By Jeff Ziegler
Published March 1, 1996
Thinking Like a Protestant in the Humanistic, Evangelical Wilderness
“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which as once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3).
With heroic, unbending determination, the epistle of Jude stands as a clarion witness to all generations of the Church, exhorting her to engage in the systematic argument and proclamation of the truth of Christianity as the supreme and absolute religion over all opposition.
This “contending” is not a polite debate society where all facts, opinions and positions from all religions or philosophies are put forward on equal terms with Christianity. Christianity is not interested in an egalitarian “exchange of ideas” with corrupt alien worldviews. The Christian position holds that all true knowledge has its genesis in Scripture alone and that Scripture is the final authority on every subject of which it speaks. The truth of Christianity then, rests not upon external evidence nor upon how well reasoned our argument may be, but upon Scripture. Accordingly, as proclaimers and enforcers of truth, the elect of God enter the arena of life to prove and work out the faith with a view of dominion through desperate conflict.
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. II Corinthians 10:4,5.
In the main body of this article, I hope to portray the battlefield, both within the Church and society at large, so that we may boldly pursue the reestablishment of Reformed presuppositions as a basis for enforcing Christ’s Crown and Covenant in a comprehensive way. It is important to note that according to I Corinthians 11:19, truth and orthodoxy are always worked out against error and heresy. Thus, I will not flinch in expressing the clear superiority of the Reformed position verses our adversaries including those within the Church.
The Battle Within
Modern American Evangelicalism has been in doctrinal decay for over 25 years. This degeneration has been well documented from many quarters in recent years. Regrettably, very few pastors seem to be heeding the warning signs of the resultant social disaster such decay will inevitably produce. While space does not permit me to examine the historical record regarding this negative phenomena, I will seek to examine the horrific effect hyper-Arminianism, so-called “Free Will Theism,” neo-orthodoxy and corrupted church growth philosophies have had on foundational doctrinal and ethical issues within the evangelical world. I will then contrast the end result of these trends against the truth of Reformed orthodoxy or Protestantism in its highest, most pristine form.
I fully realize many evangelicals will be offended by my conclusions. I do not pretend that every individual evangelical pastor, professor, church or seminary is guilty of treachery. Still, after cutting through all of the subtlety, subterfuge and excuses from the chaotic evangelical world, I stand unyielding by my conclusions that see a renascence of Reformed distinctives vigorously applied to the Church, as the only hope to enforce Christ’s Crown in society at large.
My method for contrasting modern evangelical thought verses the Reformed paradigm will entail a point-counterpoint format ranging over selected topics. Ergo, I hope to encourage a renewing of the mind so we may again think like Protestants.
Orthodoxy and Doctrine
Evangelical thought has rapidly declined in its once rigorous emphasis on doctrine. Doctrine is increasingly perceived as man made. “No creed but Christ” and “Christ is a person not a doctrine” have become popular refrains. Yet, even these are creedal statements though ill defined. It seems the more vague the better in these ranks resulting in maximum latitude for infidelity to orthodoxy. A prevailing thought that all conflict is the result of inflexible dogmas, has caused truth to be sacrificed on the altar of convenience. Peace, unity and reconciliation at all cost are their present goals and orthodoxy stands in the way!
Reformed thought sees orthodoxy and doctrine as paramount. Consequently, conflict is unavoidable. It is the plain duty of the Reformed man to strive in the establishment of Christ’s dominion in the earth. This is accomplished through the superiority and efficacy of Reformed orthodoxy. Jude:3-11; Titus 1:9,10; 2:1. Reformed distinctives are applicable to the regenerate and the unregenerate alike. Ergo, Reformed thought refuses to amend or yield in its doctrinal absolutes and there is no surprise when autonomous man, an ethical rebel, balks at these absolutes seeking solace in the fog of subjective mysticism. Reformed thought, like the sun disperses such haze.
The Nature of Man
Evangelical thought giving ground to semi-Pelagian judgment under the guise of “Free Will Theism, perceives man as intrinsically good, born morally neutral or judicially innocent. Accordingly, give man enough evidence and he will believe. Man’s will is free and supreme able to frustrate God’s will. In the most extreme cases, universal salvation is implied though formally condemned.
Reformed thought sees man apart from God as totally depraved. Unregenerate man, an ethical rebel, acts only in his own best interest in opposition to the truth. Man needs conviction of sin, not evidence. His will is a slave to sin nature under bondage to the devil. No human social evolution apart from God (or humanism) is possible.
Evangelicals generally hold that the Gospel must be disguised so as not to offend. Presentations must be “seeker sensitive” to avoid condemnation. Care is taken not to use the Bible as it has a negative cultural context. Issues of sin are not to be discussed as this has a tendency to make the hearer uncomfortable. Thus, man not God is the center of this kind of Gospel.
