The Assault of Modernism on the Denominations
Good morning. The sermon this morning is going to be a discussion of something you may not be familiar with. In the sermon I am going to be calling by name various denominations. There's no way I can avoid that because the title of my sermon is the assault of modernism on the denominations.
We need to be aware that there are major battles going on in the ranks of the denominations that we may not have any knowledge of. The purpose of the sermon this morning is to bring this to our consciousness because we will find it actually affects the world that we are in—those of us in the church of Christ.
Often, we have very little knowledge of what's happening in the denominations. Many of us in the church of Christ do not have a lot of contact, at least on a religious level, with those in the denominational world where we might hear of what is happening.
Others of us have friends and perhaps family who are from the denominations. In my life I have had friends and family that are Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Lutheran. Though mostly Baptist. I want to tell you something, those that I knew in my youth were good moral people. I particularly and fondly remember one Baptist aunt. They taught truth about divorce and remarriage making no bones about it. They taught the truth on drinking and dancing and were not ashamed of it whatsoever. They told the truth right down the line on the morals. You could be friends with these people and not be afraid they were going to pull you into immorality. Such are my memories of those people.
Fast forward to today and let me ask; How many of you know people who profess to be Christians and if you were to ask them, is abortion sin they would say: Oh no there's nothing wrong with abortion.
If you ask you’re friends, who say they are Christians; is homosexuality a sin or will it condemn me to hell separating me from God forever? They'll say: No there's nothing wrong with homosexuality. It's just an alternate lifestyle.
They have no problem with being divorced umpteen times and married to whoever you want to be married to, living together, drinking, doing drugs, anything goes.
I guarantee you somebody here this morning knows people who profess to be Christians and have no problem with homosexuality, living together, drunkenness, use of drugs, or abortion.
We realize something's changed, hasn't it? Something is changing in the morals among many in the denominations who profess to be Christians. Their morals are becoming a complete anathema and opposite of what we find Christianity as described in the New Testament. What I'm going to try to do in the sermon this morning is explore what has happened in the denominations to bring about this result.
I. What happened is the assault of modernism on the denominations. You may not be familiar with what modernism is. One modernist put it this way: The God of fundamentalist is one God. The God of the modernist is another. The Christ of the fundamentalist is one Christ. The Christ of the modernist is another. The Bible of the fundamentalist is one Bible. The Bible of the modernist is another.
A. Merriam-Webster on-line puts it like this; a tendency in theology to accommodate traditional religious teaching to contemporary thought and especially to devalue supernatural elements. Perhaps more to the point is this definition; a movement toward modifying traditional beliefs in accordance with modern (that is to say human) ideas.
B. The modernism we see actually has its beginnings hundreds of years ago when men started teaching that the Bible is not really the inspired Word of God; that Moses really did not write the first five books of the Old Testament, that Moses really was not the author and they were written by priests over a period of decades and centuries.
1. They started doing what they called the demythologizing (de•my•thol•o•gize•ing) of the Bible: the taking out of all the miracles of the Old and New Testament.
2. If you take out the miracles, obviously you're going to take out the virgin birth. If you take out the miracles, obviously you must out the resurrection.
3. You end up in modernism with individuals who do not believe that the Bible is the word of God. Individuals who do not believe that Jesus was born of a virgin and individuals who do not believe that He rose from the dead. Yet they continue to profess to be Christians.
4. That is what we mean when we say modernism. An example of this is The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth by Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson's condensed composition excludes all miracles by Jesus and most mentions of the supernatural, including sections of the four gospels that contain the Resurrection and most other miracles, and passages that portray Jesus as divine.
II. This has a very strong impact. Before we look at this modernism in the present world, we're going to take a look at modernism in the ancient world. Even though it's called modernism it's not new. It is as Solomon expresses in Ecclesiastes 1:9 – “That which has been is what will be, that which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.’ You will find the progression of modernism is actually taught in the Book of Romans.
A. Romans 1:28 – “even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting;” I want you to see that the very first step is a removal of God from the core, the heart, and the mind of the individual.
B. Another step we see in Romans 1:25 – “who exchanged the truth of God for the lie”. The conclusion that you see this leading to is in Romans 1:26 – “For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.”
C. If you continue reading you will see in verse 27 – “Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.” In a word, folks, what this is; is homosexuality. It starts with the removing of God from the mind and heart of the individual. When the mind and heart are weakened then sin comes in. Verses 28-32 – “28. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29. being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30. backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31. undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32. who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.” It is blatantly obvious; there is no equivocation that sin is condemned in the scriptures.
D. When I read Romans 1, I feel like I’m reading in a newspaper about America. It describes us very well. How did we, America, supposedly a God-fearing nation, get to the point where we are becoming so debased and immoral?
