Serving since 2007

Serving since 2007

Friday, July 31, 2015

The Blight of Liberal Theology Part Two Conclusion

I have witnessed this liberal theology personally, and I’ve seen it bring utter ruin to Salvation Army ministries, corps, certainly many social centres, sermons, soldiers, and officers.  On top of that, it brings perhaps even a worse fate to the sinners that receive it.  This liberal theology allows a drunk to remain a drunk, a prostitute to remain a prostitute, a thief to remain a thief, a doubter to remain a doubter, a sinner to remain a sinner, all the while encouraging them to profess that they are well saved and somehow changed within.  Why? Well, one reason is because it places supreme value on an individual’s sense of self-worth instead of on the cross of Christ and the righteousness of God.  In other words, as long as a person realizes that there is a healthier way to live, that they have Salvation Army friends who support them, that God loves them and that they are especially valuable in His sight, then the gospel has been received into their heart successfully.  The job is done.  However, the New Testament gospel clearly shows this to be farcical. 

Though this liberal theology (i.e. this theology of deception really) usually keeps up a pleasant façade, speaking constantly of the Christian’s responsibility to love rather than judge, and frequently making strange inferences that God’s grace and truth can  be separated from one another, it ultimately forces Salvationists into believing a gospel of half-truths with all kinds of twists and distortions.  The fact is that it’s hardly more than an ideological merging of humanism and universalism.  Basically, because there is a spark of good within humanity, which has been victimized by “that old devil in the garden”, then we can encourage and prod all people to realise that they are worthy of God’s redemptive plan in Christ, and furthermore, are already placed by His love safe within His family.  They need only realise it!  Sadly, almost every ministry endeavour that is fuelled by liberal theology begins from that erred premise – at best!  When pushed to its logical end, this kind of theology presents the good heart of humanity as our starting point for the good news instead of the profound love and righteousness of God for a wicked, depraved, and rebellious race of selfish criminals.  Certainly, nothing is farther from the profession of The Salvation Army’s doctrinal position as well as the Bible (see TSA doctrine # 5, Rom. 3:10-18).  

Having said this, I realize that to lump every theological deviation into the same pile would be silly. The truth is that not every Salvationist who questions or explores beyond the boundaries of conservative and traditional doctrinal interpretation has embraced this liberal theology and a compromised belief. Many are perhaps honestly searching for a deeper understanding of how the gospel of Christ can be implemented most effectively, and truly want those who are outside the family of God to come to Him for pardon.  From this honest desire these Salvationists may choose to put less emphasis on some of the harder, more abrasive truths of Scripture (i.e. judgment, sin, punishment, etc.), perhaps allowing them to sit in the background, so to speak, in order to better illuminate the invitation of God offered to all people in Christ.  I can understand that. That is not an example of the liberal theology that I am addressing.  It might be argued that it isn’t as militant as Booth’s Salvationism, but it is nonetheless still Salvationism because it holds fast to the gospel’s chief aim to win the sinful lost for the Lord and to convert them to saints eternally. In such cases, even though there is a softer presentation of the gospel, the harder truths remain uncompromised. 

The liberal theology that is blighting The Salvation Army is far more wayward and seedy, and it is quite distinct.  It’s not just a passing stage of questioning that sparks some abstract thought for a while, but it is a settled belief that coddles doubt in the heart of the Salvationist rather than desires clarity.  In its most blatant form it can be easily recognised by its unwillingness to attribute any definitive authority to the Bible and in turn gives utmost authority to the judgments of one’s own intellect as well as to the intellect of other settled doubters.  Although it claims the opposite, this kind of theology seems to have no desire for the absolute truth of Christ’s gospel, but with a hungry fanaticism pursues any theological justification for one’s doubt and/or lack of spiritual experience.   

It’s not very difficult to see why this is so detrimental in an organisation where one of the most significant priorities is to draw attention to the dire heart-condition of the human race in light of God’s word.  According to Scripture, the words of Christ in fact, humanity is condemned by its sin and preference toward darkness (John 3:19). It is only the authority of Scripture wielded by the heavily convicting hand of the Holy Spirit that could inspire anyone to accept something so dreadful. Every theology that will not give Scripture judging/discerning authority, especially in matters of the spirit and Spirit, sin and conscience, is inevitably left to construct its own conditions and definitions for such vital terms as truth, salvation, and holiness.   Think about the consequences of that! 

