Explore God But Not Too Closely

I can’t get away from exploregod.com.  It’s in the mail, phone messages, emails, and on billboards and radio.  It’s a pan-Christian movement meant to appeal to what used to be called “seekers.”  LCMS churches are participating in this movement.  The same sermon series is being presented by hundreds of churches in the metro Austin area.  Does Life Have a Purpose? Is There a God? Why Does God Allow Pain and Suffering? Is Christianity Too Narrow in Our Culture? Is Jesus Really God? Is the Bible Reliable? Can I Know God Personally?  Yes all these churches are in favor of exploring God, but not too closely.

The churches of exploregod.com desire to present a united faith to those outside the faith.  That this is the purpose of the three ecumenical creeds I’ll let go.  But what can’t be let go of is the fact that from the very beginning the Church has been faced with division.  First there was Cain from Abel, then Abraham from his family, and eventually Northern Israel from Judea. Separation is an integral part of what it means to be a Christian. Christianity is not the Baha’i faith, Hinduism, or a Utopian movement.  It’s about the Truth, both His Person and Work.  Denominations arose, Christians separated from one another already in the days of the apostles because we can’t all agree on what the Truth is.  Wishing we did, as I do, as Paul did, as Jesus does, doesn’t make it so, or help make it so.

As usual with these noble movements to unite, the truth gets out.  Read their Statement of Faith.  Here’s what is says under Salvation:

We believe that Jesus Christ is the only Savior from sin. He provided forgiveness and atonement from our sins on the cross and rose again to provide life and justification. Apart from Christ, there is no salvation. All men are under condemnation through person [personal?] sin, and deliverance from condemnation comes only by the righteousness of Christ and not human merit. This righteousness is bestowed upon or credited to the believer by grace through faith. The Spirit regenerates or gives new life to the one who makes this life commitment to Jesus, and he is kept by God’s grace forever. This salvation is complete in Heaven where the believer, as a resurrected, glorified body, will spend eternity reigning and rejoicing in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12; Ephesians 2:8-9; John 3:16-19, 5:24, 6:47, 10:28-30; 1 John 3:2-3). http://www.exploregod.com/statement-of-faith (10SEP13).

Did you catch the truth getting out?  “The Spirit regenerates or gives new life to the one who makes this life commitment to Jesus, and he is kept by God’s grace forever.”  Here the doctrine of baptismal regeneration is denied or at least ignored.  Here decision theology is implied. Here once saved always saved is asserted.  Here grace is presented apart from the Means of Grace.  But hey, at least they will reach some they wouldn’t have otherwise, but the question is: reach them with what?

What you should be asking yourself is this.  Why are LCMS churches allowed to publicly align themselves with a Statement of Faith that contradicts our own?  It might be because this dumb downed approach has already been accepted by us.  You find it in Lutheranism 101 which is a shameless mimicking of the Anglican Alpha Course that was so successful pastors in the LCMS were using it. Of course, they used it like they used A Purpose Driven Life or the two score other fads that have washed over the LCMS in the last three decades: with Lutheran presuppositions, Lutheran substance, Lutheran criticism.  Why not just use Luther’s catechism instead?  That way you’d be sure whose God you were exploring.

 

 

About Rev. Paul R. Harris

Ordained pastor of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod
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