III. I believe a major factor that led us to this point—is modernism among those who profess to be Christians. We will start by looking at how they did not retain God in their knowledge. You know that if your relationship with God is going to be pleasing to Him it must be from the heart. First, you must believe that He is. You cannot be a Christian without believing in God. Certainly, you cannot have a relationship with God if you do not believe in God.
A. Look at this over in Hebrews 11:6 – “But without faith it is impossible (Notice this word here) impossible to please Him, (You know what that means, don’t you? You cannot please God without faith.) for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” If you do not have faith in God's existence it is absolutely, totally impossible to be a Christian.
1. Let me give you a quote; “God is no longer the central fact in religion or the ultimate principle in theology. His place is taken by man's religious experience. The religious experience of men and women becomes the decisive factor and final court of appeal by which we test the validity of any theological concept.”
2. Let me ask you, what did they just do there? They just took God and threw Him out and said we will decide what truth is. Although modernists may maintain that there is some truth in the Bible, the ultimate authority is found in the subjective experience of the individual. It doesn’t matter about God. We will look at the situation according to how we feel about it and how we feel about it is going to be the truth of the situation.
B. Do you realize that there are individuals who are leaders in their religion that aren't even sure God exists? We have mentioned this in prior lessons. Roughly 50 Anglican vicars are members of the Sea of Faith, an organization that claims religion is a human creation and that God is a manmade myth.1 This is from the BBC talking about vicars who don't believe in the existence of God outside the human mind.
C. A glaringly obvious question is here and I’m sure you all see it. What are you doing this for? Why are you doing this work if you don’t even believe in God? The first step is they didn't like to retain God in their knowledge.
IV. The next step according Romans is to change the truth of God into a lie. In 2 John 9-11 – “9. Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. 10. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; 11. for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.”
A. I believe that is straight forward. If you will not abide in the doctrine of Christ the teachings of Christ, you’re not a Christian.
B. Listen to these next quotes if you will. “We cannot take the Bible as a whole and every part as stating with divine authority what we should believe and do.” “Just because the Bible says it, doesn't mean we should believe it.” “Because the Bible said you should do something doesn't mean you should do it.” “Just because the Bible says you shouldn't do something doesn't mean you shouldn’t do it.”
C. John 8:24 tells us; “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” That’s pretty straightforward, isn’t it? If you do not believe that Jesus, is the Son of God you will die in your sins.
1. Here is an interesting quote from John Shelby Spong, a bishop in the Episcopal Church in America. “Am I suggesting that these stories of the virgin birth are not literally true? The answer is a simple and direct “Yes.” Of course these narratives are not literally true. Stars do not wander, angels do not sing, virgins do not give birth, magi do not travel to a distant land to present gifts to a baby, and shepherds do not go in search of a newborn savior. ... To talk of a Father God who has a divine-human son by a virgin woman is a mythology that our generation would never have created, and obviously, could not use. To speak of a Father God so enraged by human evil that he requires propitiation for our sins that we cannot pay and thus demands the death of the divine-human son, as a guilt offering is a ludicrous idea to our century. The sacrificial concept that focuses on the saving blood of Jesus that somehow washes me clean, so popular in Evangelical and Fundamentalist circles, is by and large repugnant to us today”.
2. Jesus said: “if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins”. Again, the question: If you do not believe why do you have this job?
3. I realize some of these quotes are probably going to be infuriating. This next one is taken from a survey in 1968. It showed that 60 percent of the Methodist clergy did not believe in the virgin birth and 50 percent did not believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ.
4. If you're from a Methodist background and you happen to be listening to this and that offends you I'm sorry. I didn't administer the survey. I'm just telling you what has been quoted about a survey taken among Methodist clergy in 1968.
V. This is a battle going on in the denominations folks. We also need to understand that not everybody in the denominations agrees with this. That’s why I titled the sermon The Assault.
A. We need to realize there are divisions taking place in the Presbyterian, the Methodist, the Episcopal and other denominations. There are divisions taking place due to modernism—as to whether or not the Bible is in reality the word of God, whether Jesus is the son of God and if the resurrection actually took place.
1. Please recognize the reason I'm giving these quotes is because a lot of times when we hear of these things we think only a few teachers might believe that. That's not the truth.
2. In reality a significant portion and even in some cases a majority of their clergy believe it. The people in the pews are one thing, but the clergy who go to their theological schools and seminaries are being taught this stuff.
3. They're coming out of those schools having whatever faith they may have had going in completely destroyed or undermined. It is not just secular schools that teach falsehood.
B. These are battles going on in the denominational ranks. We need to be aware of it because we recognize that the belief that there is no resurrection and that Jesus is not the son of God and the Bible is not the word of God is ultimately going to affect the morals of the public.
1. You will come across these people in school, at work and in the community because this is the world we live in. Yet, they continue to wear the name of Christ.
