Monday, July 14, 2008

No Apologies for the Gospel

As often happens when I attend the International Christian Retail Show, I witness something very disturbing. Last evening, I attended a publicity meeting at the show. At least that’s what it purported to be. It was really a panel discussion intended to promote a particular book. I won’t mention the title or the author, because I don’t want anyone to buy it out of curiosity.

Their premise is that the church is too antagonist toward unbelievers. This is “proven” by the fact that their perception of believers is that we’re judgmental, hateful, and hypocritical, and also that their perception of Jesus is much more positive. Therefore, if we would be more like Jesus, unbelievers would have a better perception of us as well. They said we need to stop criticizing and start being more loving and accepting. One on the panel went so far as to say, “We need to stop the apologetics and start apologizing.”

That’s when I almost lost my lunch. These panelists have it completely backwards. The church needs to engage with more of the truth, not less. We need more, “Repent, lest you die,” not “I’m sorry you’re upset.” Unbelievers will never come to true faith with a watered-down gospel of “acceptance.” They need to repent of their sins and turn to the living God in obedience.

Jesus told us that the world would hate us, so why should we worry about an opinion poll of unbelievers? They hated Jesus and crucified Him. Should he have apologized for saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”? Absurd. Yet these authors had the audacity to say that we should be apologizing.

The reason people give higher ratings to Jesus than they do to His followers is that they are evaluating a Jesus that they have invented in their minds, not the real Jesus. They don’t think about His command to repent or His insistence that they love Him more than life itself. If they were alive at the time of Jesus, they would likely have been among the crowds who shouted, “Crucify him!”

Another statement the author made that was just ridiculous was, “Yes, I’m a hypocrite, and I’m sorry. Yes, I’m not a good example of Jesus, and I’m sorry.” I wanted to stand up and say, “You must not be very sorry if you’re still playing the hypocrite.”

This is one part of their message that was true. Hypocrisy is a horrible blight on the church. The false doctrine of the carnal Christian continues to destroy the witness of the true believers. Yet, this author claims to be one of those hypocrites, gives a weak, “I’m sorry,” and, apparently goes on being a hypocrite, because, I suppose, he believes us all to be hypocrites. This is simply twisted thinking. True Christians are not hypocrites.

I’m going back to the convention today, and it’s likely I’ll see more disturbing examples of fake Christianity. It always grieves me and makes me wonder how God puts up with all this nonsense masquerading as truth.


Zojo said...

It's hard to believe that there are people out there that are like this. They are so lost! It does make me wonder how God can put up with this stuff.

Sapphira Adi said...

This topic has also disturbed me because I have heard it before. I think Christians should spend more time showing Jesus' love to people who don't believe in Him instead of judging them and shoving the Gospel down their throat. Great post!

NoahR said...

This destroys the whole point of The Great Commission! I agree that these people are not Christian. We need to show people the truth and not lie to them by "toning down the Gospel". Please!

Pam Halter said...

I agree with Sapphira - we should show more love. Love your neighbor as yourself. If would get to know our neighbors and learn their needs, their beliefs, their concerns, etc. we would be able to meet needs, gaining trust and friendship. Then God will provide the opportunity to share the Gospel.

We are living letters, read of all men. If we would concentrate more on ourselves and how we live, the Holy Spirit would use us to draw people into the fold.

Kriegel said...

I've heard the "All Christians are hypocrites" line as well -- from people who call themselves believers!

But to say "I am not a hypocrite" leads to charges of arrogance and lying.

And they want us to apologize? For what, telling the world the truth?

Greg said...

Thank you for this post and your STAND FOR THE TRUTH of the GOSPEL! I have yet to read one of your books (mostly because of time issues and I am pursuing a Masters degree), BUT after reading what you wrote here I may have to squeeze some time in! My son will definitely be reading your series when he gets older.

Thank you again!

Liliannalissa said...

