Saturday, October 20, 2012

How do we find Biblical Truth in the midst of today's doctrinal chaos

We are in a time not only of deteriorating morality and spirituality in the world, inviting God's judgment particularly against the once-Christian western nations, and in the cults and the obviously apostate churches, but questionable leanings by EVERY ministry we'd generally consider to be orthodox within the church. 
I was surprised when it turned out that the criticisms of The Harbinger seem to come predominantly from Dispensationalism, a theological system within the Church holding views not normally regarded as cause for division among Christians, but in this case being applied against The Harbinger in a surprisingly dogmatic way, as if it is THE biblical standard and all opposition to it is to be condemned as apostate.  Mostly I've found that the critics are misreading the book to hold the views they are condemning, erecting a straw man argument in other words, but nevertheless their willingness to condemn this straw man opponent of their theology is surprising. 

Normally a criticism of the sort coming against The Harbinger would expose errors based on Biblical principles common to all Christians, such as clearcut doctrinal deviations as from the Deity of Christ, which is held by the "liberal" churches and by the Jehovah's Witnesses for instance, or from a false works-based idea of salvation, which is held by Catholicism and by Mormonism.  A critique from within a theological system normally considered to be within orthodoxy would ordinarily identify that system and not take a condemnatory stance toward the other, but this is what has happened with respect to The Harbinger.   They multiply objections against the book, often with a dogmatic condemnatory thrust, but so far I haven't found a single one that sticks from a truly Biblical perspective.

Sometimes the truly apostate gets mixed up with these merely in-house differences.  I was just reading an article in The Berean Call finding fault with The Truth Project, a series of teachings on DVD I saw a couple years ago, aimed at defining a Christian Biblical worldview, taught by Del Tackett of Focus on the Family.  I found that series to be extremely well done but I fault it myself for including a Catholic priest, and McMahon of The Berean Call shows that that particular Catholic priest has his hands in the gay movement among other things, making it even worse. 

He also objects to the fact that the series was put out by Focus on the Family which also bothers me because that ministry treats Catholicism as Christian and because they promote psychotherapy concepts that shouldn't be in the church at all, and I agree with him about both.  But I don't find the psychotherapy focus in The Truth Project itself and I think McMahon is going too far there --  he thinks Tackett's saying that God has given us all a desire for "significance" amounts to an emphasis on self as in the psychotherapy framework, but I didn't hear it that way.  I hear it rather as a desire as creatures made in the image of God for something better to define our lives than this fallen world has to offer us, which seems to me to be perfectly within biblical implications. 

And beyond that McMahon objects to some Calvinist teachings in the series, even objecting to its quoting from the Westminster Confession of Faith.  Well, I consider myself to be a Calvinist so that's a plus for the series in my mind. I don't claim to know enough to argue the Calvinist-Arminian dispute beyond some basics, so I hold it all somewhat loosely and generally avoid getting into the debate.  As McMahon points out, however, there are some directions today's Calvinists go that I WOULD object to, such as Reconstructionism, which McMahon also criticizes, and their tending toward Amillennialism and Preterism.  None of these doctrines was held by the original Reformers and I reject all of them.  

I made my own attempt to grapple with Amillennialism a couple years ago, which I spell out at my blog End Times Monitor, and found it a frustrating exercise in nonsense.  To this day I still don't have a well worked out end times theology of my own.  I tend to think some things are yet future, I think for instance that there must be a role for national Israel yet to play out in the drama of Planet Earth, I haven't seen a convincing interpretion of the Seventy Weeks of Daniel that treats it as anything but a specific period of years of which 69 were fulfilled at the coming of Christ, leaving seven of them yet future, yet overall I reject Dispensationalism which treats Old Testament Israel as a separate entity from the Church. 

I like some things about Historicism, such as that it preserves the historical FACT that Roman Catholicism was recognized as the Antichrist by Bible believers down through the centuries from very early on, and that recognition has been lost with the rise of these other eschatalogical (end times) systems such as Amillennialism, Preterism and Futurism.   THAT is a major disaster for the Church it seems to me.  If there is one major mistake being made by the churches it is in treating Roman Catholicism as just another Christian denomination.  THAT's the Trojan Horse within the Church these days, the one we should all be learning to identify and eject from our midst and I strongly appreciate Chris Pinto's work toward this end. 

Beyond that obvious glaring mistake, it's like there's no such thing as a pure ministry anywhere these days.  I could list all my own beliefs and objections to various systems of thought just as many others could and I think I'm right just as they think they are right.  So in my opinion McMahon gets some things right, lots of things right overall, even in his criticism of The Truth Project but also gets some things wrong.  The Truth Project gets most important things right in my opinion but does get a few things wrong and that Catholic priest is no SMALL thing that's wrong with it, although I don't find that it affects what the series actually teaches, and overall its doctrine remains creditable in my judgment.  Take out the priest, take a clear stand against Romanism, and psychotherapy too, and get some other ministry than Focus on the Family to sponsor it and I wouldn't have any objections to it. 

It's rather like The Harbinger perhaps, in that there is nothing doctrinally wrong with it although it has some associations that should rightly raise some eyebrows.