2. A religion survey in 1992 found that 80 percent of Denmark's Lutherans do not believe in the resurrection. Think about that.
3. Here is another quote: “We have closed our minds to such trivial considerations as the question of the resurrection of Christ. If you fundamentalist wish to believe that nonsense we have no objection, but we have more important things to preach about than the presence or absence of an empty tomb 20 centuries ago.” – They don't care about the resurrection.
C. People do not believe in miracles and they do not believe in the resurrection. As a matter of fact, they had a seminar, the Jesus Seminar, where they came together to try to figure out for us what Jesus actually did say.
1. They ended up with about 15 percent of what Jesus said in the New Testament and the rest they say is all make-believe or myth.
2. How do you think that's going to affect somebody spiritually if they believe that?
D. It's going to completely destroy any faith they may have.
1. We need to realize that there are people who have more of a philosophy than a faith that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God who died for our sins, was buried, and rose again the third day.
2. I Corinthians 15:14 tells us the importance of the resurrection: “if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is vain and your faith is also vain.”
3. Some people have what we might call “Christian philosophy”, which is basically—be nice, be good to each other, be a good boy or girl, but do whatever you want to do.
E. Listen, folks, and listen closely. If Jesus was not born of a virgin and He didn't rise from the dead, you might as well go home.
1. There’s no need for you to be here.
2. There’ no need in taking the Lord's Supper.
3. There's no need to worship God.
4. There's no need in talking about going to God through our mediator, who's at the right hand of God because all this is make believe.
5. If He was not born of a virgin according to prophesy, if He didn't rise from the dead, your faith is empty, empty, empty, and a waste of time.
VI. We see the first step: They did not want to retain God in their knowledge. The second step is they changed the truth of God into a lie. The final step is God gave them over to vile affections. For the modernist the real authority can only be “the Christian consciousness” or “Christian experience”, not the Bible.
A. This means that no truth is absolute. When truth is described in terms of individual religious experience, there is no absolute and final truth to be found. All truth becomes relative. When religious experience changes, and it will, theology will also need to change in order to be true to it.
1. Christianity is not unique then. If religious experience is accepted as one's final source of authority, then there is nothing particularly better about the religious experience of the Christian over the religious experience of the Buddhist or Hindu.
2. No doctrine therefore is absolutely true. When you take the position that there are no absolutes, the result is that there is no doctrine of any kind that is absolutely true. For example, we might believe that God is love from our religious experience of today but tomorrow become convinced from some other religious experience that God is hate.
3. With this viewpoint no traditional Christian doctrine, however clearly taught in the Bible, is absolutely vital to contemporary religion; modernism is an intellectual interpretation of past religious experience, using assumptions and categories available at the time, but it is not final. 2
B. Those who live in this philosophy live in an open-ended world. There are no such things as right and wrong, black and white. To them, everything is gray. Hence, they live in a world in which lying is sometimes better than telling the truth, murder is sometimes better than not committing murder, stealing is sometimes better than not stealing. Religious experience is the only determining factor for telling what is right and what is wrong in any given instance. The result is the religious anarchy of modernism leaving people in the same predicament that Israel was in during the days of the judges: "... every man did that which was right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25). 2
C. I’m going to be reading mostly quotes so you can see where the morality of those who have gotten caught in modernism goes. For example; if you sit down with someone who is engaged in this world of modernism and you open the Bible with them and show them what it says about homosexuality. We have read from Romans the first chapter, and there is no getting around it, homosexuality is totally condemned but to them that really doesn’t matter.
1. It doesn't matter how clearly it's taught in the Bible, because you need to understand that for them, the Bible has no authority.
2. They think the Bible is just another book and so it doesn’t really matter what the Bible says on any subject.
3. A United Methodist committee, after a three-year study, said it cannot arrive at a common mind about whether homosexual practice contradicts Christian faith. The committee said some biblical scholars believe that scripture’s negative view of homosexual practice has a firm theological grounding but most of the latest biblical scholarship maintains the Bible view is too closely tied to the presupposition, cultural and religious values of the ancient world and does not belong to that enduring core of scripture.
4. Yes, it's in there. They are saying it does not matter what the Bible says.
D. Then in a paper on “New Ways in Theology at Holy Cross - March 2018” the author tells of the college appointed professor Dr. Tat-Siong Benny Liew as Chair of New Testament Studies.
1. Prior to his appointment at Holy Cross, Professor Liew had been Professor of New Testament at the Pacific School of Theology, and before that taught at Chicago Theological Seminary. According to the Department of Religious Studies webpage, his fields of specialty include “synoptic gospels, gospel of John, cultural and racial interpretations and receptions of the Bible, apocalyptism (a-pa-ka-lip-tism), and Asian American history and literature.”