In part I agree with you. Christians should definitely not apologize for their faith. I am not sure if I completely understood you on the hypocrite part. I often feel I am acting like a hypocrite, I honestly am sorry, and I have asked God to help me with my sin. I don't take it lightly.
Christians should without a doubt spend more time loving and less time judging. This is the same attitude we should have for all, believers and non-believers. This doesn't mean we have to apologize for our beliefs or stop evangelizing, but we do need to make sure we come across simply as loving and wanting to share the Tuth, rather than being too pushy or judgemental.
I'll stop rambling now. I guess my point is, Don't the speakers have a good point, even if they are not completely right?

Bryan Davis said...

Showing love to sinners must include a call to repent and leave their sinful actions behind. Of course we shouldn't use insults or mean-spirited labels, but we must call sin what it is and show people that we have a God who can cleanse us from all sin and give us the ability to walk in righteousness.

The makers of the book and its associated film criticized a group of teenagers who demonstrated in front of San Francisco's City Hall. All the teens did was to protest the city's legalization of homosexual marriage. They didn't carry insulting signs or shout insulting slogans. The counter protesters, however, did shout offensive chants and carry offensive signs.

Who did these authors side with? The homosexual activists. They said the Christians were wrong and needed to apologize.

On another issue, some have wondered about hypocrisy. It's not true that real Christians are hypocrites. We speak the truth in love, and we live the truth. Because of God's power, we have the ability to live holy lives, so there is no reason not to do so.

One person sent a comment to this blog supporting the people I have criticized, but since he or she posted anonymously, I decided not to let that comment come through.

Christopher Miller said...

You are right, Bryan. As a fellow attendee of the past four ICRS events I sense a distrubing trend emerging. I didn't get a chance to attend the session you are referring to...however, I have noticed there is a growing movement that is attracting alot of attention right now, and this panel sounds like another shining example of the thoughts that emerge from it. It is a movement of false Christianity made up of those who would have us believe that what God says in the Bible is not appropriate for today's culture. (Some of them even dare to say that in so many words.) It is their belief that somehow presenting the gospel in its beautiful entirty is not as important as it used to be. Specifically, the part of the gospel that seems to be most under attack is that of our total depravity and sinfulness as fallen men. Sounds like a scheme of Satan to me.

What you accurately point out is the agenda of this movement to accept all things (in a word - relativism). They have decided that because sin isn't popular that pointing out the falleness of man is not a loving act. Ironically, it is their very suggestion that we avoid the sinfulness of man that does not show love.

After all, if my child is running onto a busy city street will I not yell "STOP!" with every ouce of energy in my body. It is because I love them that I want them to stop.

Identifying the sinful state of man is the most loving thing we can do as Christians. Without it, salvation cannot fully be realized.

Sadly, many of my own friends are getting caught up in the cultural tide of Christian relativism and universal acceptance. It seems there is a lack of understanding that you can actually stand for absolute truth and show love at the same time. Instead, we are asked to abandon the truth of God's word and side with sinners in accepting sin in order to save them - this makes no sense.

Let's pray together for a revival of truth in the so-called "Christian" culture.

julie@pastimesvideo said...

This topic is definitely a hot button. God IS love, but folks, He is also just. He is merciful, but He also said there will be a judgement day. We have to see the Gospel as a whole, not just pick the pretty parts. We cannot place limits on who God is. He tells us who He is in His precious Word. We cannot add to it or take away from it. We should expect the world (unbelievers) to be offended. We have a responsibility to bring the gospel to an unbelieving world...the WHOLE gospel...from Genesis to Revelation. If they don't hear that they are sinners, why would the cross be important or necessary for them? If God is only love, why should we be fearful of Him (1 Peter 2:17, and many more)? If God says "...go and preach the gospel...", who are we to change that gospel so that it's 'easier for people to believe'? The Holy Spirit will work in the the lives of those that hear the gospel, we don't have to change it to make it more acceptable.
Should we hide the bluntness of John the Baptist when he says "you generation of vipers"...?
May we say with Paul...
2 Timothy 4:7:
"I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith."
Thanks Bryan, for holding fast to God's truth.

Bryan Davis said...

