A Website for Basic Christian Doctrine

The Modern Age

By Jeremy Cagle

In his book, No Place for Truth, David Wells tells about the shock a Puritan would experience if he were suddenly transported to the Modern Age. He writes that:

The Congregational church was visually the town’s center. One of the first things the Puritans had always done when building a new town was to establish the church in a position of prominence at the center of the community . . .

They saw the town’s church as both the place where God addressed his people through the preacher’s word and as the knot that bound society together, the hub into which all of life’s spokes were fixed by covenant . . .

[And] the minister was the town’s First Citizen. Christian faith – more particularly, evangelical Christian faith in a Congregational form – permeated all of the town’s life.1

Needless to say, Wells goes on to state, things have changed since then. Now the church is no longer in the center of town, it does not hold society together, and the Christian faith does not permeate all of town life. Instead, Christianity has been pushed further and further away from the public eye.

In a recent study done by LifeWay Research, it was discovered that 4,000 churches started up in 2015 but 3,700 of them shut down.2 According to another survey, less than 20 percent of Americans attend those churches on any given Sunday and, if the trends do not change, half of them will stop attending in another 10 years.3 So the increase in churches has not led to an increase in impact. If anything, our churches are becoming more and more anemic.

Why is that? Why is the church moving further and further away from the center of society? Why is it no longer permeating all of town life?

Maybe another way to ask this is: what does history tell us about this? When we look back at the last 300 years, how did things change from the Puritans to where we are today? How did we go from the Reformation to right now? And, more importantly, is there any way to reverse the trends? It is the purpose of this article to answer those questions by looking at several stages in the development of the Modern Church.

I. THE RISE OF EVANGELICALISM

After the Protestant Reformation in the 16th Century and the Puritan Movement in the 17th, the church went through a period of tremendous decline. As the shining lights of Martin Luther and John Owen burned out, a hole was left in the church. As a result, heresies and vices began to creep in to the point that one Bishop said, “Gin has made the English people what they never were before – cruel and inhuman.”4

A change was needed, and the Lord brought it about through what is today known as the Great Awakening. Throughout the years 1735-1743, thousands if not millions of American colonists and Europeans were converted under the supernatural power of God. While it is impossible to put an exact number on them, we can get an idea of the scope of the Awakening by surveying the ministry of George Whitefield. Steve Lawson tells us:

In his thirty-four years of ministry, Whitefield preached some eighteen thousand sermons, often to multiplied thousands. If informal messages are included, such as in private homes, this number easily increases to thirty thousand sermons, perhaps more. Three sermons a day were common; four were not uncommon.

Conservative estimates are that he spoke a thousand times every year for more than thirty years. In America alone, it is estimated that eighty percent of the colonists heard him preach. This means Whitefield was seen by far more American settlers than was George Washington. Whitefield’s name was more widely recognized by colonial Americans than any living person’s except for those of British royalty. It is believed that Whitefield preached to more than ten million people over the course of his ministry, a staggering number.5

All of this without modern amplification. All of it without television or the internet.

And that is just the ministry of George Whitefield. It does not take into account the ministries of John Wesley or Jonathan Edwards. It was said that Wesley circled the globe seven times on horseback preaching the Gospel and Edwards’ sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” was the most famous sermon ever peached on American soil.

Needless to say, it led to a wonderful change in society and a new movement known as “Evangelicalism.” Evangelicalism can be defined as:

A movement in modern Christianity emphasizing the gospel of forgiveness and regeneration through personal faith in Jesus Christ, and affirming orthodox doctrines.6

In other words, Evangelicalism is what Christianity was supposed to be all along. Christians were supposed to be evangelizing. They were supposed to be evangelicals who emphasized the Gospel of forgiveness and regeneration through personal faith in Christ. While the term is a modern one, it had its roots here in the Great Awakening.7

And the impact it had on the church was wonderful. The Lord used it in amazing ways but it did not last because Evangelicalism grew too big to contain itself. As the Second Great Awakening occurred in the years 1787-1825, chaos set in as Christian leaders could not manage the large numbers who swelled their churches. Soon Christians began to split off and form their own denominations.8 They began to cry “No creed but the Bible” and say they did not need to submit to any authority outside of themselves. As the famous preacher Charles Finney put it, “I had nowhere to go but directly to the Bible, and to the philosophy or workings of my own mind.”9

Or as the poet Richard McNemar said:

Ten thousand Reformers like so many moles
Have plowed all the Bible and cut it in holes
And each has his church at the end of his trace
Built up as he thinks on the subject of grace.10

All of this reminds us why the Lord has given us leaders in the church. If there was any lesson to learn from Evangelicalism, this is it: we need to submit to godly leadership. Hebrews 13:7 says:

Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.

