Christianity Today 14

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. Jonathan Edwards and 21st Century Evangelicalism, William C. Nichols

While the point of the above comment has to do with what happens when orthodox theology and sound doctrine are abandoned, there are other things in the church that are effected by this as well. It is not just that we can stop teaching a little doctrine here and here, but a change in doctrine at certain points can have an enormous influence on all aspects of the local church. In the present day people do not seem to think that doctrine is important, but the reality of the matter is that people don’t mind certain doctrines while they hate others. The list of doctrines from the quote above is really essential doctrines and when those are minimized the practice of the church will be different.

When God’s sovereignty is minimized, though it may be given lip service, evangelism will be for different. God will no longer be the focus man becomes the focus. When the depravity of man is minimized, man is thought to have the power to do things he cannot do. Man is not mostly dead with few abilities and little strength, but man is totally dead and has no spiritual ability and no spiritual strength at all. This means that once again God is no longer the center and is replaced by man. Instead of man crying out to God for a new heart and spiritual life, man looks to himself for some ability to come up with faith so that God will save him.

We can also easily see how this influences the practice and content of worship. When theology is minimized or on the way down from the truth of God, then the words of the music become centered upon man. Even if the words speak of God, the real focus is on man and how man feels. The music is used to play on the feelings of human beings rather than be a way that man can seek God and the presence of God. Despite how strange it sounds, church services become a way of suppressing the truth of God rather than a way of manifesting the truth of God. It takes the truth of who God is and how God rules in and on the earth in order to have the preaching of the Gospel of God and for there to be the true worship of God.

We can also notice a couple of important points at the end of the opening quote. “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.” One, people were reticent to question Finney regarding his methods because of the apparent success. Two, a person’s methods are built on a person’s theology (taken from the wider point of the quote). Three, the success was only apparent. The same thing is true today. It has been in Christian news that large pastors have told those with smaller churches that success (in numbers and dollars) trumps the criticisms that are received. Numerical and financial successes are confused with spiritual blessings.

When God is removed from the core and center of the church, any apparent success is really a curse of blindness. The church can keep an orthodox creed and yet the practice of the church and ministers are focused on success rather than God. A professing church that is growing in numbers may be a professing church that is moving farther and farther from the truth of God. When success becomes a god, the true and controlling theology of the professing church is no longer God-centered and the focus is now on the little gods of human beings. The ministers may say that they want success in order to honor God, but true and spiritual fruit must come from Him in order to be for Him. In that sense, professing churches need to repent of their apparent successes which are really idols.

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