Pragmatism

March 28, 2014 at 5:47 pm | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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I cannot help but marvel at the propensity for professing Christians to cling on to something because it has the look of Christianity or mentions some minute snippet of the Bible in some way. Many in the professing church are quick to point to a celebrity or popular leader as an example of Christianity. Oftentimes, these icons of Christianity betray their weak profession and the professing church is left with egg on its face. Just think about Miley Cyrus or Justin Beiber if you don’t believe me. The same goes with arts and entertainment as well. Many Christians are quick to support something that bears a Christian name, regardless of the substance of that endeavor.

The latest examples of this come in the form of two movies. The first, Noah (starring Russell Crowe), I won’t spend a lot of time on. The producers of the movie and the movie company itself are trying to glom on to the Christian group (and their money) by claiming that this movie “stays true to the essence, values, and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide”. Uh…really? It stays true to the essence of the Biblical story of Noah? When was Noah a raving lunatic? It stays true to the values? When was Noah a bleeding environmentalist? It stays true to the integrity of the Biblical story? Why is there only one daughter-in-law when the Bible says there are three? Why does it add a grandchild or two(which Noah wants to kill!!)? This movie is a sorry attempt to try and get money from a group of people that the producer, movie company, and much of Hollywood would much rather mock. The director of the movie calls it “the least biblical biblical movie ever” along with share a few more choice words. Class is obviously not something the man holds dear.

The second movie is much the same, but I would say it’s much more dangerous. It’s the movie “Son of God” by Roma Downey and Mark Burnett. This isn’t new movie at all. It’s basically a pared down version of the New Testament portions of the “Bible” miniseries created and produced by Downey and Burnett. In the beginning of the miniseries, it is stated that it is an “adaptation of Bible stories” and that it “endeavors to stay true to the spirit of the book”. This couldn’t be further from the truth. There are HUGE theological problems with the entire miniseries. The things that were removed, the things that were changed, the things that were added all make the miniseries a poor charade of the Bible witness. The movie is no different. It removes the gospel, changes the purpose of Christ (He did NOT come to “change the world”), and adds a (female) disciple. The numerous theology problems of the movie are the same as the miniseries and they are downright dangerous (if not heretical).

But, so many people have decided to see the movie anyway. Churches have bought out entire viewing rooms at theaters to take their congregations and those unbelieving friends and family they can con into going. So, for many Christians and whole churches, the theology of the movie doesn’t matter at all. It doesn’t matter that the movie portrays a different Jesus. It doesn’t matter that many of the stories that they decided to keep in look nothing like the Bible describes them. Why is this? Why doesn’t holding to the integrity of what GOD has revealed in scripture matter? I’ll tell you why; because many of those going to see the movie don’t hold a high view of scripture. They have no desire to cling to scripture because they don’t see it as valuable. It isn’t held in the same regard that God holds His Word (Psalm 138:2). As long as something has a dusting of Christianese and some people running around the desert in robes (remember Jesus is always in white!!) nothing else matters. There is no fear of God or the handling of His truth.

This both boggles my mind and saddens me. Christians have the God-breathed (theopneustos) scriptures. They are the revelation of the God who created the entire universe with a word. They are the only revelation humanity has of His character and nature and a majority of the people who profess faith in His Son disdain this very revelation. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says that “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work”. If the scriptures are inspired by God and they are profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness; why do so many Christians all but disregard them? Why are they willing to support anything that twists, damages, or completely opposes those precious words? Could it be because they don’t really think that they’re inspired? Could it be because they think that their emotions or visions are more important? Could it be because they’ve never been instilled by their parents and their pastors with a reverence and deep understanding of just what the Bible is? I would say yes to all three.

The irony in all of this is laughable. These Christians are pragmatists of the highest order. They believe that the reality of the scriptures isn’t strong enough or capable to do what the scriptures themselves say their purpose is (see John 20:30-31, Romans 1:16, 1 John 5:13). If it were, then many things that are done or said wouldn’t be. Because they don’t believe that the reality of the truth of scripture is enough, they replace it with a worldly, slick, eye-catching husk of the gospel. This husk is a glossy, appealing façade that hides emptiness. The husk has no substance because it has no reality. It is based on the “successes” of the American church growth movement which really aren’t successes at all. And it’s here where the irony comes in. Many of the people who are comfortable supporting this type of travesty have the desire to see the lost get born again, and yet, the very thing the lost need to be saved (the truth of the scriptures) is missing. And, many don’t even notice that it’s missing…

To get a better understanding of how this movie started off so far off base, all you have to do is look at the creators and the “consultants” for the movie. Most of the consultants have no ability to rightly handle the scriptures and have no business being consultants on a movie that tries to “stay true to the spirit of the Book”.