Hebrews 13:17 takes it a step further:

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.

First Corinthians 16:16 echoes this:

That you also be in subjection to such men and to everyone who helps in the work and labors.

Submission is part of the Christian life. It is what it means to be a Christian. We submit to God11 and, in doing so, we submit to those men that He has put in place over His church.12 To say it another way: the church is not a free-for-all. The rise of Evangelicalism warns us what will happen when men and women are left to fend for themselves: they will tear each other apart. They will fight and bite and devour each other.13 They will plow up the Bible and cut it in holes.

There is a better way. We were meant to follow men who are “good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, and holding fast the faithful word.”14 God has commanded us to listen to those who are “above reproach”15 and “have a good reputation,”16 and that leads to the next stage in the development of the Modern Church.

II. THE RISE OF LIBERALISM

During the Second Great Awakening, as “ten thousand Reformers like so many moles have plowed all the Bible and cut it in holes” a German scholar began to lead the church astray. His name was Friedrich Schleiermacher.

Schleiermacher was the son of a Dutch Reformed pastor who abandoned everything his father taught him and instead believed that you can keep the feelings of Christianity while ignoring the facts. In other words, you can be a Christian by sentiment even if you are no longer a Christian by conviction. In his own words:

I cannot believe that He, who called himself the Son of Man, was the true, eternal God; I cannot believe that His death was a vicarious atonement, because He never expressly said so Himself . . .17

[But I still have a place for the Bible] . . . The Bible is the original interpretation of the Christian feeling.18

So the Bible is the interpretation of Christian feeling; that was why it was given to us. It was not given to state facts. It was given for an experience. Nothing more.

This was the birth of what is now known as “Liberalism.” Liberalism is a movement that sought to “modify some central evangelical doctrines such as the reliability of the Bible or the necessity of salvation”19 to make it more appealing to the secular world. It taught that “any doctrine in the Bible is open to be denied,”20 and “in the place of the Gospel of grace, it preached the social gospel . . . the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man.”21

In other words, Liberalism changed the Christian religion to make it more appealing to a lost world. It took Christian terms and made them sound more secular or worldly. As a result, churches lost their spiritual emphasis and began to look more like Boys and Girls Clubs or, in some cases, Country Clubs.

In 1930, Dietrich Bonhoeffer visited New York City and said that “the lack of seriousness with which [Christians] here speak of God . . . is surprising.”22 After leaving war-torn Germany for New York, Bonheoffer could not believe that Christians were so flippant and casual about their faith. He could not understand why the churches were so focused on programs and fancy buildings while at the same time ignoring the Bible.

Here is a glimpse of what he saw at Harry Emerson Fosdick’s Park Avenue Church where men like John D. Rockefeller attended:

Dr. Fosdick proposes to give this educated community a place of greatest beauty for worship. He also proposes to serve the social needs of the somewhat lonely metropolite. Hence on a vast scale he has built all the accessories of a community church – gymnasium, assembly room for theatricals, dining rooms, etc . . .

In ten stories of the 22-story belltower are classrooms for the religious and social training of the young . . . Dr. Fosdick’s study and conference rooms are on the 18th floor, richly decorated. Simple, but more massive in furniture is the floor above where the board of trustees meet . . . Not all of them rich, not all of them powerful, but all of them sociologically minded.23

In other words, the church was no longer a spiritual institution; but a sociological one. Its leaders were no longer spiritually but socially minded. This was the beginning of the modern-day Seeker Sensitive Movement where churches did whatever they could to “reach” the seeker. They offered programs, fancy music, and services to the community while at the same time ignoring doctrine. Soon people began to call themselves “Christians” who believed nothing that Jesus taught other than a few principles fron the Sermon on the Mount. Soon men and women began to lead in the church even though they denied everything that Paul and the Apostles stood for.