It can also be seen how this liberal theology is strangely opposed to deeming what is ungodly or wicked.  Whether it be out of fear or just apathy, it is completely destructive when a Salvationist is unable to clarify why an individual needs to be saved by Jesus Christ from a sound Scriptural standpoint.  The liberal theology to which I’m referring allows the gospel to be preached (not the real gospel of course) as a person’s way to experience freedom and deliverance from the hells of this physical world, or maybe even healing from the scars of the past, but never explains that a person needs freedom and deliverance from their personal and inherent sin, as well as their own selfish desire to be their own God, which hold dreadful eternal consequences! Such immovable Scriptural pillars like the Holy Spirit’s conviction, genuine heartfelt repentance, and regeneration in a life of holiness are necessarily neglected by the theology that insists the sinner can be ‘repaired’ – the theology of Jesus Christ was one of new life which cannot come by any way other than death of the old life.  The Salvation Army’s theology has never been one that permits a repaired life, or a better life, but a new life!  Our doctrines insist that we believe it is vital to salvation (TSA Doctrine # 7).   

I firmly believe that if the leadership of The Salvation Army does not begin publically condemning this corrupt and Biblically heretical theology where it is evidenced, deliberately removing the veil of doctrinal ambiguity within our ranks, then this movement is in the same kind of danger as the House of Eli (1 Samuel 3:13-14). 

This Salvation war is too severe for us to be   toying with any kind of message that bears no power to redeem.  It is the New Testament gospel that is the power of God unto salvation for all who will believe (Romans 1:16) and unless we cling to it tightly with all our grit and heart, we hold nothing in our hands but chaff; it is all the power of God to save.  Droves of sinners continue to die in chains of darkness and vice, my friends, going without hope and help into Hell’s torment, but the Master has given us the One Key to their absolute freedom… and we must cling to it! 

We are an army that has one supreme agenda: win as many sinners to Christ as we possibly can so that they will be prepared for the imminent Day of Judgment.  Any theology that makes this mandate less intense or diminishes its urgency even slightly is nothing less than a rot and decay within our movement.  It is a recipe for disaster!  It is an act of treason; a resignation of our efforts to the kingdom of Satan.  If Salvationists are not strong enough to refuse to entertain the corrosion of our original (and might I add, God-given) theology, then the army itself is doomed to suffer the fate of the people of Israel after the exile – a laughing stock to their enemies.   I pray by God’s glorious grace and truth that we as an Army will wise up to the seriousness of laying down our ruthless soul-saving theology and begin to embrace again what it means to be Salvationists so that we might once more be the cause of much fear in Hell.   

Praise the Lord Jesus!   

Lieutenant Matt Kean
MELBOURNE 
  

Thursday, July 30, 2015

It's Thursday 30th July - Number 34

NUMBER 34

Thursday 30th July 2015

Thursday word from Genesis Number 34.

'So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the dungeon. When he had shaved  and changed his clothes, he came before Pharaoh,' Genesis 41:14.
We know that Joseph had been in prison quite some time before Pharaoh's baker and cup-bearer had their dreams, (40:1). Following the positive news that he gave the cup-bearer it wasn't long before he realised that the man he had so helped had completely forgotten him. Months turned into years. Poor Joseph probably could not think of any way that things could ever change whereby he might get out of gaol.

It is easy to feel that some things will never change and that we are permanently condemned to the situation we find ourselves in, especially as time passes by and we are unable to even imagine a scenario whereby change could come. That is to reckon without this wonderful God of Surprises we have. In no way could Joseph have imagined what dreams Pharaoh would have, nor what lay ahead for the mighty nation of Egypt, or indeed his part in the nation's salvation!

Note how Pharaoh sought answers from his own wise men and magicians before his cup bearer remembered Joseph and referred Pharaoh to him. Like Pharaoh, we too can seek our answers in conventional human wisdom rather than God. Conversely, in Joseph's situation, we Christians might wonder why we have been disregarded and forgotten despite our faithfulness. But we must never lose sight of the fact that God has plans for each and everyone of us. Whilst we might not know what they are, God tells us, 'I know the plans I have for you....', (Jeremiah 29:11). Whether he can trust us with the responsibility for what he has in store might well depend on how faithful we continue to be in dark times when all hope seems to be gone. Remember Abraham? 'Abraham believed and hoped, even when there was no reason for hoping,' (Romans 4:18). Is God testing you to see if he can depend on you before he reveals his plans for you?

