of postmodernism is this universal individual. We don’t have countries, we don’t have anything except the individual. There’s no human race, there’s just the individual and his feelings, and they must not be offended.…

And so we have gone from a democracy, a government by the people—of the people, by the people, and for the people—to a government by the sovereign individual. Or should I say, more accurately, the sovereign individual’s feelings? And that brings us to the fact that there are not even any universal truths of any kind for people, and whatever truths we have are simply societal constructs that each community or society or nation has created and these do not apply beyond the borders of that culture.

This is why I have repeatedly said that tolerance is the last virtue of a depraved society. When you have an immoral society that has blatantly, proudly violated all of the commandments of God, there’s one last virtue they insist upon—tolerance for their immorality. And they will not have you condemning what they have done as being wrong. And they’ve created a whole world construct in which it’s not, and in which they are no longer the criminal or the villain or the evil person, but you are. And so they call evil good and good evil (see Isaiah 5:20)7 [minor edits made for clarity].

Even if you’ve been unfamiliar with the terms modernism and postmodernism, surely you’ve seen evidence of the grip of the new tolerance on American culture. Note carefully how accurate Dr. Kennedy is when he says that a new civil right has been established—the right not to have one’s feelings hurt, or we might call it the right not to be offended.

Shift Number Two: The Church Began to Deemphasize God’s Law in Its Gospel Presentations

In his signature sermon, “Hell’s Best Kept Secret,”8 evangelist Ray Comfort describes the second shift we need to consider, one that took place in the evangelical church. Comfort begins by highlighting the purpose of the law as explained in Psalm 19:7: “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul.” He explains that without a proper understanding of God’s law, a sinner cannot fully understand his own guilt before God and his desperate need for divine forgiveness. Yet with such an understanding, sinners comprehend at last that God’s holiness and their own sin cannot coexist. With this insight, they are ready to hear and understand that Christ’s substitutionary death is the only solution to their biggest problem (see Rom. 3:19-20; 7:7; Gal. 3:24). While God’s law cannot save and therefore leaves us helpless before the Lord, it also causes us to see our utter helplessness, and it gives us a sense of urgency regarding our sinful condition. In other words, a proper understanding of God’s law causes sinners to thirst for and to respond positively to the good news of God’s saving grace in Christ.9

Comfort explains that unfortunately, most evangelism presentations today do not present a clear, biblical understanding of God’s law and its ominous implications for sinners. Instead, they emphasize primarily that Christ gives meaning, purpose, and fulfillment in life.10 Christ does indeed give meaning to life (see John 10:10), but this point must not overshadow an emphasis on God’s law and what it reveals about sinners.

I began to study the book of Romans intently, and specifically the gospel proclamations of men like Spurgeon, Wesley, Moody, Finney, Whitefield, Luther—others that God used down through the ages, and I found they used a principle which is almost neglected entirely by modern methods.…

If I approach an impenitent sinner and say, “Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins,” it will be foolishness to him and offensive to him. Foolishness because it won’t make sense. The Bible says that: “The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness” [see 1 Cor. 1:18]. And offensive because I’m insinuating he’s a sinner, but he doesn’t think he is. As far as he’s concerned, there are a lot of people far worse than him.

But if I take the time to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, it may make more sense. If I take the time to open up the divine law, the Ten Commandments, and show the sinner precisely what he’s done wrong, that he has offended God by violating His law, then when he becomes, as James says, convinced of the law as a transgressor [see James 2:9], the good news of the fine being paid [of Christ’s dying for his sins on the cross] will not be foolishness. It will not be offensive. It will be the power of God unto salvation [see Rom. 1:16].…

The tragedy of modern evangelism, is…[that] around the turn of the century…it forsook the law and its capacity to convert the soul—to drive sinners to Christ. Modern evangelism had to therefore find another reason for sinners to respond to the gospel. And the issue that modern evangelism chose to attract sinners was the issue of life enhancement. The gospel degenerated into “Jesus Christ will give you peace, joy, love, fulfillment, and lasting happiness”11 [minor edits made for clarity].

Often today an individual will receive Christ on the premise that becoming a Christian will bring meaning and purpose to life. Then the new convert naturally encounters opposition, ridicule, frustration, and other difficulties, because the forces of evil always work diligently to throw the inquirer, and especially the new believer, off track. He or she may easily become disillusioned and conclude that Christianity isn’t what it was cracked up to be. This accounts for large numbers of conversions but significantly few disciples. Yet when the new Christian understands that Christ died to secure eternal life—to exempt him or her from eternal punishment—he or she will be more likely to maintain an eternal perspective when encountering challenges to living the Christian life. In other words, the new convert will be far less likely to become disillusioned and to give up.12

Please make the investment of time to listen to “Hell’s Best Kept Secret” in its entirety. It truly is a life-changing message. For now, take Ray Comfort’s insight to heart and keep it in mind: Around 1900, the church abandoned an emphasis on God’s law in its gospel presentations and instead began to uphold “life enhancement” as the primary benefit of becoming a Christian.

Influenced by the World

Now, equipped with background information about these two monumental shifts—one in the culture and the other in the church—can you answer an important question? What do these shifts have in common? They both set the stage, on the one hand, for downplaying anything offensive and, on the other, for emphasizing anything and everything that will make people feel good.

The modern evangelical church has been heavily influenced by the world in ways that are both subtle and obvious. Taking a cue from the culture at large, modern Christians have tried desperately not to make people feel uncomfortable. We even have sought to “enhance” the gospel message by making it less offensive and more attractive. Yet the gospel is inherently offensive, because it exposes sinners as guilty before a holy God. As Ray Comfort reminds us, if a sinner doesn’t understand that, than he or she cannot respond properly to the good news of Christ’s death on the cross.

In the aftermath of these two monumental shifts, the church abandoned godly discernment and lost its prophetic voice. This weakening of the church’s effectiveness has been manifested in numerous ways, including a diminished emphasis on sin. Al Mohler writes,

The larger culture has turned increasingly hostile to exclusivist truth claims such as the belief that faith in Christ is necessary for salvation. One megachurch pastor in Florida recently told me that the megachurches in his area were abandoning concern for biblical gender roles on a wholesale basis. As one pastor told him, you cannot grow a church and teach biblical complementarianism. Even greater pressure is now exerted by the sexual revolution in general, and, more particularly, the question of homosexuality.13

In fact, some very popular, otherwise conservative pastors have been known to speak with ambiguity concerning homosexuality or to overtly dodge the issue—even though in one instance other aspects of the sermon called for clarification and even though, in another, the Scripture forthrightly addressed the topic.14,15,16,17 Also, several years ago, a widely known megachurch pastor was called to task by a journalist for not exercising discernment with regard to Satan’s tactics. A committed Christian, the journalist demonstrated he had keener insight than the pastor.18

These are just a few examples that point to larger trends. Certainly not every evangelical pastor has watered down the biblical message, and not every church has failed to stand for the truth. However, menacing trends in evangelical churches do exist. Let’s briefly consider eight. These items overlap to some degree, but each also is distinctive.