All of this reminds us that doctrine matters. That is the second lesson that we learn from the Modern Age. What you believe about God matters. You have to do more than feel Christian to be a Christian; you have to think Christian. You have to understand and believe certain undeniable truths.

After all, suicide bombers have religious feelings but they are going to Hell. Members of ISIS and other terrorists groups have a love for God (a god of their own choosing), and they will not go to paradise. You must believe the truth in order to be saved. You must hold to sound doctrine.

In fact, you have to do more than just hold to it; you have to fight for it as Jude 1:3 tells us to:

Contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.

Second Timothy 2:15 says:

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

Ephesians 4:14 says:

We are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.

We are to contend for the faith, be diligent in it, and grow into it. We are not to passively sit by and wait for an emotion. Emotions save no one. While it is good to have feelings for God and we are commanded to “love the Lord your God with all your heart,”24 you cannot know you are doing that without sound doctrine. You cannot know that it is God you are loving without Scripture.

Thomas Scott, a pastor from the 1800’s, warned about the danger of separating feelings from facts in one of his letters. He said:

Leave out the holy character of God, the holy excellence of his law. . . the holy loveliness of the Savior’s character, the holy nature of redemption, the holy tendency of Christ’s doctrine, and the holy tempers and conduct of all true believers: then dress up a scheme of religion of this unholy sort: represent mankind in a pitiable condition, rather through misfortune than crime . . . and you make up a plausible gospel, calculated to humor the pride, soothe the consciences, engage the hearts, and raise the affections of natural men, who love nobody but themselves.25

We need to do more than soothe men’s consciences and engage their hearts if we are ever to help them know God. We need to teach them the truth. We need to tell them the facts.

III. THE RISE OF ECUMENICALISM

All of this opened the door for another heresy to creep into the church: Ecumenicalism. Ecumenicalism is “the movement . . . towards the visible union of all believers in Christ.”26 It is the attempt to bring Christians and people of other faith together to worship the same God. It said that the differences between various religions do not matter. They are simply matters of opinion. As the Archbishop of Canterbury put it: “Heaven is not a place for Christians only . . . I expect to see some present-day atheists there.”27

To understand how this came about, it might be helpful to do a quick survey of philosophy. During the Second Great Awakening, a Danish philosopher named Soren Kierkegaard, who also attended a Dutch Reformed church, became disenchanted with what he saw there and reacted by saying that truth is subjective. In his own words, “Truth is subjectivity.”28 It is not outside of us, it is inside of us, which means that people from other faiths can be saved, too, as R. C. Sproul explains:

In his Concluding Unscientific Postscript Kierkegaard tells of two men in prayer. One is a church member who professes an orthodox view of God but prays to God with a false spirit. In truth, Kierkegaard says, he is praying to an idol. The other man is a heathen who prays to idols with true passion. Therefore, says, Kierkegaard, he is praying to God.29

So Kierkegaard took it one step further than Schleiermacher. Whereas the latter said that doctrine does not matter for Christians; the former said that it does not matter for anybody. Anyone can be saved as long as they believe something, anything, with all their heart.

From there, Kierkegaard’s teachings were picked up by a Swiss philosopher named Karl Barth, who said that, if truth is subjective, it is also changing. It cannot stay the same. As we morph and evolve and change, the Word of God morphs and evolves and changes with us, which means that what was true for our parents is not necessarily true for us. What saved them will not necessarily save us.

From there, an American named Richard Rorty said that truth is communal, meaning that we all create truth together. I do not create truth and you do not create the truth. We create truth in community. From there, other philosophers picked up on this and said that truth must be a dialogue. It is not a sermon or a dogmatic statement but a conversation. It is something that we all figure out together.

And all of this led to the explosion of the Ecumenical Movement. As Christians began to believe more and more secular philosophy, they began to believe that their religion was simply one dialogue among many. It was just a conversation, meaning that Christians do not have it all figured out. We are all figuring together, along with the Buddhists and the Atheists and the Hindus.

The whole Movement started with the onset of World War I and World War II. As the wars continued and millions died, Christians grew tired of the fighting and began to seek peace. As a result, in 1948, believers from 147 denominations and 44 different countries came together to form the World Council of Churches and to “confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Savior according to the Scriptures” and to “seek to fulfill their common calling.”30 The problem, however, was that no one could agree on what that meant.