God can turn things around in an unbelievably rapid and miraculous way as he did for Joseph.  On a visit to Limerick John Wesley wrote these words, 'A few years ago, if we heard of one notorious sinner truly converted to God, it was a matter of solemn joy to all that loved or feared him; and now that multitudes of every kind and degree are daily turned from the power of darkness to God, we pass it over as a common thing! O God give us thankful hearts!' 

God bless you all.



Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Blight of Liberal Theology Part One




Editorial Introduction
by Major Stephen Court

Welcome to JAC93 – the 93rd issue of Journal of Aggressive Christianity.  What a blessing it promises to those who read and share and apply its lessons.  Savour the testimony, reflect on the teaching, respond to the exhortation.  It could change eternity.

We’re grateful, as always, for the contributors who come this issue from six territories and include some officers (lieutenants, captains, majors, and commissioner) and other soldiers writing on justice and theology and mission and integrity and strategy and covenant and the Bible – all great subjects for study and application.  

Here is JAC93:….
_______________________________

The Blight of Liberal Theology.  Kean tackles the encroachment of this theology into The Salvation Army, contrasting it with Salvationist theology, and noting the dangers of its widespread adoption in the ranks.

….You can read all of these articles as well as the articles from the first 92 issues right here for free.  We’re hoping that more and more people will encounter the heat and light in these journals. 

To God be the glory.  Much grace.


The Blight of Liberal Theology

I have no doubt that some of my words will meet a degree of discomfort and perhaps reproof from within our organisation, but I am convinced it is important to say them.  Besides that, they burn from a deep conviction and even if I kept quiet I’m inclined to think the stones might cry out.  
The subject I want to address is a theological one, but I want to emphasize that it worries me most because I see its negative influence within The Salvation Army.  I’m speaking of the very liberal theology which has been permitted to slither into the ranks of the army over the last few decades.  It has allowed a succession of compromises to degrade the necessary black and white nature of Christ’s gospel.   

I use the word liberal intentionally without a capital ‘L’ simply because I only want to show how such a theology, by definition alone, has no place within a movement whose focal point is the salvation of souls.   This kind of theology as it stands does not allow for the hard object lines of orthodox doctrine or any conservative interpretation of the Bible and has the strange ability to vilify the militant holiness ideology of our movement.  I will leave its definition here, but I will go on to describe its character and substance.  Again, please understand that I do not wish to single out any particular group, ministry, or method. My aim is to expose a specific theology (the liberal one) because of its direct contrast to Salvationism, that is all.   

I recently read an excerpt from Begbie’s “The Life of General William Booth – Vol. 2” which brought me to a sobering epiphany.  In it Booth clearly marks out the brutal reality that every officer must embrace in order to even qualify as Salvationists:   
Every officer must realise that men are perpetually perishing; that every moment of his life, when he wakes and when he sleeps, some soul somewhere passes into eternity.  He should see that those who reject God’s mercy are driven away in their wickedness – driven down to Hell.  At death probation ends, the day of mercy closes, and there is no hope for evermore. They must perceive that in all this misery men apart from God are totally unable to help themselves, and that they get worse instead of better; that unless deliverance is obtained from outside themselves, they will perish. (p.150) 

I petition every Salvationist, specifically my officer comrades, to truly consider the weight and severity of Booth’s words and ask yourselves honestly, “Is the Army’s theology still carrying this kind of urgency?”  To be honest, I don’t believe it is.  In fact, I hear a very different kind of theology, a much milder, certainly much less frank theology too often being spoken and taught and written within much of the western Salvation Army, surely within my own territory (Australia).  It prefers to soften, or belittle, the seriousness of our call to preach to the lost for their salvation – their eternal rescue from damnation and endless punishment!  It’s at the point now where even the term salvation must be clearly defined simply because liberal theology has been working so intentionally to try to redefine it.  The same has been done to the word holiness.  These two terms that used to describe the bare bones of the Army are now so loosely defined that it’s difficult to know what they mean to us anymore.   
On the surface this liberal theology doesn’t sound too bad, but underneath it holds the power to corrupt the very foundations of our devil-hating movement. You can bet your eyeballs that the corrosive liberal theology of which I am speaking will laud darling little terms like inclusivity and tolerance, distorting the love of God so that it allows for compromise.  The severity of sin and its power to destroy the individual eternally is necessarily diminished, even ignored, because it makes the gospel too offensive and unpalatable to deliver.  The salvation that is offered by this liberal theology is one that doesn’t actually do anything to save the sinner.  It merely allows the liberal Christian to remain in a false sense of spiritual accomplishment because the world has been able to see the gospel “made relevant”, which is much more significant than hearing the truth.   