  1. The church has focused on attracting people and keeping people, and it has failed to challenge them. Chuck Swindoll said, “Some time ago a group of church leaders decided that they didn’t want to be hated. They focused just on attracting more and more people.”19 He also said, Today, “many churches masquerade as entertainment centers, where the leadership primarily concerns itself with making people fell good.”20 Ironically, Islam is attracting people, particularly men, because it is unapologetically challenging them.21 Christ didn’t water down His message for anyone, and as Christ’s ambassadors, we in the church must not do so either.
  2. The church has equated loving people with not offending them. True compassion, however, compels us to convey the truth, even at the risk of offending people.22
  3. The church has emphasized God’s love to the point of effectively neglecting His holiness and wrath. Ironically, we esteem classic messages on God’s holiness and judgment, sermons such as Jonathan Edwards’s “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”23 Even so, most of today’s evangelical preachers rarely address these themes. We must balance our presentations, giving people opportunities to hear about God’s holiness as well as His grace and love. Only against the backdrop of God’s holiness and wrath will the good news of His grace be most clearly understood.
  4. The church has endeavored to win converts and failed to make disciples. Only as we, with God’s help, make disciples will we be able to follow the command Paul gave Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:2: “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” No wonder we are losing the next generation.24
  5. The church has upheld the benefits of salvation and avoided talking about its demands. Certainly salvation is free; we receive it by grace alone. However, it isn’t cheap. Consider these few verses, where Scripture makes clear that salvation commands of every believer unyielding allegiance to Jesus Christ: Matthew 7:21,24-27; 10:37-39; Luke 6:46; 9:23-26,57-62; 14:25-33.
  6. The church has presented Christianity in terms of its implications for individuals alone and overlooked its benefits for the culture. The church also has shunned its own responsibility to impact the culture. If it has sought to address social issues, it has in many instances spoken to those issues that the culture at large believes should be addressed. In other words, the church has avoided controversy in much of its cultural engagement. In his new book, A Compassionate Call to Counter Culture, David Platt, a former pastor and a bestselling author, challenges this approach: “In this day when social issues are creating clear dividing lines in society, moral and political neutrality is not an option for those who believe the gospel. It’s simply not enough to focus on only those issues that are most comfortable—and least costly—to us. But what if the main issue is not poverty or homosexuality or abortion? What if the main issue is God? What if the same God who moves us to war against sex trafficking also moves us to war against sexual immorality? What if the same gospel that compels us to combat poverty also compels us to defend marriage? What if all these cultural hot-button issues are connected to our understanding of who God is and how he relates to everything around us?”25,26,27 The modern evangelical church needs to hear and heed Dr. Platt on this important subject.
  7. While recognizing that Jesus was compassionate, loving, and kind, the church has largely ignored the fact that He was controversial. Being like Jesus will mean, at times, being controversial. We never should seek to stir up opposition or conflict, but we also shouldn’t avoid it when taking a stand for Christ requires it. Jesus said, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me” (John 15:18-21; see also Matt. 5:10-16).
  8. The church has failed to understand and acknowledge that the followers of Christ are at war with the forces of evil. Warfare, you see, isn’t a popular topic. Moreover, the church’s understanding of the true nature of spiritual warfare has been lacking. Effectively waging war requires offensive as well as defensive strategies and tactics. Largely, the church has played defense, and when it has trained believers, it has trained them to play defense also. When Jesus said the gates of hell would not be able to prevail against the church (see Matt. 16:18), He indicated that the church would, at least some of the time, be taking an offensive posture against evil forces. The modern evangelical church needs to regain a biblical perspective on spiritual warfare.

In 1 Peter 2:9-12, the apostle Peter wrote this to his persecuted brothers and sisters in the faith: “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.” As Peter’s readers knew all too well, this process sometimes was difficult to endure. Yet hopefully, many who were currently treating them with hostility would be won over when they saw their unwavering faithfulness to Christ. Even in instances when their persecutors didn’t come to Christ, Peter’s readers still had a responsibility to stand strong. We as believers in the 21st century have that same responsibility.

In whatever ways He chooses, God will use our faithfulness to influence others’ lives. As D. Martyn Lloyd Jones astutely observed, “When the church is absolutely different from the world, she invariably attracts it. It is then that the world is made to listen to her message, though it may hate it at first.”28

 

Copyright © 2015 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Notes:

1http://www.sermonindex.net/modules/newbb/viewtopic.php?topic_id=3676&forum=34

2 “The New Tolerance” Part 1: http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=318151424410

“The New Tolerance” Part 2: http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=319151233599

3http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=318151424410

4http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=318151424410

5http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=318151424410

6http://thinkexist.com/quotes/with/keyword/relativity/

7http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=318151424410

8http://www.livingwaters.com/audio/way-of-the-master/hells-best-kept-secret

9http://www.livingwaters.com/audio/way-of-the-master/hells-best-kept-secret

10http://www.livingwaters.com/audio/way-of-the-master/hells-best-kept-secret

11http://www.livingwaters.com/audio/way-of-the-master/hells-best-kept-secret

12http://www.livingwaters.com/audio/way-of-the-master/hells-best-kept-secret

13http://www.albertmohler.com/2012/05/01/is-the-megachurch-the-new-liberalism/ or http://www.christianheadlines.com/columnists/al-mohler/is-the-megachurch-the-new-liberalism.html

14 http://www.albertmohler.com/2012/05/01/is-the-megachurch-the-new-liberalism/ or http://www.christianheadlines.com/columnists/al-mohler/is-the-megachurch-the-new-liberalism.html

15http://www.bpnews.net/37742

16Chelsen Vicari, Distortion: How the New Christian Left is Twisting The Gospel and Damaging the Faith, (Lake Mary, FL: FrontLine, 2014), 58-59.

17http://nationalblackroberegiment.com/major-change-famous-u-s-megachurch/

18http://www.wnd.com/2007/11/44801/

19http://worship.com/2012/02/chuck-swindoll-entertainment-has-replaced-scripture-as-the-center-of-our-worship/

20Charles R. Swindoll, Hope for Our Troubled Times, (Plano, TX: Insight for Living, 2009), 8.

21http://churchformen.com/uncategorized/why-men-flock-to-islam/

22http://www.wordfoundations.com/2015/04/23/compassions-mandate/

23http://www.ccel.org/ccel/edwards/sermons.sinners.html

24Ken Ham and Britt Beemer, Already Gone: Why Your Kids Will Quit Church and What You Can Do to Stop It, (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2009).

25David Platt, A Compassionate Call to Counter Culture, (Carol Stream, IL: 2015), flyleaf of dust jacket.