Did it mean that we have to believe that Jesus is the Son of God? Many Liberals at the Council did not believe that. Did it mean that we have to believe Jesus died and rose again? Again, many did not believe that, either. Did it mean that we have to reject other “Lords” like the lords of Hinduism and Islam? Do “the Scriptures” refer to the Christian Scriptures alone? And what is meant by the phrase “common calling” and how do we “see to fulfill it?”

None of these questions were answered, which means that the first time a divisive issue was raised, the peace was shattered. Six years after its formation, in 1954, at the World Council of Churches’ Second General Assembly in Chicago, the influential Cardinal Samuel Strich forbade Catholic priests from attending its sessions due to the recent release of a movie on Martin Luther. He said that Catholics could not join arms with Protestants.

From there, things would dissolve to the point that in 1993, a Korean theologian named Chung Hyun Kyung would speak at a WCC event claiming that she prayed to trees. She was joined by another speaker who said that she did not think that Christians needed an atonement anymore; it was too bloody for her. Today, the Council is fighting over issues like what to do with terrorism and the wars in the Middle East. After all, if the terrorist are just practicing their religion, how could we ever condemn them? How could we say that we are right and they are wrong?31

All of this is to say that Christians should beware of secular philosophy. We should beware of putting the teachings of Soren Kierkegaard and Karl Barth and Richard Rorty above the teachings of Scripture because, if we do, we will eventually be left with nothing to say. If we believe that truth is subjective and ever-changing and communal, we will eventually be left with no truth at all.
Another way to say this is that Christianity is a very exclusive religion. It gives no wiggle room to link arms with other faiths as John 14:6 says:

I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.

First John 1:7 says:

If we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another.

Second Corinthians 6:14-15 goes one step further to say:

Do not be bound together with unbelievers, for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?

You cannot come to the Father but through Jesus. You cannot have fellowship with one another unless you are in the light. And you cannot be bound with unbelievers, for Christ and Belial have nothing in common. Righteousness cannot partner with lawlessness.

There is no room for a conversation here. There is no room for a dialogue. Christians cannot unite with people who deny their faith. To do that is to court disaster. This is another important lesson from church history.

IV. THE RISE OF CHARISMATIC THEOLOGY

At the same time that the Ecumenical Movement was in full swing, another movement was taking America by storm and changing the perception of the church. It was known as the Charismatic Movement. The Charismatic Movement refers to “Christians who believe that the manifestations of the Holy Spirit seen in the First Century Church, such as healings, miracles, and . . . tongues, are available . . . today.”32 It refers to believers who think that everything that happened in the Book of Acts should happen now. Healings, prophecies, tongues, and visions and dreams are all experiences for the modern-day Christian.

And to understand this movement a little better, it would help to do a quick overview of the history of tongues. Tongues is the miracle whereby a person “receives immediate ability to speak languages that he had never acquired by natural means.”33 It refers to the ability to speak a language that you have not previously studied. It was the gift to communicate in a foreign language without having any prior experience with it, and it is helpful to point out that it is a gift that was practically unused for 1,900 years. From the time of the Second Century until the 20th, no one spoke in tongues with the exception of a few cultic groups. It was a dormant gift. It was almost entirely set aside.34

That is, until a preacher from Topkea, Kansas named Charles Parham laid hands on one of his Bible students in the early 1900’s and she spoke nothing but Chinese for three whole days. Soon other members of the class received the “gift” and spoke in 21 languages including French, German, Bulgarian, Japanese, and Spanish.35 One student was so excited about his newfound ability that he moved to India to use it in ministry. He returned soon afterwards, however, after learning that it was a hoax.

Several years later, Parham moved to Texas where he taught an eager student named William Seymour who he took his newfound knowledge to the Azusa Street Mission in Los Angeles. As a result, Christians and cultists alike began attending his services. According to one historian:

On April 18, 1906, subscribers to the Los Angeles Times were startled by the headline “Weird Babel of Tongues.” The article proclaimed, “New Sect of Fanatics is Breaking Loose; Wild Scene Last Night on Azusa Street; Gurgle of Wordless Talk by a Sister.” The notoriety only served to fan the flame. As news spread, people from across America headed to Azusa Street to “catch the fire.”

