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


Anonymous said...

Thank you Lt. for highlighting this evil that is trying to work it's way into The Salvation Army. I watched this happen to the denomination which led me to the Lord. The liberalism that crept into the United Methodist Church in the 1970's and beyond is now knocking at the door of our grand and glorious Army. My prayer is twofold, that leadership will weed it out of our Halls and off of our platforms and that a revival will spread throughout our Corps, Divisions and Territories so that we can get back on track winning the world for Christ!

Soldier from the USA East

Anonymous said...

I myself was subject to liberal theology in the Salvation Army training college in London way back in 1967. A small group of Evangelicals within the College made a deputation to Dr Martyn Lloyd Jones at Westminster Chapel, and he allowed us to use a room in the Chapel in order to frame our response to the less than Biblical teaching that we were being subjected to at the College. The College session commenced with approx 180 students of which only 100 were commissioned. I was one of them, but the more I moved to a Biblical view of Christianity, the more my situation in the Salvation Army became intolerable. I seceded from the SA after 6 years on the British field, ignoring Lloyd Jones' advice to remain in the Movement until the leadership threw me out.

Brian J Lawrenson
Former SA Officer

Anonymous said...

I predict this young man will not stay long in this movement - in fact, I'm wondering how he ever passed through the liberal thinkers while training. I pray he will never let himself be fooled by the modern compromisers that make up the leadership of this once God-inspired church. Now we have 'life houses' run by salvationists but you'd never think it because there is nothing on the buildings that even hint of them having any association with the Salvation Army. The Annual Appeal paperwork shows nothing of any association with God, the recent broadcasts for Boundless were 'fluffy' with no spiritual substance - the Songs of Praise broadcast in Britain took us down the social side of the Army, not its evangelical wing (if one exists any more) - where will all this spiritual downgrading take us? And that's just the 'surface' stuff. Are we any different underneath? I don't think so. Years of peddling a PC agenda has resulted in losing a lot of our 'raison d'etre'. Open Air meetings are now very rarely seen, salvationists mostly travel to the hall in cars, so aren't seen on the streets, and in my area at least, children of salvationists are ashamed of the movement's pedestrian image and are voting with their feet not to attend. Sermons these days seek to offend no-one, so that people just doze on in their seats, quite content with their cosy lifestyle, not realizing there is a fierce spiritual war going on in the world outside – a battle for our souls which the devil is winning hands down. Hell is hardly spoken about, and spiritual standards are mired in confusion. Gimmicks abound in the Salvation Army – Gospel truth and spiritual 'fire' does not. That's what compromise does.
Long may Matt Kean have the insight to call it as it is. We need more people like him to stop the rot that has pervaded this once-godly organisation.

Anonymous said...

Excellent piece to consider and I totally agree.However we let ourselves down when we make a stand on one thing ie.quoting scripture against homosexuality and other stuff but overlook what scripture has to say about other issues when it suits ie having 2 wives,celebicy for single a salvationist of over 35yrs I have seen officers caught up in affairs,some have been dismissed others have not because their parents were commisioners,I know of bandsmen who live together with their partners and are not married but it is overlooked because of the bandsmans musical excellence and so the list goes on.Our need as a movement for repentence is greater than ever !

Anonymous said...

Commenter 4 has some valid points. The high profile of LGBTQ discussions have eroded the importance of addressing other moral sins, and these, when offered, do not elicit as much heated response as the LGBTQ debates. But there is a definite moral vacuum within our movement which is not being addressed because of expediency. A friend of mine is a member of a prominent corps in the UK, and has been bemoaning the fact that two section leaders are having an affair and have been for some time, but that it hasn't been addressed because they are both in high profile positions in the corps. I was also told about an instance of an officer’s daughter, a uniformed soldier, who is going to the Training College, but who smokes and has engaged in sexual activities outside marriage. Ordinarily this would be gossip that shouldn't be repeated, but in the context of this article I believe it warrants a mention. I don't know the people concerned, and have no interest in their activities or proclivities on a personal basis, but when behaviours undermine the working of the Holy Spirit, and when people are living in open defiance of God's moral laws, then leaders HAVE to take action, no matter what the consequences. And to think that this lass could be one of our future leaders, it beggars belief. Appeasement won't do.

Anonymous said...

Commenter 5

May you truly live yourself a perfect life beyond any moral reproach in word, thought and deed. I hope and pray for your salvation's sake that no-one is able to discover ANY hidden sins such as gossip, glutony, laziness, sexuality etc etc etc. Should that not be the case, may God have mercy on your soul and may leadership, in the name of Christ, deal with you as harshly and ruthlessly as you have proposed should happen to the hearsay examples you mentioned, whatever the personal consequences to you may be. That would only be fair, would it not? What is good for the goose is good for the gander? Those who hold a high moralistic stance have the habit of falling very deep indeed!

Blessings to you

Anonymous said...

Commenter 6: For goodness sake, get a grip! I sense some anger in your remarks, but I can't understand why my comments should evoke such a response in you. They seem perfectly reasonable to me. Tell me, what's wrong with having high standards, especially where church is involved? And if you read carefully, I'm not judging anyone by my comments @ 5. No-one is perfect, we all have faults. All I'm saying is that these are not standards I'd want any spiritual leader of mine to have, and that if they are happening in your corps or mine, they need addressing, not ignoring. People, even Christians, who've been raised on a TV diet of the soaps and similar amoral programmes have very little idea of what's wrong and right, because moral standards are not taught in church anymore - they definitely are not preached in my corps. When I say leaders have to take action, I don't mean these people should be thrown out of the ranks per se, but shown the error of their ways and given the opportunity to try to live by God's moral code, not theirs. In Salvationist last week there was a letter from a young lad who had been prevented from wearing his uniform because he was in an inappropriate, though committed, relationship. I'm guessing this was a homosexual relationship. The relationships quoted above are heterosexual - why should one be vilified and the two quoted above be allowed to continue with their equally inappropriate relationships and actions respectively whilst continuing to wear their uniforms and professing faith? I am not holding a high moralistic stance at all - I'm holding out for high moral standards across the board, irrespective of whether or not a person has a leadership position within the corps. This should have no relevance at all. If you aim for mediocrity, you'll surely get it.

Harold Hill, retired officer said...

Just a response to Brian J Lawrenson's strictures on the purportedly liberal theology of the London Training College (aka ITC) in the late 1960s. Admittedly, arriving in 1970 I was not strictly contemporary with Brian, but have to say in their defence that I found teachers of the ilk of Cyril Boyden (Education Officer throughout that period) to be of both impeccable orthodoxy and unfailing courtesy. I honour his memory. Harold Hill, Major, Retired.