26http://www.oneplace.com/ministries/family-talk/listen/living-counter-culturally-456188.html

27http://www.oneplace.com/ministries/family-talk/listen/living-counter-culturally-ii-456189.html

28https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/894185-when-the-church-is-absolutely-different-from-the-world-she

 

Discernment Needed, Part 1

Why Being Nice Isn’t Enough

And this I pray, that your love may abound still
more and more in knowledge and all discernment…
—Philippians 1:9—

If there ever were a champion of winsomeness in making the case for Christianity and its values, Charles “Chuck” Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship and the voice of the Christian worldview commentary BreakPoint, was that champion. For example, in the BreakPoint commentary for April 9, 2006, Colson observed, “To change the culture…we must learn how to engage the political process more winsomely. It requires a different mindset, a recognition that we’re appealing to hearts and minds, not twisting arms. In both fact and appearance we are not seeking to impose but rather to propose. The Christian Church makes a Great Proposal, inviting everyone to the table, regardless of color, ethnic origin, background, or economic status. We’re inviting people to consider a worldview that works, that makes sense, and through which people can discover shalom and human flourishing.”1

Given that this kind of encouragement was typical of Colson,2,3,4,5 a casual observer might be surprised at the BreakPoint commentary of May 14, 2015. It was titled “It’s What We Say, Not How We Say It: The Scandal of Christianity.”6 John Stonestreet, who, along with Eric Metaxas, took over BreakPoint following Colson’s death in 2012, said,

We should be reasonable, calm, and winsome when talking to, well, anyone and everyone, especially those who disagree with us: not as a debating tactic but as part of our loving our neighbors as ourselves. Just as we would want people to be reasonable, calm, and winsome when addressing us, we should do the same for them.

And in treating those who vituperate us with respect and kindness we, if nothing else, as Paul told the Romans, “heap burning coals on their heads.”

But we shouldn’t be so naïve as to think that what lies behind what sociologists David Williamson and George Yancey recently dubbed “Christianophobia”7 is a communication problem. The problem is what we’re saying, not just how we’re saying it.

Sure, there are Christians whom, in all Christian love, I wish would just be quiet. But when the New York Times8 and a major presidential candidate9 tell us that historic Christian teaching must yield to the new sexual orthodoxy, no amount of winsomeness can overcome that kind of antipathy.…

In the end, no matter how “nice” we are, our faith in Jesus and our faithfulness to His teaching will be a scandal to the world. And we are and will be treated accordingly.10

Rod Dreher, whom Stonestreet cited elsewhere in the commentary, had written a piece called “The Failure of Winsomeness.”11 Dreher expounded on some of his points in that article in an interview Stonestreet conducted with him on the May 16, 2015 edition of BreakPoint This Week.12 Dreher declared,

We in the church have watched relentless propaganda from the mainstream media for ten or twenty years about Christianity as being a source of bigotry against homosexuals, and on and on and on and on and on. I’ve worked in mainstream media newsrooms. I see that this is what they really believe. But it has had an effect on the broader culture.

It just blows my mind when I meet Christians who think that if they can only be nice, be winsome, and show that they’re not haters, that these social justice warriors on the left will like them. It’s not going to happen.

If you can look at what’s happening to Gordon College—a great school run by one of the kindest men you’ll ever meet, Mike Lindsay. They are being systematically dismantled by the state of Massachusetts, and by private industry, and by other colleges because they stand on biblical norms of sexuality. Nothing Gordon does—not the fact that those kids go…they sent kids into the poor schools, the impoverished schools in Lynn, Massachusetts, to help out. It didn’t matter. They were kicked out.13,14 The guy, the school committee member who led the charge to throw Gordon students out of these public school classrooms, compared Gordon College to the KKK.15,16 This is really how the activist left sees the church. I’m not saying the church should be militant and angry and show and ugly face to the world; what I’m saying is winsomeness will not get you very far. They really do hate us.17

Was Charles Colson wrong? No. We always need to be winsome and loving, and doing so will cause some to think carefully about what we say. In fact, we will have difficulty convincing people of the truth of the gospel if we don’t demonstrate these qualities. However, we must not be naïve. Even when these virtues are on display, the real thorn in some people’s sides is going to be, as John Stonestreet observed, “what we’re saying, not just how we’re saying it.”18

How do these people respond? Rather than sticking to the issues and contending for what they see as the merits of their positions, they paint Christians and other conservatives as mean and bigoted. Conservative columnist Ben Shapiro, an Orthodox Jew, writes,

That’s why so many Americans now seem comfortable giving the government power to violate freedom of conscience for conservatives: Evil people don’t deserve freedom and therefore, can be deprived of it. People who consider themselves civil libertarians suddenly find their inner totalitarian when it comes to Christian-owned bakeries. That can only happen when those people become convinced that Christian-owned bakeries are fronts of hatred and darkness. And that can only happen when they are falsely maligned as such, over and over again.19

In John 15:18-19, Jesus warned His disciples about the hostility they would face from the world. He said, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”

Yes, Jesus told His disciples to love their enemies (see Matt. 5:43-44), but He also warned them to beware of all who would deceive. So did the apostles.

  • Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? (Matt. 7:15-16).
  • Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy (Luke 12:1).
  • Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation! (Phil. 3:2).
  • For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things (Phil. 3:18-19).
  • Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ (Col. 2:8).
  • But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! (2 Tim. 3:1-5).
  • For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward (2 John 7-8).
  • Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ (Jude 3-4).

“But wait!” someone may say. Didn’t Jesus say, “Judge not, that you be not judged”? (Matt. 7:1). Yes, He did, but He was telling His followers not to be hypocritically judgmental (see vv. 2-5). Immediately after offering this warning, He added, “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces” (v. 6).

The church, sadly, is woefully lacking in discretion, discernment, and shrewdness. In fact, shrewdness is the one trait possessed by Satan that believers need to cultivate and use for godly purposes.20 We must realize that some non-Christians will continue to hold a defiant posture toward God and will never yield to Him. It is not our place to assume anyone is beyond God’s saving reach, but we also must never think, even for a New York minute, that we have the ability to convince people to like us or the values we cherish. Fully aware of the acidic and unyielding hostility of some who are opposed to righteousness, Jesus told His disciples, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matt. 10:16).

Dr. Mike S. Adams understands the importance of this kind of wisdom. Hired to teach criminology at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW) in the early 1990s when he was a liberal and an atheist, Adams was well liked by both students and faculty. Several years later, however, through a process that took place over time, Adams became a Christian and a conservative. He also became an outspoken advocate for life, marriage, family, free speech, and other traditional values. Still loved by students, Adams now was hated by university administrators. This isn’t just my opinion, but a conclusion reached in court. In 2014, a federal jury determined that Adams had been denied promotion at UNCW because of the content of his work for the conservative website townhall.com. The court ordered that UNCW promote him and to give him seven years back pay.21,22,23

In his book Letters to a Young Progressive, Adams speaks straightforwardly about liberals who maliciously exploit others. He calls them Pharisees and hypocrites. A hypocrite is “One who preaches something that he does not practice and that he does not even believe.”24 Elaborating, Adams writes,

The people in my department who have no qualms about encouraging minors to get sex changes can rightly be called Pharisees.…[They] do not misrepresent the truth innocently. They knowingly lie about biological differences between the sexes…[and] they do so in order to attribute any differences in outcome between the sexes to ‘patriarchal oppression.’ This, in turn, is done to facilitate more social engineering, which creates more jobs for self-proclaimed social engineers. Of course, they are the social engineers who would benefit from those jobs.

