Category Archives: Denominations

Christianity smashed and swapped for a new agenda

File:St Joseph Church demolition.jpg

Spencer D Gear PhD

1. How Christianity is smashed by Peter Bowden

When I write ‘smash’ in this context, I indicate ‘to defeat or wreck (persons, theories, etc)’ (Collins English Dictionary 2018. s.v. smash).

Here I deal with how Dr Peter Bowden has wrecked the biblical meaning of basic Christian teaching and replaced it with his own human, politically correct agenda.

Let’s check how he did that.

2. Christianity corrected

Dr Bowden went to the dictionary to find a definition of ‘Christian’ in his article, A Christian Church.[1] It’s a shame he didn’t go to an early source (the Book of Acts, written ca. AD 62-64) for his definition of what ‘Christian’ meant in the first century – and today.

Acts 11 states that the Gospel of repenting of sins and receiving eternal life when people believed in the Lord Jesus Christ extended from Jews to  non-Jews (vv 17-18). At Antioch, Syria, when the word of God was preached, a ‘large number’ of people came to know the Lord. It was at Antioch ‘ that the believers were first called Christians” (Acts 11:26).

In turning to dictionaries to determine the meaning of Christian, Dr Bowden has wrongly identified one definition of a Christian, ‘a follower of the Christian Church’. When the early believers were first called ‘Christian’, they were not followers of the Christian Church, but believed in and were disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Jews would not call them Christians because of their own use of Cristo the Messiah. The Jews termed them Galileans or Nazarenes. The followers of Christ called themselves disciples (learners), believers, brethren, saints, those of the Way. The three uses of Christian in the N.T. are from the heathen standpoint (here), Acts 26:28 (a term of contempt in the mouth of Agrippa), and 1 Peter 4:16 (persecution from the Roman government). It is a clear distinction from both Jews and Gentiles and it is not strange that it came into use first here in Antioch when the large Greek church gave occasion for it (A T Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Acts 11:26).

3. Where the redefinition of God leads

Dr Bowden’s accolades for this denomination were: ‘The Uniting Church’s beliefs are impressive. They confirm that religion will be an everlasting aspect of human life on earth…. If I ever feel the need to turn to the formal practice of religion, it will be to the Uniting Church that I will turn’.

What’s the truth of where the Uniting Church’s agenda leads? See Philip Hughes’ article, ‘Why Some Churches Decline While Others Grow’ (Christian Research Association).

3.1 The ruin of the Uniting Church

Uniting Church in Australia

UCA-logo.svgUCA logo

The 2016 Australian census found ‘the Uniting church had declined to 3.7%’ of the Australian population, compared with 5% in the 2011 census (Bouma 2017).

John Sandeman wrote that Keith Suter does not claim to be a prophet but is a futurist. In 2014, he completed his third doctorate which sketched four ‘plausible futures’ for the Uniting Church of Australia (UCA). They are:

1. Word and Deed: A Uniting Church with a small number of large parishes, providing spiritual activities and social welfare.

2. Secular Welfare: Uniting Church congregations fade away, but a large social welfare movement remains.

3. Return to the Early Church: UCA re-invents itself.

4. Recessional: UCA is wound up and its assets dispersed.

Of these four scenarios, the ones being played out are number two – the growth of church welfare – and number four. Suter told Eternity.[2] “It is quite clear that the congregations are shrinking, and the government continues to provide money for welfare work” (Sandeman 2017).

The Uniting Church reported concerning it’s decline:

According to the church, it had 243,000 members in 2018. In the 2016 census, about 870,200 Australians identified with the church; in the 2011 census, the figure was 1,065,796. The UCA is Australia’s third-largest Christian denomination, behind the Catholic and the Anglican Churches (Wikipedia 2020. s.v. Uniting Church of Australia).

4. Consider how an Anglican justifies his liberalism

Peter Sellick is an articulate Anglican deacon in Perth, WA, Australia. Most recently, he wrote this article for On Line Opinion: The battle of the narratives of origin. A more accurate title would be, ‘The battle to stop the Anglican decline in liberal parishes’. Some of his points in this article included (not comprehensive):

5tn_.jpg 1.1K  Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859) catapulted the ‘new science of genetics…. The universe began in the big bang about 13 billion years ago and biologists have estimated the emergence of the first living things (microbia) about 3.5 billion years’.

5tn_.jpg 1.1K  ‘Evidence of early humanity, close to a mere 300 thousand years, completed the picture of cosmic and human time. This composite narrative of origins of life on earth has become the narrative in modern times’.