Reformed distinctives demand the proclamation of truth not the selling of it! The Gospel is a covenantal lawsuit which judicially condemns man as dead in trespass and sin, yet for the elect is life and redemption. The Gospel divides the sheep from the goats. It will not be accepted by all men and will never be palatable to those not called.
Evangelicalism has put such a huge premium on.harmonious personal relationships that doctrine and practice have become subservient. Unity is based on how well one “relates” to others. The view is one of greater enlightenment, making so-called name calling such as heretic, apostate, heterodox etc. obsolescent in favor of “healing therapeutic language” which promotes peaceful coexistence and unity at all costs.
Reformed thought holds that any relationship not defined by doctrine is idolatry. Example, it is treasonous, sinful behavior for one who is saved to knowingly marry an unbeliever. Example, not dealing with the heretic according to Scripture is sinful. Unity based on confessional orthodoxy breeds sound relationships. Unity based on relationships is fraudulent.
Evangelicals, having rejected God’s Law as the base of ethics are left only with impressions, leadings and “felt knowledge” as a subjective mercurial standard for sanctification. Thus, great premium is placed on new and greater mystical experiences whether Biblical or not. I euphemistically call this “Debbie Boone theology” or “how can it be so wrong when it feels so right.”
Reformed orthodoxy demands the testing of all experience precisely by the Law Word of God. Seeking to experience the communicable attributes of God as delineated in Scripture is permissible. You may not seek to experience that which is reserved for God alone. Herein was Adam’s folly. Ethics are determined by God’s Law not by mystical subjectivism.
Revival and Reformation
Evangelicals tend to view “revival” as man centered. Sentimentality and hyper-emotionalism stirred by impassioned guilt manipulation leads to pacifistic, pietistic introspection. This view tends to dualism and a compartmentalizing of life, which glorifies the spirit world and denies the material. This limits the rule of God to the unseen. Societal reformation is spoken of yet due to antinomianism (rejection of God’s Law), any “reforming” is turned inward, resulting in legalism and will worship.
Reformed distinctives depict revival and reformation as the consistent and persistent application of God’s Law Word to all spheres of life. Biblical revival leads first to a return of doctrinal orthodoxy and fidelity to the Law of God. As a result of this “reviving,” conviction of sin and the public destruction of idolatry coextensive throughout society is evidenced. Finally, a reconstruction of culture or Christian civilization is erected leading to national blessing, peace and prosperity.
Undoubtedly, I could sustain this comparison indefinitely ranging over a myriad of subjects. However, the point should be well taken that orthodox Protestant thinking, exemplified best by the Reformed faith, is quite different from modern evangelical man-centered subjectivism which is unwittingly allied with humanism. The main point of Reformed distinctives show that neutrality is nonexistent and that the immutable truths of Scripture are in a state of war with all competing visions of reality.
“No neutrality” is an essential understanding if the Church is to challenge the corrupt antichristian worldviews which rule throughout our society. You can’t beat humanism with vague evangelical fuzzies. Only a fully articulated Puritan hope can engage and defeat the “bad guys” who hold competing visions of social order.
The Culture War
As previously stated, the scriptural pattern for the working out of our faith is always in juxtaposition to error and heresy. This pattern of dynamic tension is true when dealing with doctrinal issues within the Church and is applicable when combatting alien philosophies outside of the Church.
The Church’s present fight is against the kingdom of humanism. Humanism is a religion which seeks to deify man through statist, pagan and occultic influences. Humanism, replete with its own manifesto, is a fully articulated antichristian worldview. The kingdom of humanism has touched every social institution in our nation including the Church. Thus, it is imperialistic. The myth of humanism is that a scientific elite has through time, reinvented God and ethics in man’s image (the antithesis of the Biblical record) and has engineered a superior secular culture, ever evolving into a cooperative society resulting in a utopian ideal and ultimately immortality apart from the God of the Bible. Human progress is akin to divinity itself and therefore any religion (especially orthodox Christianity) which would impede such progress is seen as retrograde, fit for eradication. Humanism then, tolerates no other gods before it.
Four men, though dead rule today through their humanistic notions.
Georg Hegel, the early 19th century German philosopher, believed that the spirit of man’s corporate mind could be best harnessed and solidified in the institution of the state. Such a state would be akin to God on earth.
Charles Darwin famous (or infamous) British scientist whose theories of evolution undermined the transcendent nature of God by repudiating creation and consigning man to the status of a higher functioning animal.
Friedreich Nietzsche late 19th century German theologian known for his blasphemous epitaph “God is dead, thanks be to God.” Meaning that the orthodox depiction of God is obsolete and thus the notion of God must be rebuilt through a societal elite or “supermen.”
Hegalian thought, Darwinism and Nietzsche’s infidelity led to the 20th centuries two most virulent forms of humanism in the mode of Fascism and Communism.