The endtime restoration of Pentecostal power proved to be so compelling that Christians and cultists alike suspended their meetings and headed to 312 Azusa Street. Together they engaged in the “jerks” and in “treeing the devil.” It wasn’t long before “spiritualists and mediums from the numerous occult societies of Los Angeles began to attend and to contribute their séances and trances to the services.” In time things got so out of hand that “Seymour wrote Parham for advice on how to handle the ‘spirits’ and begged him to come to Los Angeles to take over supervision of the revival.”36

From there, the Charismatic Movement took off.

A couple of historical points are of interest. On April 3, 1960, an Episcopal priest named Dennis Bennett began to speak in tongues to his congregation. This marked the start of the interdenominational Charismatic Movement. Before this time, the “gift” belonged solely to Pentecostals and members of the Assemblies of God. Now Episcopals, Methodists, Baptists, and Catholics all practiced it together.

In 1973, Paul Crouch, Jim Baker, Jan Crouch, and Tammy Faye Backer started Trinity Broadcasting Systems, the first official charismatic television station. The Bakers soon left to start their own ministry and the channel was renamed the Trinity Broadcasting Network. It came onto nation-wide cable in 1978 and, with this event, the Charismatic Movement entered mainstream America.

On Mother’s Day, 1979, members of John Wimber’s Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Anaheim, California were baptized in the Holy Spirit and the Vineyard Movement was born. People began to behave in all kinds of odd ways such as falling to the floor, speaking in unintelligible languages, and shrieking. Today, the Vineyard Movement is prevalent in most parts of the United States and overseas.

But all of this made unbelievers very suspicious of Christianity. The bizarre behavior served to push the church further and further away from the center of town and off into the woods, and the scandals did not help, either. With the return of “tongues” and other visible gifts came the arrival of horrendous sins, and the names of Jim Baker, Ted Haggard, Aimee Semple McPherson, Kathryn Kuhlman, Jimmy Swaggart, Earl Paulk, Paul Cain, and Todd Bentley have gone down in infamy before the church and the world.

All of this reminds us that we need to beware of false teachers. The Modern Age, like any others age, has had its share of charlatans and hucksters, and the Bible tells us to beware of them. Matthew 7:15 says:

Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

Second Timothy 3:1-5 says:

But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money . . . treacherous, reckless . . . holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power.

Romans 16:17 says:

Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them.

Everything that glitters is not gold, and everyone that speaks in tongues is not filled with the Spirit. Therefore, we need be on our guard. We need to watch out for anyone who claims to practice a dormant spiritual gift.

Jesus Himself said it about as strongly as anyone could in Matthew 7:22-23:

Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”

There will be people who will do miracles in the name of Jesus and practice lawlessness. Therefore, we need to be on the look-out. We should not believe everyone who says to Jesus “Lord, Lord.”

CONCLUSION: THE RETURN OF REFORMED THEOLOGY

All of this brings us to the final stage in the development of the Modern Church. So far, this study has been pretty discouraging. We began well with the Great Awakening and the birth of Evangelicalism, but things took a wrong turn at Liberalism and kept going from there. The trends have not been reassuring. In fact, they make us wring our hands in despair but things do not have to end on that note. There is always hope.

For in the last several years, there has been a return of what is known as Reformed Theology, or “a theological tradition . . . that emphasizes the sovereignty of God in all things, man’s inability to do . . . good before God, and the glory of God as the highest end of all that occurs.”37 Reformed Theology teaches that man is dead in sin38 and can only be made alive by the sovereign choosing of God.39 It teaches that salvation “does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy”40 and that:

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.41

It teaches that salvation is a work of God alone.

This theology was also held by many leaders in church history including those of the Great Awakening.42 George Whitefield said, “Without the doctrine of election . . . I cannot see how it is possible that any should have . . . assurance of . . . salvation.”43 Jonathan Edwards also said, “When I look into my heart, and take a view of my wickedness, it looks like an abyss infinitely deeper than hell.”44 Therefore, he said that God must do everything.

With the arrival of the Second Great Awakening, however, views began to change. The tide turned from an emphasis on God’s works to an emphasis on the works of man. Sermons were preached against election. Denominations started up such as the Free Will Methodists and the Free Will Baptists to oppose it. Writers began to claim that it was un-American to teach human inability45 and hymns were created to mock it. One such hymn went like this:

If all things succeed
Because they’re decreed
And immutable impulses rule us;
Then praying and preaching,
And all such like teaching,
Is nought but a plan to befool us.