2. In professor Liew’s writing he explains that he believes Christ could be considered a “drag king” or cross-dresser. Liew extrapolates from John 13, when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, that the Son of God was “appearing as a drag-kingly bride in his passion.”
3. The professor described the biblical account as a “literary striptease,” “seductive,” and suggested John wasn’t sure if Jesus was “biologically male”.
4. This is a clear form of modernism in a Catholic teaching institution where scripture is being viewed through the lens of the modern experience.
E. Nor is this as unusual as we might think. A church of Christ preacher wrote: “You need to realize if you're going to go to get your Master’s or your PhD in theology at some state university, you are going to be bombarded with every bit of this.
1. He wrote “I graduated from Mississippi State and while I was at Mississippi State in order to pull my grade point average up I took Understanding the New Testament and Understanding the Old Testament. It should have been easy credit for me. After two weeks in both classes I'd dropped both of them.”
2. He continued; “The whole point of both classes was to completely destroy my faith in the inspiration of the Bible. It was the whole point of both classes.”
3. “I'll be quite frank with you even though I graduated from Mississippi State I won't send them a dime because I know garbage like this is being taught at that school.”
4. He added; “You need recognize that if you want your sons and your daughters to get masters and PhDs at some state school in theology this is what they're going to be taught.”
F. There are multitudes of young men and women in the denominations that do have some semblance of faith in the virgin birth, the resurrection, and Jesus being the son of God. When they go into these seminaries they come out spouting this garbage because what faith they did have was completely burned up and destroyed by their professors and teachers.
1. It has been hijacked by people that are pushing modernism, pushing homosexuality, pushing the feminist movement, and pushing abortion.
2. It is the religious leaders doing this and we need to recognize it is the leaders in many of these denominations that are pushing—immorality.
G. It's become their mantra and their intentions to try to drag the world down into this and they have the audacity to wear the name of our Savior Jesus Christ. This is the complete opposite of Christianity.
H. United Methodist’s position on abortion has been so strong two of its institutions have helped organize the religious coalition for abortion rights (RCAR) which changed it’s name to the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice .
CONCLUSION: I'll close with this particular scripture and by the way it's still the truth right now. I Corinthians 6:9-11.
Just because we have changed in technology does not mean the truth changes. We human beings come into the world the same way we have always come into the world by being born—a mother and father. We all go out the same way. We still die.
In between the point in time when we are born and when we die we have the same problem, which is sin. Sin still has the same consequences of separating us from God.
I Corinthians 6:9-11 – “9. Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10. nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” Amen.
I believe it. No comment necessary.
How many of our friends, acquaintances, or co-workers if you were to sit down and ask them: Are you a Christian? would say yes? Ask; are you going to heaven? Yes, I'm going to heaven.
If you ask them is homosexuality sin. They’ll say, what? No not really. It’s an alternate lifestyle. Is abortion sin? No, no it's just a choice.
We need to realize how they got where they are. How they got where they are is that they are sitting at the feet of men and women who have been influenced with modernism ideas, who do not believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, who do not believe in the resurrection, who do not believe that the word of God is inspired, and is the authority for you and me today to live by.
These are their teachers. They have given themselves over to all kinds of immorality.
They are just teaching the young men and women what they believe. You need to realize, folks, this is not some kind of small problem out there.
That's why I gave you the percentages where you have the majority of the clergy in one denomination who reject the belief of the resurrection and Jesus being born of a virgin.
The devil has organized a major assault taking place in the denominations.
By the way I want you to know that there are people who are standing up against this.
Don't think they've all given over to it. I will say this; I admire some of the Baptist standing up for morality. Many of them are trying to hold the line but a lot of the other denominations—have been eaten up with it.
It’s taken the majority of their membership. This may help you understand why you can talk with some of the people you know who are so immoral, I mean wallowing in sin, and yet they say: “Oh yes I'm a Christian.” Now you understand how they got where they are.
There may be someone here this morning who is not a member of the body of Christ.
If you believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God and you are willing to repent of your sins we’ll be glad to assist you and baptize you into the body of Christ for the remission of your sins. You've got to be willing to put off the old man and put on the new man, be willing to recognize Jesus really is the king and His word is absolute authority.
As a Christian you are expected to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ all the days of your life by faith. When I say by faith, I mean that He really is the Christ. He really did die for your sins on the cross. He really did rise from the dead. He really is at the right hand of God and you live by that faith.
If you are already a member the body of Christ, and you've gone into the world and gone into sin, I hope you recognize that sin is separating you from God and needs to be dealt with. We'll pray for you. We'll pray with you. As your brothers and sisters and your spiritual family we’ll do the very best we can to try to encourage you.
If you are subject to the Gospel call in any way let it be known as we stand and sing the song selected.
Invitation song ???
Reference sermon by: Wayne Fancher
2 The Authority of Modernism; Mike Willis, Dayton, Ohio
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