·5tn_.jpg 1.1K  What about the biblical data? There was ‘a victory of scientific rationalism over against the feeble attempts to cling to the biblical account of creation as an explanation of the origin of all things’. ‘In the process, Christian belief for many was mortally damaged since central texts were found to be mythical and hence untrustworthy. The word “mythical” was taken to refer to the unreal, the pretend’.

5tn_.jpg 1.1K  What should have replaced the doubt about the reliability of the biblical texts? Scholars should have gone to German biblical research, he said.

5tn_.jpg 1.1K  He mentioned that ‘Julian (sic)[3] Wellhausen published in 1878 his source theory of Old Testament texts that discovered the hands of different writers separated in time and in orientation that was later redacted into a single narrative. This undercut the idea that biblical texts were, in some way, obtained directly from the mouth of God’.

5tn_.jpg 1.1K  ‘The source hypothesis demonstrated that biblical texts were cultural products that displayed their sources in time, place and authorship’.

I couldn’t let him get away with this kind rationalising away biblical authority, so I gave him this retort:

Peter,

I enjoy your writing style, but your articulation smothers your presuppositions. In this short piece, you tried to ‘trick’ us into believing Darwin’s view of the origin of the universe was correct, affirmed by cosmologists. You might learn that in your liberal Anglican theological college but it takes more than a few sentences to unpack and then refute.

Then you want us to swallow your line that the veracity of the biblical texts would have been supported if we followed the Wellhausen research, Source Criticism (SC), of 1878. When will you get it? The Graf-Wellhausen SC Documentary Hypothesis (JEDP for authorship of the Pentateuch) has been refuted over and over but your liberal theology keeps on keeping on.

There is internal evidence in the Pentateuch to demonstrate Mosaic authorship and not the 4-source Graf-Wellhausen theory. Space does not permit my going into these, except to say that a serious fallacy of the Hypothesis is that it assumes no part of the Torah was written before the middle of the 9th century BC. This would be the time of the Exile of the Israelites. This flies in the face of archaeological evidence of the last century.

If you continue to promote this kind of theology in your diocese, don’t expect people to flock to your churches. Your views cause people to doubt the authority of Scripture. For a better assessment, I think it’s time for you to engage in discussions with the faculty of Moore College, Sydney, and examine how the Sydney diocese is preventing the kind of decline of your churches. Posted by OzSpen, Thursday, 15 October 2020 8:16:39 AM[4]

4.1 For other promotions of liberalism by Peter Sellick …

See:

Ant drawing Clinging to the wreckage

Ant drawing Two scholars battle it out over the resurrection

Ant drawing Resurrection: the vindication of the Christ

Ant drawing A former dean of St George’s cathedral runs afoul of the evangelicals

Ant drawing The second person of the Trinity: the Son

Ant drawing Who is responsible for the death of God?

This article shows you how to white ant your church.

To demonstrate termite repair behaviour, a hole was bored into a termite nest. Over a dozen worker termites with pale heads are visible in this close-up photo, most facing the camera as they engage in repair activities from the inside of the hole. About a dozen soldier termites with orange heads are also visible, some facing outwards from the hole, others patrolling the surrounding area.

5. Conclusion

If you want to ruin a Christian denomination and empty its churches, eliminate biblical authority from the pulpit and in Bible studies by the promotion of theological liberalism. Use the Sellick line: ‘Christian belief for many was mortally damaged since central texts were found to be mythical and hence untrustworthy. The word “mythical” was taken to refer to the unreal, the pretend’.

See my refutation of Sellick’s view in: The Bible: fairy tale or history?

Also, see my articles:

6.  Works consulted

Bouma, G D 2017. Census 2016 shows Australia’s changing religious profile, with more ‘nones’ than Catholics. The Conversation (online), 27 June. Available at: https://theconversation.com/census-2016-shows-australias-changing-religious-profile-with-more-nones-than-catholics-79837 (Accessed 3 July 2018).

Bowden, P 2017. A Christian church. On Line Opinion (online), 22 February. Available at: http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=18856 (Accessed 11 December 2018).

Sandeman, J 2017. Decision time for Uniting Church in Australia. Eternity (online), 16 June. Available at: https://www.eternitynews.com.au/in-depth/decision-time-for-uniting-church-in-australia/ (Accessed 3 July 2018).

7.  Notes


[1] Bowden (2017).

[2] Eternity is published by the Bible Society Australia and is a national news service for Australian Christians’. Available at: https://www.eternitynews.com.au/about/ (Accessed 11 December 2018).

[3] His Christian name is Julius. See Encyclopaedia Britannica (2020. s.v. Julius Wellhausen).

[4] Available at: https://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=21147&page=2 (Accessed 17 October 2020).