End Part One of Two

Lieutenant Matt Kean
MELBOURNE 
  




Our “21st Century” Tragedy, Major Ronald Gorton USA Central - Retired









 The FSAOF – An Introduction


A diverse range of views on homosexuality exists within The Salvation Army, as among the wider faith and secular communities in the 127 countries world-wide where the Army provide Christian service. But there is one constant, The Salvation Army does not permit discrimination on the basis of sexual identity in the delivery of its social care, in its employment practices or in sharing fellowship in its spiritual and worship services.


The Salvation Army does not believe that homosexual orientation is a sin. However, Salvationists are expected to remain celibate unless married to a partner of the opposite sex.

For anyone in a Salvation Army ministry position, the theological belief regarding sexuality is that God has ordained marriage to be between one man and one woman and sexual activity is restricted to one’s spouse. Non-married individuals would therefore be celibate in the expression of their sexuality. This is the long-standing expectation of all individuals in ministry roles in The Salvation Army, including lay people.

 Leadership roles in SA denominational activities such as teaching or holding local officer roles require certain adherence to consistently held spiritual beliefs. This would apply to any conduct inconsistent with Salvation Army beliefs and would include same-sex sexual relationships.

Comment: a critic of SA policy
The Salvation Army is a religious organization founded in 1865 by a Methodist minister. As such all SA officers are ordained ministers in The Salvation Army church.  Some critics maintain that the Army’s insistence that LGBT officers remain unmarried and refrain from “expressing their sexualities” is, by definition, discriminatory. And the SA goes even further, requiring that officers distance themselves from same-sex weddings but not opposite-sex weddings.

The SA may claim it “serves 30 million people a year without discrimination”  and that may be true, but it doesn’t address the issue of how the organization treats its LGBT officers (a.k.a. those doing the serving). They remain
marginalized.

Sven Ljungholm
  



John Callcott Horsley - 1848


Illustrates a scene from Milton's 'Paradise Lost', Book IV: Satan touched by Ithuriel's Spear while whispering evil dreams to Eve. 




The whispers of the serpent addressed to Eve in the beginning of the human age are still herd in our distant age. “The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and care for it. But the Lord God gave him this warning: ‘You may freely eat any fruit in the garden, except fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat of its fruit, you will surely die.’” (Gen 2:15-17 NLB)

Really” the serpent asked Eve, “Did God really say you must not eat any of the fruit in the garden.” After Eve dutifully corrects the serpent, to stress that the restriction was only about the fruit of the tree at the center of the garden which would lead to death, the serpent weaves his deceptive web by asserting, “You won’t die!” He then insists that God is keeping secrets from Adam and Eve, because, when they eat the forbidden fruit their eyes will be opened and they will become just like God, knowing good and evil.

We know the result of their listening to the Serpent and allowing God’s truth to be twisted by the deceiver. Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden and in fact, they did surely die as God had declared.

The deceiver continues to twist the word of God today in 2015. Sadly many who have claimed to have received Jesus as their personal Savior are listening to a twisted interpretation of scriptures. These interpretations of Scriptural truth are “painted” to appear to show that the declarations of God’s displeasure has only to do with violent incidents of what the Bible calls sexual sins.

By such maneuvering of the Word of God both heterosexual and homosexual acts are declared to be justified and “right” as long as love and not violence attends such acts. Self-centered motivation, joined with shrewd re-crafting of Scriptural teaching casts a cloak of darkness over the loving instruction of our Heavenly Father and withdraws the effectiveness of the Blood of Jesus, meant to free us from bondage to sin.

Welcome to our “21st Century Garden” tragedy.

Major Ronald H. Gorton 
Retired

USA Central Territory