Lying to students about basic biological facts in order to encourage genital mutilation is bad. The only thing worse would be lying about biological facts in order to encourage murder. As you will recall from our previous correspondence on abortion, the modern-day Pharisees are not above that either.25

No one ever should arbitrarily accuse anyone else of being a Pharisee, but Mike Adams has not done this. Rather, he has acted in the prophetic tradition of exposing evildoers, and consequently, the evil they promote. He’s done another essential service as well. Dr. Adams has acted to protect vulnerable minds and hearts from becoming entrapped in evil lies. Potential victims include people of all ages, although teenagers and young adults probably would be the first to be vulnerable in this instance. One is reminded of these statements of commendation and warning from Jesus—statements that have clear application here: “Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me. But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matt. 18:4-6).

The church can learn an important lesson from Dr. Mike Adams. It should—indeed, it must—with God’s help, recover and consistently use its prophetic voice. It can if it also will cultivate and exercise godly discernment and shrewdness, but just how did it lose such discernment in the first place? Next week we will seek to answer this question.

Part 2 is available here.

Notes:

1http://www.breakpoint.org/commentaries/5559-making-a-winsome-witness

2http://www.breakpoint.org/bpcommentaries/entry/13/18363

3http://www.colsoncenter.org/twominutewarning/entry/33/18285

4http://www.breakpoint.org/bpcommentaries/entry/13/20716

5http://goo.gl/yUx0zU

6http://www.breakpoint.org/bpcommentaries/breakpoint-commentaries-archive/entry/13/27360

7See http://iloveyoubutyouregoingtohell.org/2015/02/02/feed-em-to-the-lions/

8See http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/05/opinion/sunday/frank-bruni-same-sex-sinners.html?_r=1

9See http://www.christianpost.com/news/hillary-clinton-religious-beliefs-have-to-be-changed-about-abortion-138179/

10http://www.breakpoint.org/bpcommentaries/breakpoint-commentaries-archive/entry/13/27360

11http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/the-failure-of-winsomeness-evangelical-gay/

12BreakPoint This Week radio program: http://www.breakpoint.org/features-columns/discourse/entry/15/27382

13See http://www.breakpoint.org/bpcommentaries/entry/13/26054

14See http://www.breakpoint.org/bpcommentaries/breakpoint-commentaries-archive/entry/13/26194

15See https://chainofliberty.wordpress.com/2015/04/10/gordons-glimpse-of-the-future/

16See http://www.teaparty.org/college-accuses-gay-activists-discrimination-christians-93496/

17BreakPoint This Week radio program: http://www.breakpoint.org/features-columns/discourse/entry/15/27382

18http://www.breakpoint.org/bpcommentaries/breakpoint-commentaries-archive/entry/13/27360

19http://townhall.com/columnists/benshapiro/2014/04/16/why-conservatives-win-elections-and-lose-the-war-n1825037/page/full

20http://sundayschoolzone.com/cunning/

21http://townhall.com/columnists/mikeadams/

22http://www.ratemyprofessors.com/ShowRatings.jsp?tid=158835

23http://legalinsurrection.com/2014/03/conservative-prof-wins-discrimination-lawsuit-against-unc-wilmington/

24Mike S. Adams, Letters to a Young Progressive: How to Avoid Wasting Your Life Protesting Things You Don’t Understand, (Washington D.C.: Regnery Publishing, 2013), 228.

25Adams, 229.

Copyright © 2015 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

Forewarned

The earth was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. And God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch.…I Myself am bringing the flood of waters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; and everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall go into the ark—you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.”
—Genesis 6:11-14,17-18—

To rebuild the Ark, to full-scale biblical dimensions, as a sign to the world that God’s Word is true and its message of salvation must be heeded (Romans 3:4, 5:12). Just as the Ark in Noah’s day was a sign of salvation, as well as judgment, an Ark rebuilt today can be a sign to point to Jesus Christ, the Ark of our salvation, and to coming judgment (2 Peter 3:5-13; John 10:9).
—Ark Project Vision, Answers in Genesis1

Construction for the Ark Encounter, which will feature a life sized Noah’s ark, is currently underway. The Ark Encounter, which will open in the summer of 2016,2 will be located in Williamstown, Kentucky, about halfway between Lexington, Kentucky, and Cincinnati, Ohio. Williamstown is also located a mere 45 minutes away from the Creation Museum.3 Answers in Genesis [AiG] is responsible for both projects.

Answers in Genesis opened the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, just south of Cincinnati, on May 27, 2007. Even though it was privately funded, the $27 million museum4 was controversial from the start because of its adherence to the biblical account of the origins of the earth and life on the earth. AiG interprets, and the Creation Museum presents, Genesis 1 and 2 as affirming a creation time frame of six 24-hour days. AiG also believes in “young” earth; it sees the earth and universe as being about 6,000 years old rather than billions of years.5 Fully aware that these positions are deemed unscientific by most non-Christians and that there is debate even within the Christian community regarding these interpretations, AiG seeks to present its case on many different levels. The Creation Museum, therefore, isn’t just a place where theology and biblical hermeneutics are discussed. It’s also a place where visitors hear and learn about evidence for a literal interpretation of Genesis from disciplines such as history, astronomy, biology, archaeology, and geology. According to the Answers in Genesis website, AiG “is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaiming answers to questions about the Bible—particularly the book of Genesis—regarding key issues such as creation, evolution, science, and the age of the earth.”6 Most importantly, AiG upholds the Genesis record as true, not just historically, but also as foundational for living and for finding a relationship with God.7 We should note that AiG’s positions on origins and on the Scriptures are held by many believers; they are not at all unusual or fringe perspectives in conservative Christian circles.

Despite the controversy it has stirred, the Creation Museum has become a popular attraction. It has drawn hundreds of thousands of visitors each year since it opened.8 Prior to welcoming its first guest, one professional research firm9 estimated that in its first year, the Creation Museum would host 400,000 visitors. The actual number was 404,000. That same firm is forecasting that the Ark Encounter will host at least 1.4—and possibly as many as 2.2—million guests during its first 12 months of operation.10

This, of course, is good news for the economy in northern Kentucky. Hotel owners, food service providers, and other business operators can only benefit from the influx of people who will come to the park. Moreover, the Ark Encounter itself will employ a large number of people: “When all phases of the Ark Encounter are completed, we anticipate employing up to 900 full and part-time staff….It is also anticipated that additional staff will…be added at the Creation Museum to support its expected attendance increase.”11

You would think the state of Kentucky would be pleased. Initially, it was. The entire project, of course, is a massive and very expensive undertaking. As of this writing, roughly two-thirds of the 29.5 million has raised to cover the cost of the Ark alone.12 The cost of phase one of the park was reported in early 2014 to be more than $70 million.13 Understandably, Answers in Genesis was grateful that Kentucky had a program that offered tax incentives for projects that benefitted the state. The program “would…let the park keep 25 percent of the sales tax it collects for 10 years, amounting to more than 18 million.”14 Answers in Genesis official Mark Looy later would explain that AiG simply

applied to participate in a rebate program that has been used by many other tourism developments in the past. The program allows a possible refund of a portion of the brand-new sales tax that is generated by a tourist venue (such as from ticket sales and merchandise), if and only if that attraction draws large crowds and brings hundreds of millions of new tourism dollars into the state.15

The Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority voted unanimously in May of 2011 to approve Ark Encounter’s participation in the program.16 In late 2014, however, Kentucky tourism officials changed their minds. Their rationale? State money could not be used to support a park that would hire only those who agree with one religious viewpoint and that would seek to convince visitors about a particular religion.17 In the words of Bob Stewart, Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet Secretary, Kentucky’s “tourism tax incentives cannot be used to fund religious indoctrination or otherwise be used to advance religion. The use of state incentives in this way violates the separation of church and state provisions of the constitution and is therefore impermissible.”18 Interestingly, the phrase, “separation of church and state” appears neither in the U.S. Constitution nor the Kentucky Constitution.19,20 Answers in Genesis president Ken Ham pointed out that “The state has known all along that our ark project was based on the Bible. It’s always been a religious attraction.”21 He also said,

We have been working on this project with Kentucky for more than two years, so this just-received denial announcement is as disappointing as it is costly for our ministry without the expected rebate. Our construction has already begun at the Williamstown, Kentucky, site, and it must proceed. We are fully prepared to defend our fundamental rights in court if necessary, as this issue is of huge importance, not only to us, but to every religious organization.22

Scott R. Bauries, associate law professor at the University of Kentucky, is an expert in employment law and in state constitutional law. He observed, “If you’re a religious employer and you’re hiring people to perform the activities that advance your religious purpose or your religious mission, then you are not bound by the prohibition against religious discrimination that an employer would normally be bound by…I don’t know that the Ark Encounter has a clear winner here, but they seem to have a case.”23

On February 5, 2015, officials representing the Ark Encounter filed suit against the state of Kentucky.24 The suit states that Governor Steven Beshear, who initially supported tax incentives for the project,25,26 and Secretary Bob Stewart are illegally and “wrongfully excluding the plaintiffs from participation in the Kentucky Tourism Development Program simply because of who the plaintiffs are, what they believe and how they express their beliefs.”27

Two non-profit legal organizations, the Center for Religious Expression and Freedom Guard, are assisting Answers in Genesis. Even before the lawsuit was filed, Mike Johnson, Chief Counsel for Freedom Guard, said, “The legal question here has already been answered unequivocally by the courts. No state is allowed to treat religious organizations less favorably than other organizations who seek to avail themselves of a facially neutral economic incentive program. Just because some state officials may not agree with the message of a Christian organization does not mean that organization and its member can be censored or treated as second-class citizens.”28 Later, Johnson made these statements. “Every American should be concerned with this kind of overt government discrimination, regardless of their individual perspectives on the Bible. When such an unconstitutional state action goes unchallenged, it sets a dangerous precedent for all other religious and minority groups. If our freedom of religion is not vigorously defended, it will be taken away.”29

Some observations about this dispute are in order at this point.

  • The state of Kentucky is trying to bar the Ark Encounter from participating in the state’s tax incentive program because it will “discriminate” on the basis of religious beliefs in its hiring; yet Kentucky itself is discriminating against the Ark Encounter on this very same basis!
  • In its posture toward the Ark Encounter and AiG, the state of Kentucky is not being neutral regarding religion or religious expression. Instead, it is unfairly attempting to exclude a particular religious perspective from a program that should be available to all.
  • As explained above, the Kentucky tax incentive program does not authorize any direct funding from state revenue coffers for any project. Instead, it provides a tax break to projects that have, through their existence and operation in Kentucky, brought substantial revenue to the state. It’s a win-win for everyone involved—unless certain projects that would otherwise qualify are disqualified arbitrarily, for illegitimate reasons.
  • We live in a day when the worst thing people can do, apparently, is discriminate. People need to understand that employers discriminate in their hiring practices all the time, and they do so legitimately and legally. A software design company, for example, is well within its rights not to consider applicants who have no background or knowledge in computer programming. A company offering bus tours legitimately refuses to consider applicants for tour guide positions when those applicants have no knowledge or interest in the locations tourists desire to see. This is not about treating people unfairly; it’s about filling vacant positions with qualified people. Answers in Genesis and the Ark Encounter are religious entities; they should be permitted to hire employees who agree with their mission and vision.

We should expound on this last point a bit, because homosexual rights advocates and liberals are crying foul over the hiring practices of AiG and the Ark Encounter. In a piece appearing on The New Civil Rights Movement website (thenewcivilrightsmovement.com), David Badash writes,

Australian-born Ken Ham believes many things. He believes the bible is the literal word of god, he believes in the Christian story of creation and that the universe is just 6000 years old. He believes in the story of Noah’s ark. And he believes in his god-given and constitutionally protected right to discriminate.30

Badash then goes on to discuss how employees at the Creation Museum must agree with and live according to AiG’s statement of faith. He even quotes from it. Indeed, AiG’s statement of faith explicitly states,

In order to preserve the function and integrity of the ministry in its mission to proclaim the absolute truth and authority of Scripture and to provide a biblical role model to our employees, and to the Church, the community, and society at large, it is imperative that all persons employed by the ministry in any capacity, or who serve as volunteers, should abide by and agree to our Statement of Faith, to include the statement on marriage and sexuality, and conduct themselves accordingly. [We have quoted the entire preamble here; Badash quotes the underlined portion.]31,32

Just what are some of the elements of AiG’s Statement of Faith that David Badash apparently finds so offensive? He mentions several specifically.

  • The Bible—all of it—is inspired by God and without error in all that it says. This means that it is true and authoritative, and not just in spiritual matters, but also in all that it says that touches on other areas as well, including history and science.
  • Satan is real and is the enemy of both God and humanity.
  • Conception is the point at which life begins.
  • Marriage, which has been designed and ordained by God, is a sacred union of one man and one woman. Intimate sexual expression should be practiced in the context of marriage. Moreover, sexual immorality in any form, including “adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexual conduct, bestiality, incest, pornography, or any attempt to change one’s gender, or disagreement with one’s biological gender, is sinful and offensive to God.”33,34

One gets the impression that Badash expects his readers to gasp in horror at this point. Yet to Bible-believing Christians, the fact that AiG holds these positions is quite unremarkable. In fact, it actually is what we would expect of a Christian ministry. We who believe the Bible and who seek to promote what it teaches, both individually and through our organized efforts, have every right to expect those who work with us to seek to live by it.

According to David Badash, however, if a Christian organization receives state tax incentives, that organization has no right to expect its employees to practice the very principles and values the organization was established to promote! Please note carefully that as of this writing, same-sex marriage is still illegal in the state of Kentucky. If it does become legal as a result of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, the marriage case currently before the Supreme Court, it won’t be because the people of Kentucky wanted it to become legal. In 2004, 75 percent of Kentucky voters voted to keep marriage between one man and one woman in the state.35

David Badash is not alone. A salon.com article by Sarah Gray is titled “Report: Creationist organization up for taxpayer-funded payout discriminates against non-creationists.” Gray quotes and expounds on points like this one made in an Op-Ed piece by Daniel Phelps: Apparently, “Ark Encounter is likely to discriminate against non-Christians. Moreover, Catholics, mainstream Protestant Christians and some conservative Christians who have different doctrinal beliefs also are unlikely to be hired.”36

Later in the article, Gray, like Badash, quotes AiG’s statement regarding marriage and sexuality. She also quotes AiG’s declaration in its Statement of Faith that says essentially that all truth claims must be tested and evaluated by the Scriptures. Then she writes, “Requiring agreement with this statement [the entire Statement of Faith], seemingly means that there could be employment discrimination against non-creationists, LGBTQ persons, atheists or others who don’t believe the statements in the ‘Statement of Faith.’”37

One wonders why an LGBTQ individual, or an atheist, or even a non-creationist would even want to work for the Ark Encounter or Answers in Genesis. With all due respect to those individuals, such an arrangement would not be a good fit. Employees of an organization should share that organization’s vision, and the employer has a right to expect this of its employees. This is foundational to a well run organization.