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 17 October 2020.

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How to destroy a Christian denomination

By Spencer D. Gear PhD

Presbyterian Church in USA Logo.svg

(image courtesy Wikipedia)

If your denomination lost 100,000 members in a year, wouldn’t you think that this would be enough of a ‘hint’ to investigate why this is happening?

You may be interested to see the effect of theological liberalism on a denomination. What happens when a denomination gives up its commitment to the integrity of Scripture and seeks another view of the Bible? What is the effect of a denomination giving up its evangelical faith for something else? What happens when a denomination is promoting a politically correct agenda rather than a biblical agenda?

Take a read of what this has done and is doing to the Presbyterian Church (USA): ‘2012 statistics show dramatic decrease in PCUSA membership, congregations‘. Here you will learn that

Membership in the Presbyterian Church (USA) declined by more than 100,000 last year, according to the 2012 statistics released recently by the denomination’s Office of the General Assembly. It is the single largest annual membership decline since the PCUSA was formed in 1983….

[Mateen] Elass said that the explanation from Parsons “boils down to two things: 1) All the mainline churches are in decline; the PCUSA is a mainline church; therefore it is in decline. 2) Our culture is increasingly resistant to affiliating with religious institutions — how can we help it if people today don’t want to sign on the dotted line …? Both these reasons, whether true or not, show a desire to excuse the leadership from responsibility rather than a passion to turn things around. There are certain churches that are growing in this environment. Why not study them and invest the denomination’s significant resources in retooling itself to become a more effective proponent of the gospel? Why not return with passion to the heart of the Biblical Gospel rather than giving itself over to causes that are ancillary to the church’s true mission?”

He continued, “On the other hand, the denomination is leaking like a sieve when it comes to membership retention. The number who transferred out to other denominations by certificate was up 126 percent from 2011 (52,064 compared to 23,082). The number lost through ‘other’ means (cleaning the rolls, usually) was up about 4 percent (from 95,613 to 99,067). The only category showing a slight decrease in losses from that of 2011 was in number of deaths. This is small consolation.”

For some diagnoses of what is happening in the PC(USA), take a read of these:
designRed-small The end of the Presbyterian Church (USA), Mark Roberts
designRed-small Fighting the wrong battle in the PCUSA, Calvin Fox
designRed-small The Road to Gay Ordination in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Donald Fortson III
designRed-small 13 Differences Between the PCA and the PCUSA, Andrew Webb

Mateen Elass, a former PC(USA) pastor, gave his assessment in ‘A Long Oblivion in the Same Direction’. Part of his assessment reads:

I have a few suggestions for Gradye and other PCUSA leaders seeking to reach more Americans with the gospel and reverse the decline of the denomination:

1) In the name of racial diversity, invest more effort in reaching out to white Anglo-Saxon Americans. This is still the largest segment of American society, but the group that is fleeing evangelical and mainline churches in largest numbers. On the other hand, failure to do this will at least lead the PCUSA to perhaps reach an expired GA goal of 20% minority membership by 2010. As more WASPs leave the church, and minority numbers hold steady, overall minority percentages will increase dramatically. Not what was originally envisioned, I’m sure, but hey, at least it’s a goal to check off.

2) Since Jesus said to go where the fields were white unto harvest, and since the Pew report indicates that those most likely to affiliate with religious institutions are the politically conservative, begin a top to bottom house-cleaning of social, political and economic endorsements that lean leftward, and replace them with ones that lean right. This will attract those most likely to affiliate and give you a chance to welcome larger numbers into membership. Right now, you’re pitching your message to those least likely to respond. Isn’t that a waste of time and energy?

3) Since the unaffiliated (that fastest growing segment of the younger American population) is turned off by power-grabbing, money-grubbing religious institutions, and since you obviously want to reach this segment of society, rein in all the presbyteries and synods and GA entities that are lording it over individual congregations seeking to leave the PCUSA. Instead of ignoring or secretly encouraging them as they abuse their institutional power to cause as much pain as possible and extract as much money as they can in exchange for permission to legally become part of the body of Christ in another denominational structure, why not remove the property trust clause from the Book of Order, or declare that all churches are free to leave, no strings attached, no fees assessed? Any wishing to stay will do so voluntarily, and all unaffiliateds will see that the PCUSA is in fact not a money-grubbing, power-obsessed institution. Perhaps in observing such Christian grace, they will begin flooding into the new PCUSA.

These suggestions are, of course, made with tongue in cheek, though they each contain a kernel of truth worth considering as the denomination reels with its losses.

