Christianity Today 12

William Nichols, in his excellent book Jonathan Edwards and 21st Century Evangelicalism, sets out the truth and reality of the modern version of Evangelicalism, which is not the same thing as it used to be. The book is a collection of introductions to various sermons of Jonathan Edwards in one book. It is a devastating critique of Christianity Today (so-called) as it compares it to the Christianity of a time when God was working in power. We will be looking at some of the writings from that book, primarily drawn from last chapter or the Final Conclusion.

When the long-standing pillars of orthodox theology and sound doctrine are abandoned, the overwhelming floods of error rush in to destroy what is left. I have attempted to detail those errors in this book, however, not everything covered in each sermon can be summarized here.

Although error has always been present in the church, the false theology which is so prevalent today gained a foothold under the Pelagian teachings of Nathaniel Taylor at Yale University who altered many basic Christian doctrines including man’s depravity, God’s sovereignty, Christ’s atonement, and regeneration, Taylor’s erroneous teachings were put into practice by Charles Finney who applied them to evangelism and introduced his New Measures into numerous churches through his revival meetings. Few pastors were willing to question Finney’s methods at the same time due to what seemed to be the apparent success he was having.

As has been pointed out in many ways and in many different fields of study, nature abhors a vacuum. When the truth has been exchanged for error, much error will take the place of truth. When the truth of God is rejected, then the lies and error of false gods and idols will take the place of the truth of who God is. Using a different analogy, when one army retreats and leaves a particular piece of ground, the enemy will rush in and claim that territory. The reality that the analogies point to is that error replaced truth in theory by Nathaniel Taylor and then Charles Finney put that error into practice. As Finney went around with his new way of evangelism, he was propagating serious and deadly error in the churches. His had apparent success and so many adopted his New Measures. In doing so, however, much error was brought into the churches.

Our day has reaped the results from the errors of Taylor and Finney. It is not that things have gotten better since then, but instead things have gotten worse. Instead of voices speaking out in alarm against Finney as they were back then, we have basically swallowed the errors whole. Things are far worse in our day as the errors are far more wide spread and more deeply ingrained. The errors are now thought to be orthodoxy in many circles and where those errors are not thought to be serious error they are looked at as minor deviations. The historical statements on doctrine can still be held to some degree, but when the core truths have been altered the words can be held to but the substance is no longer held in truth.

The doctrine of total depravity is vital to understanding the character of God and of the Gospel. When the teachings concerning the Sovereignty of God are changed, though it may appear that the change is not major, the whole character of Christianity and the Gospel has been altered. When the atoning work of Christ is adjusted to allow for New Measures, the Gospel is no longer what was declared by sound theologians and pastors in history. When we make what appear to be simple changes in regeneration, the changes reverberate to the very core of the character of God and the Gospel as well. In other words, those doctrines were the very things that Finney went after and allowed him to evangelize with man at the heart of his evangelism rather than God.

The foundational doctrines of Christianity Today are not the same as they were during the time of the Reformation and for a time after. Today we have God seeking men in order to convince them and persuade them to make a decision for Him, but in times past men were taught to seek the Lord that He would regenerate their hearts. Today men are taught they can believe and that God would save them, but in days past men were taught to seek to have God break and humble their hearts and regenerate them that they may believe. If these things are true, and they are, professing Christianity has been turned on its head. What we have now is a man-centered version of Christianity where God is bound to the desires and choices of men. In the past, as well as in the Bible, true Christianity is God-centered and men are bound to the desires and choices of God. The differences and changes are enormous.

2 Responses to “Christianity Today 12”

  1. Frankie Says:

    The other extremeThere’s not knowing that the gospel is for the poor and that Jesus loves poor sinners and the father pities them. Unfortunately the extreme is a Jonathan Edwards becomes the standard of preaching which is not

  2. Richard Smith Says:

    But that is exactly what William Nichols asserts. People do not know that it is the poor sinner that the Gospel is for, but instead only want a little help rather than to be poor of spirit. Jonathan Edwards is not the extreme as he was a good balance between teaching sinners that they must become little children in order to enter the kingdom (as Jesus did) and yet that it was all of a pure grace alone. Edwards taught that sinners must seek the Lord for a new heart and that only came to poor and broken sinners by grace alone. Sinners must not look to their humiliations and their broken hearts and look to them as hope, but that their broken hearts was when self was denied and only then could Christ be looked to. It is only when the self is not looked to can we look to Christ alone.

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