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The Church is Under Siege
In Defense of the Faith
Friday, April 20, 2018
Alf Cengia

Anyone who keeps track of the news should be somewhat aware that the church is under siege to varying degrees. The components of these attacks on the church vary depending on the global region. They range from mild persecution to outright murder.

One only has to track websites such as Open Doors and Voice of the Martyrs for examples of extreme persecution and suffering which Christians are daily subjected to around the world.

Gatestone Institute writer Raymond Ibrahim  documents incidents as they occur. At the time of writing he has collected 2017 summary data for February and April. Unfortunately, as Ibrahim and others regularly point out, western churches generally ignore these atrocities.

The church is under siege in America too.

Attacks on the church take on a different form in the US. Notwithstanding, certain Christian progressive elements downplay or deny that Christianity is under attack in the US. There's a thinking which suggests fundamentalism draws criticism because of its inflexible stance on various social issues.

While Christians aren't being slaughtered here, there has been a progressive movement to silence (or mock) Christianity in the public arena and in schools. In a recent incident - by no means unusual - prayers were disallowed over a public school PA system because of an atheist complaint.

There are numerous reports documenting similar instances. One 2017 National Review article cites cases where the ACLU has taken litigation to religious entities. It notes:

Religious schools adhering to the historic vision of marriage are also at risk. They stand to lose accreditation and nonprofit tax status as well as eligibility for student loans, vouchers, and education savings accounts.

In 2015 John MacArthur's The Master's Seminary was threatened for its stance on biblical marriage. I commented on it HERE. Notably, that particular threat was supported by a professing Christian activist.

So the Western Church is also under siege. Despite the above cases, the real threats come from professing Christians. I see two main danger areas. Some will no doubt disagree with me.

The first one is a trend to conflate the gospel with social concerns such as racism, immigration and LGBT issues. I don't want to belabor this point too much as these areas are sensitive, contentious, and beyond the scope of this article.

But, for example, Thabiti Anyabwile, Matt Chandler and David Platt recently raised the specter of racism in the church, the police force, and white America. Are they right? You can read the links responding to these people, at your leisure if you're inclined.

In one controversial interaction, the biblical definition of the gospel suddenly became blurred. This is very serious. Is the gospel directly related to racial diversity? Why aren't churches more racially diverse?

I liked what one pastor wrote in a Facebook comment: "Racial diversity is the outflow of the Gospel, not its specific aim." (See Col 3:10-11)  And this: "...we should insist on fighting for the purity of the gospel in any culture. That should be our battle cry."

A recent conference convened by high-profile Christians had the word "revival" tagged to its name. However its focus wasn't the kind of spiritual revival Christians should associate with. This was a contra-Trump Social Justice rally. Any true revival must involve getting back to our first love - Jesus Christ.

The second area has dogged the church since its inception. It is the systematic attack on God's word in the Christian market place. The movement professes to rescue the Bible from fundamentalism. In fact books written by these progressive Christians are designed to downgrade the authority of the Bible.

One popular Christian writer says he's "not trying to convince gatekeepers" through his book. Allegedly the aim is to "start a conversation among those who want to have it." The conversations he's having center around not believing everything one reads in the Bible.

If his target audience is the sheep, he's the wolf. Scripture-honoring gatekeepers have had the "conversations" with him. He doesn't like them and thinks "gate-keepers" are too "defensive" when challenged. That comes across as rather defensive to me.

Another significantly influential professing Christian recently published a book about the Bible. It purports to talk about "slaying giants," "walking on water" and to help readers to love their Bibles again. She writes:

...this book will rekindle in you a childlike love for the stories of the Bible, but in a way that engages the heart and mind, your faith and your doubts. (Emphasis mine)

Sounds kinda nice, right? Not only is she an outspoken advocate for the first writer, she's also regularly on the best seller list. She wants her readers to love the Bible for its teachable stories while avoiding all those icky bits. You might say she's also a "gate-keeper" of sorts - just not in a good sense.

In High King of Heaven, Brad Klassen talks about "Christ and the Completion of the Canon." Among other things he observes that Jesus regularly cited the OT' as authoritative. Klassen points to the classic passages of Luke 24:44-48.

Remember that Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would guide His apostles "into all truth" (John 16:12-15). What they wrote in the New Testament is therefore authoritative. And, like Christ, they respected the authority of the OT as well.

God has revealed Himself through His written word. We can't honor and pretend to know Christ while picking and choosing from Scripture based on personal preference. It leads to confusion, the embracement of sin and, finally, apostasy.

In the book The Inerrant Word John MacArthur notes that over the course of his ministry he's seen the worst attacks on Scripture coming from professing Christians rather than skeptics. But MacArthur points out that God is ultimately in control. He cites Puritan Thomas Watson:

The devil and his agents have been blowing at Scripture light, but could never prevail to blow it out - a clear sign that it was lighted from heaven.

The church is under siege, globally, and by different means. God sovereignly allows this for His own reasons. There may well come a time when Christians in the West experience the type of persecution seen in other parts of the world. If this occurs it could be for the church's good.

Despite all this we have assurance in the many precious promises found in God's word. Ironically this is the same source which is downgraded by progressive Christians.

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom 8:37-39

God is always in control. 


About Alf Cengia

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