For some of my assessment of what happens when theological liberalism invades churches and denominations, see:

blue-satin-arrow-small Is liberal theology heresy?

blue-satin-arrow-small What does historical-critical theology do to the Bible?

blue-satin-arrow-small Is theology important?

blue-satin-arrow-small Spong’s deadly Christianity

blue-satin-arrow-small John Shelby Spong & the Churches of Christ (Victoria, Australia)

blue-satin-arrow-small Spong’s swan song — at last!

blue-satin-arrow-small Why would a Presbyterian denomination reject Jesus’ atoning sacrifice as propitiation?

blue-satin-arrow-small The Gospel Distortion: A reply to John Shelby Spong

That should be enough to get you thinking about core elements of the Christian faith and what to do about spiritual surgery – cutting out the diseased stuff in any church or denomination.

First Presbyterian Church of Houston

(Courtesy Wikipedia)

 

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 1 August 2018.

Christian denominations and the church of the first century?


Episcopal Church (Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear

Does this thought ever flash through your Christian mind, “Is the church of today anything like the church of the first couple of centuries of the Christian era?” Were there clergy? What about church buildings? When did architecture and cathedrals enter Christianity? They’ve entered my mind many times and I’ve concluded that today’s churches and denominations are a country mile from New Testament Christianity.

Yes, we read about apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers (Eph. 4:11) but their purpose was to work themselves out of a job as they were designed to ‘equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ’ (Eph. 4:12 ESV). How close is that to what is happening in your church? How many of your pastors/teachers/clergy are spending their lives equipping believers for ministry? Or, how many of them are increasing their power through prominent pulpit or mass media ministries?

We should be brave enough to confront the issues. Has the church worldwide drifted from its biblical goals and purpose? How do the 100 million Christians in China compare with what is happening to churches and denominations in the West? What about the persecuted Christians of the Middle East and in countries such as North Korea? Are these churches closer to the biblical model than in my country of Australia?

One Christian Forum has been pondering this question, “What denomination today is closest to First Century Christianity?” That’s a very good question. There have been many responses.

My own contribution has been that I would choose the house church movement. Any church that exalts the clergy is not, in my view, closest to first century Christianity.

First century Christianity had this approach to what happens when the church gathers:

What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up (1 Cor. 14:26 NIV).

Every member ministry was the norm of the early church. That is not the approach of the Eastern Orthodox Church. But it is what happens in house churches.

There is evidence of churches meeting in homes prior to AD 70. See Acts 2:46-47; 5:42; 8:3; 12:12; 16:40; 20:7-8, 20; Rom 16:3-5; 1 Cor 16:19; Col 4:15; Philemon 2; 2 John 9-11.

The contemporary church is so far removed from this every-member involvement when the church gathers and, sadly, many charismatic-pentecostals are moving away from it when the church gathers on Sunday. Some still maintain this 1 Cor. 14:26 openness to the gifts in small groups.

Why do you think that the church has moved from this norm of what happened in the early church? One standard answer is that many of these gifts have ceased. My understanding of the cessation of these gifts is they will cease when the poor reflection becomes: “We shall see [Him] face to face” and then be fully known (1 Cor. 13:12).  See my articles:

In John Shelby Spong’s book, A New Christianity for a New World (HarperSanFrancisco 2001), he throws out core Christian beliefs such as the atonement (an “offensive idea”, p. 10) and the bodily resurrection of Christ, yet still wants to say: “I am a Christian. I believe that God is real. I call Jesus my Lord. Yet I do not define God as a supernatural being. I believe passionately in God. This God is not identified with doctrines, creeds, and traditions” (Spong 2003:3, 64, 74).

Spong’s primary question to answer in this book is: “Can a person claim with integrity to be a Christian and at the same time dismiss, as I have done, so much of what has traditionally defined the content of the Christian faith?” (p. 7)

Jack Spong was no lightweight in the liberal Episcopalian Church in the USA, being bishop of Newark NJ. For Spong to be able to teach and preach such heresy as a bishop in the Episcopalian church is an indicator of the sickness in that denomination. But other denominations have the same problem as I have indicated with some of the Anglicans and Uniting Church in Australia. Take a look at the theological heresy that is taught in the United Church, Canada.

I’m not sure that people are aware of the theological sickness in many denominations that have departed from the faith.

Take a read of John Dominic Crossan’s theology (The Historical Jesus; Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography; Who Killed Jesus? The Birth of Christianity). He taught biblical studies in the Roman Catholic, DePaul University, Chicago, for 26 years.

One person in this thread stated, “I don’t see denominations as a problem. I see them as a solution”. My response is:

Yep, denominations like:

Right! We need denominations like we need a sore head!

image

 

Copyright © 2017 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 27 January 2017.

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