Reading between the lines, one gets the distinct impression that the problem these people are having isn’t primarily what they see as taxpayer-funded discrimination, but the fact that AiG and other Christian entities, including many churches, believe what the Bible teaches about sexuality, marriage, God, creation, and sin in the first place.

It runs even deeper than that. The ark of Noah, like the cross of Christ, offers strong reminders of humanity’s guilt before a righteous God. It is just as AiG states in its Ark Project Vision Statement: The ark is “a sign to the world that God’s Word is true and its message of salvation must be heeded (Romans 3:4, 5:12). Just as the Ark in Noah’s day was a sign of salvation, as well as judgment, an Ark rebuilt today can be a sign to point to Jesus Christ, the Ark of our salvation, and to coming judgment (2 Peter 3:5-13; John 10:9).”38

So, by the ark and by the cross we are forewarned of the coming judgment—but we also are invited to run to safety in the shelter that God provides. In Noah’s day, that shelter was found in the ark. Today, it is found in the cross, the very event the ark foreshadowed (see Luke 17:26-27,30). These divinely designed symbols do not stand alone, for numerous Christian leaders are speaking explicitly of God’s coming judgment.39,40,41,42,43,44,45,46

As believers, we can expect more of the kind of opposition we’ve been discussing in the days ahead. Yet we cannot compromise our most cherished beliefs. We must continue to fight to preserve religious liberty and the freedom to speak the truth openly—but of course we must speak the truth lovingly as well. In these turbulent days, we can look back into history to Noah for an example to emulate. The Bible tells us, “Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did” (Gen. 6:22). Let us obey the Lord as well.

May 15, 2015

Updates:

Notes:

1Load this URL in your browser and press Enter: http://legacy-cdn-assets.answersingenesis.org/assets/pdf/ark/ark-bonds-letter.pdf

2http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/02/27/ark-encounter-theme-park/5881323/

3https://arkencounter.com/about/#faq

4https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Answers_in_Genesis

5https://answersingenesis.org/age-of-the-earth/how-old-is-the-earth/

6https://answersingenesis.org

7https://answersingenesis.org/genesis/

8https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creation_Museum

9http://argconsumer.com/about.html

10answers update: A monthly newsletter equipping Christians to uphold the authority of the Bible from the very first verse, volume 22, issue 5 (May, 2015) p. 1.

11https://arkencounter.com/about/#faq

12https://arkencounter.com

13http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/02/27/ark-encounter-theme-park/5881323/

14http://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/local/2014/12/10/ky-grant-ark-park-tax-incentives/20207341/

15http://www.cincinnati.com/story/opinion/contributors/2015/02/03/ark-encounter-suing-kentucky/22798999/

16https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Answers_in_Genesis

17http://www.wlwt.com/news/noahs-ark-park-could-sue-to-get-back-ky-tax-incentives/30524590

18http://www.kentucky.com/2014/12/11/3588824_ark-encounter-leader-says-group.html?rh=1

19put this URL in your browser and press Enter: http://alliancedefendingfreedom.org/content/docs/resources/Signature-Brochure-Insert-Church-State.pdf

20http://www.freedomkentucky.org/index.php?title=Kentucky_Constitution

21http://www.wlwt.com/news/noahs-ark-park-could-sue-to-get-back-ky-tax-incentives/30524590

22http://www.charismanews.com/us/46462-ken-ham-s-ark-encounter-under-government-attack

23http://www.wlwt.com/news/noahs-ark-park-could-sue-to-get-back-ky-tax-incentives/30524590

24http://www.foxnews.com/us/2015/02/06/christian-ministry-building-noah-ark-theme-park-sues-kentucky-claims-free/

25http://www.charismanews.com/us/48755-ken-ham-battles-back-in-war-against-ark-encounter-discrimination

26https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Answers_in_Genesis

27http://www.charismanews.com/us/48755-ken-ham-battles-back-in-war-against-ark-encounter-discrimination

28http://www.charismanews.com/us/46462-ken-ham-s-ark-encounter-under-government-attack

29http://www.charismanews.com/us/48755-ken-ham-battles-back-in-war-against-ark-encounter-discrimination

30http://www.thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/davidbadash/creationist_ark_museum_suing_to_practice_religious_discrimination_at_taxpayer_expense

31https://answersingenesis.org/about/faith/

32http://www.thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/davidbadash/creationist_ark_museum_suing_to_practice_religious_discrimination_at_taxpayer_expense

33https://answersingenesis.org/about/faith/

34http://www.thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/davidbadash/creationist_ark_museum_suing_to_practice_religious_discrimination_at_taxpayer_expense

35http://goo.gl/JJN1vy

36http://www.salon.com/2014/08/19/ken_hams_ark_encounter_no_non_creationists_need_apply/

37http://www.salon.com/2014/08/19/ken_hams_ark_encounter_no_non_creationists_need_apply/

38Load this URL in your browser and press Enter: http://legacy-cdn-assets.answersingenesis.org/assets/pdf/ark/ark-bonds-letter.pdf

39http://www.wnd.com/2015/05/billy-grahams-daughter-issues-mayday/

40http://www.wnd.com/2014/04/harbinger-author-to-open-national-day-of-prayer/

41http://www.wnd.com/2014/10/james-dobson-america-headed-toward-depravity/

42http://www.christianpost.com/news/john-macarthur-says-america-is-under-divine-judgment-51584/

43http://www.charismanews.com/us/49377-is-america-ripe-for-god-s-judgment

44http://blackchristiannews.com/2014/10/america-trouble-tony-evans-says-must-pray-nation-leaders-like-never/

45http://www.afa.net/the-stand/news/will-god-judge-america/

46http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/michael-w-chapman/franklin-graham-gay-marriage-god-will-judge-nation

Copyright © 2015 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

Unreal!

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone,
“it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
—Humpty Dumpty in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass1

The “little man,” the private citizen, can at any time stand up and,
on the basis of biblical teaching, say that the majority is wrong.
—Francis Schaeffer2

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
—Isaiah 5:20—

We live in an upside-down world. Consider, for example, how the meanings of certain words and phrases have changed over the years.