If this be the way,
As some preachers say,
That all things were ordered by fate;
I’ll not spend my pence,
To pay for nonsense,
If nothing will alter my state.46

People actually sang that in church. Reformed Theology was that hated until the latter half of the Twentieth Century when the winds of doctrine began to change. As they did so, Evangelicalism started to move back to where it started in the Great Awakening.47 The church began to slowly turn its head back to God and an emphasis on Him. With the arrival of men like James Montgomery Boice, R. C. Sproul, John Piper, and Al Mohler, Christians began to embrace the doctrine of election once again.

Time will not permit us to go into the ministries of all these men, but we can take a look at the ministry of one man who has had an enormous influence on the growth of Reformed Theology: John MacArthur. John MacArthur is a fifth generation preacher who has pastored Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California since 1969. Since his arrival there, he has written nearly 400 books and study guides, served as president of The Master’s College and Seminary, and taught on the radio program, Grace to You, which is heard 1,000 times a day in the English-speaking world. He has also written a commentary on the entire New Testament and a Study Bible that has been translated into Spanish, Russian, German, French, Portuguese, Italian, Arabic, and Chinese.

He is also a strong proponent of Reformed Theology. While MacArthur does not hold to all of the doctrines of the Reformers,48 he clearly teaches that God is sovereign in the salvation of sinners. In the opening paragraph of his Commentary on First Peter, he states:

[Peter] opens his letter by writing of one of the most controversial and hated doctrines [the doctrine of election] and doing so with no self-consciousness, no apology, no effort to palliate, and no explanation of or deferral to opposing arguments. He states this truth of sovereign election for what it is, a reality recognized and believed among the apostles and the church.49

In The MacArthur Study Bible, he echoes the same sentiment in his notes on Ephesians 1:

The doctrine of election is emphasized throughout Scripture. The form of the Greek verb behind “chosen” indicates that God not only chose by Himself but for Himself to the praise of His own glory . . . Before the earth was formed, God sovereignly determined that every elect sinner – however vile, useless, and deserving of death – by trusting in Christ would be made righteous.50

All of this is to say that we should be encouraged in the Modern Age. There is no reason to despair. While the years have brought many problems into the church, they have also brought many blessings. Recent years have seen a rise in expository preaching, an increase in Biblical counseling, and a healthy interest in discernment ministries as well as a renewed emphasis on the Gospel and personal evangelism. It all reminds us of what Martin Luther said: “I had utterly despaired had not Christ been head of the church.”51

In fact, in Matthew 16, Jesus says that He is the head of the church and the gates of Hell will not overcome it. The Devil may win some battles, but he will not win the war. He may scratch us and ding us and hurt us, but he will not kill us. Jesus will not let him do so. The Devil’s power is limited and his days are few.

So let us be encouraged when we look back on our history. The Lord is doing great things through His church. Let us be strong and not lose heart. The Lord is not through with us; He is only beginning. In fact, one day He just might bring the church back to the center of town. One day, maybe tomorrow, maybe the next, maybe a hundred years from now, we might see 4,000 churches start up and none of them shut down. Let each of us pray to that glorious end.

 

 