Karl Barth alarmed at Nietzsche like liberalism with its resultant tyranny, felt compelled along with other 20th century theologians to reinvent orthodoxy (deemed neo-orthodoxy or new orthodoxy). Unfortunately, Barth and his colleagues borrowed heavily on the heretical presuppositions of their more militant liberal brothers, in that they rejected confessional creedal orthodoxy (like Nietzsche convinced such notions were outmoded). Additionally, the neo-orthodox roundly reject the inspiration, infallibility and immutable authority of the Scriptures, derogatorily calling it “the paper pope.” Thus, while holding selected moral lessons of traditional Christianity, the neo-orthodox are essentially unitarian-universalists. Notwithstanding, because they have remolded God into man’s image, they remain blaspheming heretics perhaps more dangerous than their frothing liberal counterparts in that neo-orthodox tyranny is kinder and gentler replete with a beguiling smile.
The neo-orthodox have had a profound and deleterious effect on evangelicals, effectively eroding their ability and will to resist humanistic thought.When you combine the effects of Hegalian statism, Nietzsche like elitism, Darwinian dehumanization and Barth’s anesthetizing universalism, you have a full orbed comprehensive world-life-view which like the builders of the tower of Babel are seeking to dethrone God and establish man as sovereign. It should also be plain and painfully clear that evangelicalism is not only unable to cope with this challenge, but for all intents and purposes has already been neutralized by adopting some if not all of humanism’s presuppositions.
The Nature of the Kingdom
Reformed presuppositions agree with the nature of the Kingdom of God in that neutrality does not exist in any area of life. The primary notion being that all knowledge has its genesis and application in Scripture alone and that any other man centered idea, philosophy, political social theory, economics, educational theories, indeed man’s civilization itself is at war with God.
Reformed distinctives and the Kingdom of God agree with the Biblical ideal or the sum of God’s will which requires the absolute destruction of sin and evil in the individual and society. Scripture clearly depicts the Kingdom of God as God’s authorized and judicially required civilization which subjugates all competing kingdoms. See Psalm 2:1-12; 103:19; 110:1-3; Matthew 24:14; 28:18-20; Ephesians 1:17-23; I John 3:8. Thus, the Kingdom of God is not static nor passively ethereal, but, is actively conquering all before it.
The Reformed faith sees the Kingdom of God, Christ’s Crown and Covenant disinheriting all interests of unregenerate man and his kingdoms. Thus, humanism and the Kingdom of God are locked in mortal combat and the righteous are divinely guaranteed absolute and comprehensive victory!
Dear saints, what will you do about the murderous agenda of humanism? How will you respond? Do you have the ability to respond? If not, why not? Do see the legions of apostates, neo and anti orthodox liberals, antinomians and flat out traitors within the evangelical ranks and loose hope? Is the humanistic juggernaut with its brigades of skeptics, modernists, hedonists, atheists, statists, feminists and other assorted miscreants assured of victory? Are you serious about fighting? Then allow me to lay out a practical plan to prepare you for combat.
First and foremost STUDY! Away with your popular sugar coated devotionals and fanciful “Christian novels” which know nothing of real battle, majoring instead on introspective navel gazing and vain imaginings. Be determined to read and study real theology in order to build your faith and steel you mind to go on the attack! In other words start reading the classic works of John Calvin, John Knox, John Owen, Charles Hodge, A.A. Hodge and B.B. Warfield to name just a few. While your at it, stock up on reconstructionist writers such as Dr. Greg Bahnsen, Gary DeMar, Dr. Ken Gentry, Dr. Gary North and the indomitable Dr. R.J. Rushdoony.
Secondly, ACT! Join with those organizations which have the theological muscle to defeat the “bad guys.” For example, get involved with the 132 year old National Reform Association or the newer Patrick Henry Institute both dedicated to establishing Christ’s Crown and Covenant in the political realm. Or take courses at Reformation Bible Institute or the RBI Correspondence School which is dedicated to theological and social activism. Participate in the many reconstruction societies which are springing up across the country. Or start your own!
The whole point is that “you can’t beat something with nothing.” Evangelical twelve step programs, sentimental, male bonding crying seminars and seeker sensitive churches will be crushed by the humanists. Wake up saints! The humanistic Goliath is on the field and you can’t find your sling shot!
Embracing the Reformed Faith means that a fundamental shift in the way you view the world must take place. Once reformed, you must forswear the compromise of evangelicalism, the apathy of pietism and the apostasy of liberalism. It is time to think like, act like and fight like Protestants. If you want to bring honor to your King, nothing else will do.
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What is true Revival and Spiritual Awakening?
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Patrick Henry’s famous declaration not only helped launch the War for Independence, it also perfectly summarized the mindset that gave birth to, and sustained, the unprecedented experiment in Christian liberty that was America.
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