Steve and I listened to an informative video the other night. It was a recording from the 2007 Ligonier Ministries conference. I can’t post it because WordPress won’t let me but here is the link. It was a conversation regarding the errors of the post-modern liberal theology which has permeated the evangelical church over the last two decades. The three men discussing this were Ravi Zacharias, R.C. Sproul and Al Mohler. They were intelligent erudite and entertaining. Each speaker in his own way had an eloquence which only professors at university who speak for a living could have.
We were enthralled and we also appreciated the wisdom of the combined years and experience that these men had. Its actually a real shame that not many younger Christians appreciate the perspective that age can give. The longer you live, the more you see because time has given you an understanding that you simply cannot have when you are younger. It is almost impossible to explain that to a young person, and they will not appreciate what you are saying because you can’t until you age. It’s a puzzlement.
I had heard of these men before but didn’t really know much about them. As they were talking however, it dawned on me that their orientation seemed to be leaning towards Calvinistic beliefs. Sure enough, when I did some research, both Mohler and Sproul are firmly reformed in their theology. Al Mohler is currently president of the Southern Baptist Convention in the States and is what is termed a ‘New Calvinist’. R.C. Sproul is a Calvinist theologian and founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries. Ravi Zacharias is not a Calvinist I believe, but is well known as a speaker and author and apologist.
Ravi Zacharias in particular was very droll and charming and had a way of speaking which made you want to hear more. He was more of a story teller than anything I think. Their strong distaste and concern for the errors of post-modernist theology were helpful to us as we realised that the problems in the Emerging church have actually been around for many decades, even centuries. Sproul even playfully suggested that Satan was a post-modernist since his lie to Eve “Did God really say?” was the essence of emerging thought.
But even as we listened to these gentlemen, something was not sitting right with me. The more I listened to them, the more I realised that in actual fact a lot of their statements were wrong. We are not Calvinists, and don’t agree with the five points of Calvinist theology, believing they are neither defensible nor biblical. But while I previously mentioned the wisdom and experience these men have, there is also a disturbing arrogance which came with it, and its not the first time I have seen this.
John MacArthur, a popular Reformed pastor with his own Bible commentary, is another Calvinist of this stripe. Yet there are many who have left his Grace Community church believing it is a cult due to the way they are treated and the utter refusal to brook any dissension. These are two of the biggest pointers to spiritual abuse. If pastors will not discuss concerns with members of the congregations or even visitors to the congregation, they are not allowing for the possibility of error. And even if they are not in error, they should still be able to converse civilly with those who disagree with them or have concerns. Not so John Macarthur. There are more issues that I have with Mr. MacArthur’s theology and that of John Calvin, but I don’t want to talk about that here.
I wanted to mention how much these men were name dropping. They talked about the various universities they had taught at and the various people they knew and it was like a very subtle competition. But you could see that they revelled in the fact that they were well known and sought after speakers. There is nothing wrong with being famous, but it seems no human being can cope with it for too long without it going to his head. My concern was that their fame had changed who they were as Christians. There was little in the way of humility and some of Sproul’s jokes were disrespectful to God’s word and fairly tasteless.
Added to this, there seemed to be a marked sense of being in a good ole boys club. and not only that but that they recounted incidents in which they had changed their minds on issues within a day or so of some great man or other telling them that they disagreed with them.
Al Mohler mentioned that he had held very strong egalitarian views on women in the church when he was at University and when he had stated these views to a visiting complementarian speaker whom he very much admired, he immediately (overnight) changed his viewpoint. This speaker had told him that his (Mohler’s) views were an embarrassment and immediately Mohler decided to look into why it was that his hero of the faith felt this way. When a young man changes his mind that quickly because a famous man tells him to, you can be sure that he doesn’t really know what he believes. You can’t do a thorough study of either approaches to the subject of women in the church overnight, and in order to really understand what the Holy Spirit is saying to the church on this matter, you need more than a few hours prayer. Mohler claimed that he had not been influenced at all by the words of the visiting speaker, yet evidence would tend to suggest otherwise.
Likewise Ravi Zacharias who seems to have slid into false teaching very quickly, told the story of his invitation by the Mormon Church to speak at the LDS Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City in 2004. Initially he said he turned it down, he did not explain why this was. But then he apparently was accosted by everyone from his wife to famous Christian authors and pastors like James Dobson, psychologist and founder of Focus on the Family and Charles Colson former counsel to President Richard Nixon. These are not minor Christian celebrities. All of them told him to accept the invitation to speak, they told him that it was necessary for him to be there, presumably to preach the gospel. Now not once did Zacharias mention what God wanted him to do, he was completely focused it seemed on what everyone around him, especially influential famous men, wanted him to do. I do not believe he should have gone to preach there since scripture tells us to have nothing to do with false teachers. Not only that but Ravi Zacharias has a history of ecumenist preaching and attempting to ‘dialogue’ with false teachers, as though being friends will make other people more open to listening to what you have to say. It didn’t do a thing for the Middle East conflict and will never do so. You can’t be friends with people who hate your guts and want to destroy you. It is the same when you are talking to a cult which has had a strong presence in the U.S. for many years and actually believes it is a Christian church. They are not. Ravi Zacharias was not preaching the gospel of repentance from sin, he was trying to compare notes about what they do believe. They do not worship the same God or the same Jesus. Why on earth would a cult want Ravi Zacharias to preach to them in the first place. There is something profoundly disturbing in the fact that a false religion likes a particular Christian apologist’s messages. That tells me that Zacharias’ preaching is far too watered down to actually do anybody any good.
It is important to recognise a number of things here. You can be preaching a false message and still be a great speaker and a charming person. You can be preaching a false message about one issue and a true one on another issue. And thirdly, even if, like Mohler and Sproul your theology is deeply flawed, you can still have biblical beliefs on a number of issues such as the person and ministry of Jesus Christ. It is even more proof that we need as Christians in these last days, to test the Spirits, to keep our bibles with us at all times, and to do some research if we sense within our spirits that something just doesn’t sound right.
When Steve and I were in BCF, there were a lot of times when I knew something was wrong, I just couldn’t put my finger on what it was. It wasn’t until we left that we were able to understand the gravity of the error. It’s too easy to sit passively and be entertained or informed, but you must always have your critical thinking cap on, first of all dowsed in the blood of Jesus Christ so that you will have the mind of Christ and you will know whether what you are hearing is right or not.