We start with the creators, Roma Downey and Mark Burnett. Burnett is the playwright. Downey claims to have been a person of faith her whole life. She and her husband both claim to be Christians, but what faith do they really practice? Downey has clear connections to the New Age movement and the occult. She has participated in a psychic experience mediated by her friend John Edward (famed “psychic medium”) in which she supposedly talked to her departed mother. This is condemned in many sections of scripture (Lev. 20:27/Deut. 18:11/1 Chr. 10:13). She also contributed her prayer CD to Edward’s “Practical Praying” set. On the CD, Downey prays the rosary for her listeners. This is not a scriptural practice at all. It is a Roman Catholic practice that has no basis in scripture. She believes that “God is in all of us”. This too is unscriptural. Downey also has a degree in “Spiritual Psychology” from the University of Santa Monica. To see what this entails, you can check out the USM website for this degree (http://www.universityofsantamonica.edu/What/index.aspx). The many connections that Downey has to the New Age practice are hard to deny. From John Edward to New Thought practitioner Della Reese (Downey’s costar on Touched by an Angel), as well as the things that Downey herself has said, it’s hard to believe that her or her husband are believers. Their beliefs clearly come through in the film.

Next, we’ll look at Joel Osteen. Osteen is the “pastor” of Lakewood Church, one of the fastest growing churches in America. Osteen has long had trouble from some areas of Christianity due to the fact that he waffles on calling sin what it is. If you listen to Osteen’s sermons or read his books, you’ll see that he doesn’t mention sin much (if at all). Osteen’s theology is a mixture of seeker-sensitive ideas, power of positive thinking, and Word of Faith teachings. Every weekend, this “life coach” spends 30 minutes coddling his flock and reminding them of how great they are. There is no conviction of sin because sin is never talked about. There is no power to the preaching because there is no gospel. Osteen puts his time and effort into getting those listening to him to ignore/deny the truth of scripture (that they are wretched, evil, wicked sinners) and teaches them that God’s plan for them is to be prosperous, healthy, and important. Osteen wouldn’t know scripture in context if someone smacked him upside the head with it (and someone should!).

The next “consultant” that we’ll look at is Rick Warren. Warren is the senior “pastor” at Saddleback church in California. Warren is popular for his P.E.A.C.E. plan as well as books like “The Purpose Driven Life” and “The Daniel Diet”. Like Osteen, Warren is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He cannot handle scripture correctly and has no concern for this at all. He has connections to Peter Drucker (a fascist) and is well-known for his ecumenical efforts. Warren is on the forefront of the effort to merge Christianity and Islam, showing that he has no grasp of other religions or history. Warren is also a huge proponent of the seeker-sensitive church growth model. Basically, his church finds out what unregenerate sinners want in a church and then provides them those programs so that they will come to his church. This shows ignorance of what the church is and who it is ultimately for. It’s also another example of the pragmatism that pervades the modern, American church.

The last “consultant” we’re going to look at is “Bishop” T.D. Jakes. Jakes has been a popular pastor for many years now. His Dallas, Texas church – The Potter’s House – has over a million members. Jakes is usually derided for holding to what is commonly known as the Word of Faith beliefs. Word of Faith beliefs are heretical and have no scriptural support. They believe that Christians are “little gods”. They “name it and claim it”. They believe that if they have enough faith, they can be wealthy, free from sickness, and have God’s favor in all areas of our lives. He is a well-practiced wolf. He can emotionally manipulate a crowd of people like the best con men (which is what Jakes is). There is an issue that has come to the forefront again recently that is worse than even Jakes’ WoF heresy. It’s an older, more foundational heresy. T.D. Jakes is a Modalist. Modalism, also called Sabellianism, is a heresy that came about in the third century. Modalism basically says that there is only one God and that this God manifests Himself in three persons. These three persons are all God, but they are not coexistent. If the Father exists, then the Son and the Spirit don’t. This is wrong. Scripture says that God is triune. He is one God made up of three coexistent, co-eternal, self-conscious egos. Because Jakes denies the very essence and nature of God, he is a heretic.