Sapphira and Pam, yes, we need to show the love of Jesus to people, but love includes telling them the truth about sin. Jesus certainly did that. The call to repent must always be part of the gospel.

Liliannalisa, these people are right that hypocrisy is a terrible thing, but they claim to by hypocrites themselves, give a weak, lip-service apology for it, then go on in their admitted hypocrisy. It's a twisted way of thinking. We have the power in Jesus to live without hypocrisy, so we must do so.

Julie, Christopher, and others, thank you for your great comments.

Tom (the dragon guy) said...

That's exactly how I feel, Mr. Davis! Everybody's always saying, "You need to accept people for who they are and stop being so harsh!" Well would Jesus just "accept" murderers for the things they do? Of course not! They have to repent first or get their judgement.
Personally, I see this as just a sign that the world is getting closer and closer to its final judgement.

Galadriel said...

We need to balance love and truth. Speak the truth in love. Jesus was harsh with the Pharisees and such, but he was gentle with the outcasts.

caleb herman said...

i agree with galadriel. we have to speak but we also have to speak in love. one thing to remember is that god is the bread of life and we are just telling the hungry where to find the bread.

Bryan Davis said...
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Bryan Davis said...
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Anonymous said...

I just read a lot of post talk about how we nee to "love nonbelievers" and that we shouldn't "Shove our religion down their throats", but I have a different opinion.

Let's say you had a close family member who was dying from cancer. They have no hope of living past the predicted time. Then someone discovers the cure for cancer! You are so happy because you think they will be saved. But they don't want the cure.

Now tell me how many of you would do anything in your power to convince them to take the cure and save themselves from cancer? I would bet most people would. Now shouldn't we as Christians fight to present them with the Gospel at every oppurtunity to save their eternal souls?

I had a frend when I was younger who wasn't a Christian, and I was afraid to tell her about my relationship with Jesus. One year later we both moved away from that neighborhood, and I never heard from her again. After that i couldn't help but feel like I had abandoned her. Here I had the chance to introduce her to Jesus and I didn't. I will never make that mistake again. And I hope none of you do as well.

Kaci said...

I may actually choose to address this on my own blog and link back to you, as my response is likely too long for a comment (and it ties in neatly with my own current blog topics).

Anyway. Largely, the trouble seems to arise with a misunderstanding of 'hypocrite.' Yes, I've misrepresented Christ. What would make me a hypocrite would be if I were doing so on purpose.

To look my friend in the eye and say "that was ungodly behavior of me, and I'm sorry" is, rather, the transparency of confession and genuine-ness (yes, I know that isn't a word) people harp on these days.

It's a bit of a catch - you do see godly people in Scripture 'taking on,' in a sense, the sins of the nation and acting as intercessor. Those were rare, and the prayer is speaking to God, not to the world.

But that's a dicey subject.

Just take care. Some people are taught wrong. While they bear responsibility for not testing everything against Scripture, the ultimate fault, in those cases, lies with the teacher, not the student.

Anyway, I wasn't there, haven't read this, and can only comment second and third hand.

I will add a footnote, though: A Christian who behaves in a non-Christian behavior, the moment the Spirit makes him aware of it, had best repent of it, and he best apologize to whomever was present and make retribution if necessary.

Largely, what matters is in the aftermath. (No, I'm not excusing sin.) In other words, people will forgive the guy who admits his faults, his transgression, his misrepresentation of Christ, provided there is repentance.

Short note regarding 'balancing love and truth': Just as you cannot have justice without mercy (or vice versa), you cannot have love without truth, or truth without love. This is why Scripture teaches that if we love God we obey his commands.

You're right: "If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am nothing." However, Truth robbed of Justice, Grace, and Righteousness is, well, worthless. In fact, remove any of these things and the rest falls flat.

This is why people get out of sorts with the church (lower case 'c,' not uppercase). Love without Justice, without Truth, isn't really love at all.

Grace without truth is a perversion.

Truth without grace is a perversion.

Mercy without justice is perversion.

Justice without mercy is perversion.

Anyway. Told you this would be long.