  1. David F. Wells, No Place for Truth or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology? (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1993) 24. []
  2. “Church Planting 2015: Who Attends and What Attracted Them” by Lisa Cannon Green, December 8, 2015 at www.christianitytoday.com. []
  3. “7 Startling Facts: An Up Close Look at Church Attendance in America” by Kelly Shattuck, n. d. at www.churchleaders.com. []
  4. Quoted in Arnold Dallimore’s George Whitefield, Volume I (Carlisle, Penn.: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2001 ed.) 25. []
  5. Steve Lawson, The Evangelistic Zeal of George Whitfield (Sanford, Flo.: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2013) 2. []
  6. Millard J. Erickson, The Concise Dictionary of Christian Theology, Revised Edition (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2001) 60-61. []
  7. Iaian Murray, Evangelicalism Divided (Carlisle, Penn.: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2001) 6. The term “Evangelical” actually had its roots in the Protestant Reformation as it was used to describe the German Reformers in the 16th Century. []
  8. Among these were the Church of Christ and the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. The Mormons also started during this period of history. []
  9. Charles G. Finney, Memoirs (New York, 1876) 54. []
  10. Quoted in Nathan O. Hatch’s The Democratization of American Christianity (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University, 1989) 81. []
  11. Js 4:7. []
  12. Titus 1:7-9 shows us the qualifications for these leaders. “For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.” []
  13. Gal 5:15 warns against this when it says: “But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.” []
  14. Titus 1:8. []
  15. Titus 1:6. []
  16. 1 Tim 3:7. []
  17. Quoted in Life of Schleiermacher, trans. by F. Roman, Vol. 1 (London: Smith & Elder Brothers, 1860) 46-47. []
  18. Quoted in Evangelicalism Divided, 8. []
  19. George Marsden, Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991) 3. []
  20. Alan Cairns, Dictionary of Theological Terms, Third Edition (Greenville, S. C.: Ambassador Emerald International, 2002) 263. []
  21. Ibid. []
  22. Quoted in Eric Metaxas’ Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson, 2010) 105. []
  23. Time Magazine quoted in Bonhoeffer, 103. []
  24. Matt 22:37 []
  25. Letters and Papers of Thomas Scott, ed. by John Scott (London: Seeley, 1824) 441-442. []
  26. The Concise Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, ed. by E. A. Livingstone (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977) 167. []
  27. Archbishop Michael Ramsey quoted in Evangelicalism Divided, 13. []
  28. Quoted in R. C. Sproul’s The Consequences of Ideas: Understanding the Concepts that Shaped the World (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2000) 155. []
  29. Ibid., 156. []
  30. Quoted in The Concise Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. by Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1991) 150. []
  31. Eventually a statement has been issued from the Council saying that it opposes violence and “detests the employment of sacred texts to justify such acts.” For more information, see “Terrorist Attacks Condemned by Global Ministries, World Council of Churches” by Connie Larkman, November 15, 2015 at www.ucc.org. []
  32. www.theopedia.com as of 11/2/16. []
  33. Robert L. Thomas, Understanding Spiritual Gifts: A Verse-by-Verse Study of 1 Corinthians 12-14 (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1999) 35-36. []
  34. For more information on this, see the JTST Theological Question, “Do People Still Speak in Tongues?” []
  35. The following history of Charles Parham and William Seymour is taken from John MacArthur’s Charismatic Chaos (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1992)37-39 and Hank Hanegraaff’s Counterfeit Revival (Nashville, Tenn.: Word Publishing, 2001) 141-145. []
  36. Hanegraaff, 144. []
  37. Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000 ed.) 1237. []
  38. Rom 6:11. []
  39. Rom 9:10-12; Eph 2:1-5; Col 2:13; 1 Thess 1:4; 1 Pet 3:18. []
  40. Rom 9:16. []
  41. Eph 2:8-9. []
  42. With the exception of John Wesley and his brother, Charles. []
  43. Quoted in Arnold Dallimore’s George Whitefield, Volume 2 (Carlisle, Penn.: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2004 ed.) 561. []
  44. Quoted Steve Lawson’s The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards (Orlando, Flo.: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2008) 89. []
  45. Hatch, 170-171. As Nathan O. Hatch writes, “To the rebellious leaders of populist religious movements inspired by the rhetoric of the Revolution, nothing represented ecclesiastical tyranny more than the Calvinist clergy with their zeal for theological systems, doctrinal correctness, organizational control, and cultural influence . . . People nursed at least four related complaints against Reformed orthodoxy: its implicit endorsement of the status quo, its tyranny over personal religious experience, its preoccupation with complicated and arcane dogma, and its clerical pretension and quest for control.” []
  46. “On Predestination” quoted in The Democratization of American Christianity, 228. []
  47. It still has a long way to go. The Evangelical Movement today is far from emphasizing the sovereignty of God in all things and God’s glory as the highest end of all that occurs, but there are some glimmers of light in the Movement. []
  48. He would disagree with their Covenant Theology and infant baptism. []
  49. John MacArthur, “1 Peter” in The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2004) 13. []
  50. John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible (Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1997) 1803, 1804. []
  51. Quoted in John Flavel’s The Mystery of Providence (Carlisle, Penn.: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009 ed.) 184. []