To make matters worse, Jakes has been dodging the issue for at least a decade. He knows that his Modalism is considered heretical in the face of the scriptures. To add insult to injury, Jakes was invited to participate in the Elephant Room 2 event put on by James MacDonald and Harvest Bible Church. During the course of the event, Mark Driscoll mediated between Jakes and MacDonald. During the session, Driscoll started questioning Jakes about his “alleged” beliefs in the Trinity. What resulted was anything but beneficial to the body of Christ. The questions Jakes fielded from Driscoll were clearly not meant to actually discuss what Jakes believed. Instead, they were meant to give Jakes the opportunity to obfuscate his true beliefs, while seeming thoughtful and humble and opening the door for those watching to accept his as an orthodox brother in Christ; just like Driscoll and MacDonald did.

There are many other “consultants” that I’ve don’t know much about, but I have no reason to doubt that they’re just as bad as the three we’ve looked at. But, this isn’t what bothers me most. There are so many Christians who saw the Bible miniseries when it aired on the History Channel. They went to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media outlets singing the praises of the movie and how it was going to be a great outreach for churches. How can this be if the movie fails to actually preach the gospel? How can a movie whose consultants are incapable of rightly dividing the scriptures, whose creators are New Age mystics; how can this movie ever be considered a good thing for Christianity? What bothers me most is the fact that there are such a large number of professing Christians that seem to have absolutely no idea how to understand and study scripture. They have no respect or reverence for the scriptures or their Source. All that matters is that the movie mentions Jesus. All that matters is that this is another way for Christians to “reach out” to the lost, even though the movie doesn’t have a clear, scripturally based gospel presentation. The fact that there are MAJOR theological issues with the movie doesn’t matter. The response to anyone like me that brings this up is, “While you’re busy critiquing this movie, we’re using it to go out and seek and save the lost”. No, really. That’s the response. This is pragmatism and poor argumentation.

Here’s another thing to think about. The majority of people who are supporting these two movies and encouraging others to see these movies are doing so because of the slight possibility that someone might be saved. So they beat this drum as loudly as they can trying to drown out those who would rather see biblically sound offerings. As they bang their drum, they continuously point to the ethereal, invisible, hoped-for movie-goer that has the inclination to open the dusty Bible on their top shelf. But what about the others? If we’re playing “what if”, then let’s be fair. What if, after seeing the horrible tragedies that are these two movies, someone sees the misrepresentation of God and His character and wants nothing to do with God or His Son? What then? Why does nobody ever mention this? Seeing the terrible handling of scriptural truth in both of these movies, this would seem like a much more likely option than someone actually being saved because of the movie.

Pragmatism is the idea that the ends justify the means. It doesn’t matter what hoops we have to jump through as long as we get the end result we’re looking for. The problem in this case is that the people who are jumping through the hoops don’t have a clue what the end result should be. They know what the “vision” of their pastor says the end result should be, but these “visions” are rarely biblical… Pragmatism is saying that anything goes as long as it might bring people to Jesus. It doesn’t matter if the movie/book/TV show blasphemes God’s name or contradicts scripture. It doesn’t matter how far off of what the scripture says the item is, as long as it maybe, just one time, for one person on the entire planet, might lead them to Jesus (not sure how this would happen…). This is pragmatism and it’s unbiblical. Instead of using unbiblical movies/books/TV shows to try and trick people into reading the scriptures, why don’t I just READ THEM THE SCRIPTURES?!?!?! I have yet to see an instance of pragmatism where the means used to “bring people to Christ” actually support or enhance the message of the gospel found in scripture. As a matter of fact, every instance of pragmatism that I can recall has twisted, ignored, and cut up the scriptures and presented a worldly gospel that is not the power of salvation. Think about that for a minute. There are thousands of pastors and laypeople and Christian “celebrities” in America that are promoting movies that oppose the gospel…

The church is not called to be pragmatic. The church is to go out and preach the gospel to all of creation. If this gospel doesn’t match the one that God has spoken to us through His Son, then those who preach this false gospel are to be considered “anathema” (Galatians 1:8,10). The church is to “make disciples”. Christian disciples are students of Jesus. There are two ways that people will know that we are Christ’s disciples. We will love one another (John 13:35), and we will continue in His Word (John 8:31-2). Pragmatism is not one of the things that show we’re disciples of Christ. It’s a weak, flawed replacement for what the church should be doing and it’s not the gospel….

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