  • A cell once was the place to which a convicted criminal was confined—or the term cell referred to a microorganism. Now when we hear the word cell, we almost certainly are hearing someone speak of a mobile phone.3
  • Bad once referred to something that didn’t meet an established standard of excellence or to behavior that was clearly wrong or inappropriate. Today it is a slang word that means something is really great. Moreover, the term “breaking bad,” means to counter conventional wisdom or to challenge authority.4
  • Gay used to mean happy or joyful. Now in common speech, it refers to a homosexual identity.5,6
  • When you hear the phrase social justice, beware! Quite probably, people aren’t talking about treating others fairly or impartially or about avoiding favoritism. Most of the time this is a code word progressives use to highlight various inequalities they see among various individuals and groups. Emphasizing these, they seek to make the case for government redistribution of wealth.7,8 Social justice in this sense is not just at all!
  • Equality is a foundational American virtue, for our Declaration of Independence declares, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”9 The equal opportunity affirmed in our founding document has made America one of the freest and wealthiest nations on earth. However, today equality has come to mean, not equal opportunity, but equal Forcing equal outcomes, however, eliminates equal opportunity (and thus freedom) and stifles productivity.
  • When he first used the phrase a wall of separation between church and state in an 1802 letter to the Baptist Association of Danbury, Connecticut, Thomas Jefferson was referring to a limitation placed on the federal government so the government would not interfere with or hinder the work of the church, and so government would not give an unfair advantage to one Christian denomination over another. Today Jefferson’s words have been misused to promote the erroneous idea that the U.S. Constitution disavows and disallows any element of Christianity in public life, a concept that is incompatible with his original meaning.10 The phrase separation of church and state does not appear in the Constitution.11

With nearly all these terms, these changes in meaning did not occur by chance. They reflect a shift in the general perspective of the American people—the assumptions they make about the world and about life. These assumptions often are called a worldview. As the consensus perspective in America has become more secular and crowded God out, the beliefs Americans espouse about right and wrong, about what’s desirable, and about truth itself have drifted far away from the tenets generally held at America’s founding and even as recently as fifty years ago.

While each of the above items demonstrates significant change, perhaps no example better shows how far we’ve come (or how low we’ve descended) in recent decades than the shift in the meaning of the word tolerance. Tolerance used to mean recognizing the right of others to believe as they wish and respecting their right to act on those beliefs, even when (and even though) we may think they are wrong. Today, in stark contrast, the modern view tolerance means esteeming all beliefs, value systems, and lifestyles as equal because (so the underlying assumption goes) no one has a corner on truth.12 Significantly, this modern view of tolerance leaves no room for anyone to dissent or to think that anyone else’s beliefs or choices are wrong, even if the one thought to hold erroneous views is respected. Thus, some of the loudest advocates of tolerance today are some of the most intolerant people around!

We do not have to look far to find examples of this. In fact, the scenario that has unfolded in the lives of Aaron and Melissa Klein presents a crystal clear picture of the fruit of the new tolerance. It also serves as a warning to America of what will happen nationwide if the new tolerance isn’t challenged. Despite extreme financial hardship, harassment, and pressure from both the media and government, the Kleins are challenging it.

Aaron and Melissa Klein are the proud parents of five children ages two to sixteen.13 They used to own a successful business in Gresham, Oregon called Sweet Cakes by Melissa. Melissa is more than a baker. She is a cake artist. “‘When I do a cake, the only way I can describe it to people is it’s my canvas,’ she said. ‘I get to create something on this cake and I get to pour myself out onto this cake.’”14 For each wedding cake she made, Melissa would spend time with the couple getting to know them, learning about their wedding plans, and even talking with them about the their honeymoon. Melissa explains, “I would use all this information to help me design the perfect cake that reflected them as a couple.…If they chose me to do their cake I would just feel so honored to be able to be a part of such an amazing, special day.”15 Obviously, she loved her work and was deeply committed to it, but she and her husband are committed to something else even more.

One January day in 2013, Melissa was at home with the couple’s six-month old twin sons while Aaron ran the shop. A woman named Rachel Cryer came in with her mother and inquired about a wedding cake. When they told Aaron that this wedding didn’t involve a groom but a second bride, he politely apologized, saying, “I’m sorry, we don’t do cakes for same-sex weddings.” In one way, this wasn’t easy. Aaron had no idea he was acting in violation of any statute or law, but he found no joy in turning down a customer. At the same time, his decision was clear. As Christians, Aaron and Melissa both believe that marriage is a sacred covenant between one man and one woman. They had to act on that conviction.16

Soon, one shoe after another began to drop. Rachel and her partner, Laurel Bowman, filed a complaint against Aaron and Melissa for discriminating against them. The vendors for the Kleins’ business were contacted and hounded. Wanting to avoid being run out of business, they dropped Sweet Cakes by Melissa from their lists of recommended businesses, and they requested that Aaron and Melissa remove them from theirs. Because business from those vendors represented over two-thirds of the family’s annual income, the Kleins’ earnings fell sharply. Harassment and the loss in revenue forced the Kleins to close their business on September 1, 2013, although Melissa has done some baking at home. Aaron took a job as a garbage collector to keep the family in the black, but even with this work, the family has had to make do with about half of what previously came in.17

In early 2014, Todd Starnes of Fox News reported regarding the legal proceedings that resulted from complaint filed against the Kleins. He wrote, “The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries [BOLI] said they found ‘substantial evidence’ that Sweet Cakes by Melissa discriminated against the lesbian couple and violated the Oregon Equality Act of 2007, a law that protects the rights of the LGBT community.”18

According to Oregon law, at this point that the dispute moved into a period where the goal was reconciliation. A failure of the two parties to resolve the conflict would mean formal charges could be brought against the Kleins. The couple would have to face the possibility of fines exceeding $100,000.19

According to Brad Avakian, Oregon’s Labor Commissioner, rehabilitation was the goal. In an interview published in the Portland newspaper The Oregonian, Avakian said people can believe whatever they like—but that doesn’t give anyone a right to discriminate. “The goal is never to shut down a business. The goal is to rehabilitate.”20

In many instances, the word reconciliation is a neutral word that indicates both parties meet in the middle and work out a compromise. The Kleins’ experience, however, illustrates vividly that in the conflict between homosexual rights and religious liberty, no middle ground exists. Brad Avakian’s use of the word rehabilitate demonstrates the very same thing. Starnes reported,

Aaron Klein told me there will be no reconciliation and there will be no rehabilitation. He and his wife will not back down from their Christian beliefs.

“There’s nothing wrong with what we believe,” he said. “It’s a biblical point of view. It’s my faith. It’s my religion.”

Klein said he’s not surprised by the ruling and called it “absolutely absurd.”

“I’ve never seen a government entity use a law to come after somebody because they have a religious view,” he said. “I truly believe Brad Avakian is trying to send a message. I don’t think the constitution of the state of Oregon means anything to these people.”21

In September of 2014, Aaron and Melissa appeared in Washington, D.C. at the Values Voter Summit sponsored by the Family Research Council. In sharing their story, Aaron affirmed that he and Melissa had gladly served customers who were homosexuals. He said, “It’s never been about sexual orientation. It’s about marriage.”22

Fast forward to April, 2015. Neither reconciliation nor rehabilitation occurred. Instead, the BOLI has suggested that the Kleins, who have remained strong and refused to compromise, be fined a total of $135,000 “for the emotional suffering” the lesbian couple “experienced” because Aaron and Melissa turned down their request for a same-sex wedding cake.23

Writing for The Daily Signal, Kelsey Harkness explained the rationale for the exorbitant fines.

In order to reach $135,000, Rachel and Laurel submitted a long list of alleged physical, emotional and mental damages they claim to have experienced as a result of the Kleins’ unlawful conduct.

One of the women, whose name was redacted to protect her privacy, listed 88 symptoms as grounds for compensation. The other, whose name was also redacted, listed 90.

Examples of symptoms include “acute loss of confidence,” “doubt,” “excessive sleep,” “felt mentally raped, dirty and shameful,” “high blood pressure,” “impaired digestion,” “loss of appetite,” “migraine headaches,” “pale and sick at home after work,” “resumption of smoking habit,” “shock” “stunned,” “surprise,” “uncertainty,” “weight gain” and “worry.”24

We do well here to reflect on just how bizarre this situation is, because it illustrates the perilous extent to which this country has abandoned the principles and virtues on which it was founded. In other words, it shows how far we’ve departed from reality. Take note—the list of adverse symptoms is not a description of what the Kleins experienced as a result of all they have been through. Instead, the Kleins are being blamed and held responsible for causing Rachel and Laurel to experience them—all because Aaron and Melissa turned down their request for a cake! Significantly, no doctor appeared at the hearing to validate Rachel’s and Laurel’s claims.25 This truly is unreal!

Almost immediately after the BOLI recommended the fine, the Family Research Council arranged for a GoFundMe account to be set up on the Internet to make it easy for the Kleins’ supporters to assist the family financially. Contributors gave more than $100,000.00 in less than eight hours—but then the decision makers at GoFundMe shut the account down. Here was their explanation. “After careful review by our team, we have found the ‘Support Sweet Cakes By Melissa’ campaign to be in violation of our Terms and Conditions.” Money previously raised still would be used to help the family.26 Subsequently, GoFundMe revised its terms and conditions to give it more latitude to determine whom it will serve and whom it won’t.27 Yet, if GoFundMe has the right to turn down certain clients, why can’t Aaron and Melissa Klein have that same right? 28,29

Hearing of GoFundMe’s decision to close the account, Franklin Graham, son of the Rev. Billy Graham and president of Samaritan’s Purse, set up a donation page on the Samaritan’s Purse website so people could assist the Kleins and other Christians who are being persecuted in the United States. Graham wrote,

The Kleins have already had to close their Oregon bakery business, Sweet Cakes by Melissa and do not have this money to pay. Aaron said it would financially ruin their family and could cost them their home. They have done nothing wrong, and their lives, along with their five children, have been turned upside down by this persecution. You can’t call it anything else. This is wrong, and it’s happening right here in our own country. Liberal judges and officials siding with the LGBT crowd are trying to make a point with the undeserved punishment of this family. This is America—we should have the freedom to live by our sincerely held religious beliefs. It’s obvious who is really being discriminated against here.30

Let us not miss the some of the most important lessons coming out of the Kleins’ experience. Already we’ve talked about America’s departure from reality. Let’s expand on that a bit. As the consensus perspective in America shifted from a biblical worldview to a secular one, true justice was relegated to the back of the bus. As we said at the beginning, we now live in an upside-down world. Today in American culture, what ought to occur often doesn’t, and what shouldn’t occur frequently does. This is because people’s thinking is clouded, or we might say it is “grounded in mid-air”! Thus, alleged victims actually are predators and perpetrators, and those accused of being perpetrators are the real victims. Also, while we live in a country that was made great by free speech and by healthy debate, a concerted effort is now being made (with government backing) to silence those who dare to espouse politically incorrect views. Ironically, in the name of tolerance, tyranny is beginning to reign. This tyranny must be opposed!

Despite all the difficulty and harassment Aaron and Melissa have faced, the couple remains committed to doing what is right: “This fight is not over. We will continue to stand strong. Your religious freedom is becoming not free anymore. This is ridiculous that we cannot practice our faith. The LORD is good and we will continue to serve HIM with all our heart.”31

In Hebrews 11, the inspired writer of Hebrews wrote of Old Testament saints who were persecuted for their faith. They paid a heavy price for believing in the one true God and for acting on those beliefs. These were men and women “of whom the world was not worthy” (Heb. 11:38). Seeing Aaron and Melissa Klein and their resolve to do what is right even in the face of incredible opposition reminds us of those Old Testament saints and their New Testament counterparts. The Kleins’ resolve should inspire and encourage us as believers also to stand strong, regardless of cost.

The road before us will not be easy (see John 15:18-21), yet as we follow the Kleins’ example and remain strong, perhaps the Lord will work through us to put our nation, once again, right side up. Only if we so stand will religious liberty in America be restored and preserved.

Notes:

1Quoted in “Humpty Dumpty”: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humpty_Dumpty

2Francis A. Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live?, (Old Tappan, NJ: 1976), 110.

3http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/26/words-that-have-changed-meaning_n_4847343.html

4http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/26/words-that-have-changed-meaning_n_4847343.html

5http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/26/words-that-have-changed-meaning_n_4847343.html

6http://www.christianpost.com/news/evangelical-pastor-ken-hutcherson-i-am-the-gayest-man-i-know-74390/

7Chelsen Vicari, Distortion: How the New Christian Left is Twisting The Gospel and Damaging the Faith, (Lake Mary, FL: FrontLine, 2014), 76.

8http://www.frc.org/socialjustice

9https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Declaration_of_Independence

10http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2006/06/the-mythical-wall-of-separation-how-a-misused-metaphor-changed-church-state-law-policy-and-discourse

11http://www.christianpost.com/news/separation-of-church-and-state-is-not-in-the-u-s-constitution-122657/

12Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler, The New Tolerance, (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 1998), 15-20.

13http://goo.gl/M6LCnm

14http://goo.gl/M6LCnm

15http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/penny-starr/bakers-not-making-lesbians-wedding-cake-its-never-been-about-sexual

16http://goo.gl/M6LCnm

17http://goo.gl/M6LCnm

18 http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2014/01/21/christian-bakery-guilty-violating-civil-rights-lesbian-couple/

19http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2014/01/21/christian-bakery-guilty-violating-civil-rights-lesbian-couple/

20http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2014/01/21/christian-bakery-guilty-violating-civil-rights-lesbian-couple/

21http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2014/01/21/christian-bakery-guilty-violating-civil-rights-lesbian-couple/

22http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/penny-starr/bakers-not-making-lesbians-wedding-cake-its-never-been-about-sexual

23http://goo.gl/r77wrr

24http://goo.gl/r77wrr

25http://goo.gl/M6LCnm

26http://nation.foxnews.com/2015/04/27/todds-american-dispatch-franklin-graham-defends-christian-bakery-persecuted-lgbt

27http://hotair.com/archives/2015/05/01/gofundme-bans-fundraising-for-religious-business-owners-charged-by-state-for-refusing-to-cater-a-gay-wedding/

28http://nation.foxnews.com/2015/04/27/todds-american-dispatch-franklin-graham-defends-christian-bakery-persecuted-lgbt

29http://www.wnd.com/2015/04/gofundme-slammed-by-all-sides-for-targeting-christians/

30http://nation.foxnews.com/2015/04/27/todds-american-dispatch-franklin-graham-defends-christian-bakery-persecuted-lgbt

31http://www.onenewsnow.com/culture/2015/05/05/klein-tells-focal-point-audience-us-constitution-trumps-a-courtroom#.VUwWo865ZfR (minor edits made for clarity)

Copyright © 2015 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.