Redefining What It Means to Be a Christian: Number Three of Eight Transformational Steps to a Global False Church
By Brannon S. Howse
Once Jesus and His Gospel have been redefined, it is a natural next step to change the understanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. A particularly insidious way this has been accomplished is by simply broadening the net of who is considered to be within the bounds of biblical Christianity.
Robert Jeffress, pastor of the 11,000-member First Baptist Church of Dallas, is one evangelical who includes the pope among people he considers to be brothers in Christ. In a video interview, Jeffress said this about Pope Benedict:
[quote] [T]he Pope is a wonderful, dedicated Christian man, and we celebrate the ministry he’s had and wish him the very best. And we pray for our Catholic friends, as they go through the process of choosing a new leader, that they’ll find a similar man of great faith. [end quote]
Unfortunately, Jeffress is not alone among evangelical leaders who embrace Roman Catholics. In a video presentation, “What Is the Church?”, Beth Moore offers her answer:
[quote] What I’ve done in this particular class that makes this group so special—and I’m loving this about you who are online—we are a very interdenominational group. And so, I’ve literally gotten to position people from these denominations and from these backgrounds into these groups. So, that just thrills me. . . .
I have just made up the name from familiar names of churches that I’ve seen through the years. Right over here, to my right, you see First United Methodist Church of Lesson Land. Right behind them you would find—just down the street, just across the street—you’ve got Christ the Redeemer Lutheran Church. Every single one of my sisters in this area attends a Lutheran church, which thrills me. These all attend a Methodist church. I can’t tell you how I love that kind of diversity. What I’ve asked these ladies to do right here—now, this makes it a little bit different, because they do go to different churches, but what I’ve asked them to represent tonight to us is an African-American church that we’re gonna call Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church.
Is that good? Did I do good? Yes. Hallelujah, hallelujah. Right back here, I want you to meet Saint Anne’s Catholic Church of Lesson Land. These ladies come, every single one of them—although they don’t go to one Catholic church—every single one of them attend a Catholic church, probably right here in Houston. And I am so thrilled that they are here.
What I’ve asked my sisters to do here, actually, they represent many different churches, but they represent one church in our midst tonight. These are our sisters that attend different charismatic churches in the city, but tonight they attend Abundant Life Church. Is that good? [end quote]
Did you catch that? Moore’s laundry list of Christian churches includes Roman Catholic churches. Moore clearly seems to be saying the Church of Rome is just another denomination, that all of these denominations make up one true Church, and that God gave her this picture of the church as He sees it. But the truth is the Church of Rome can be part of the one, global church that will be used by the antichrist but not the Bride of Christ. How do you think the 50 million Christians that were murdered by the Church of Rome from about 606 A.D. to the mid-1800s would respond to Beth Moore’s claim?
Not surprisingly, perhaps, Word of Faith false teachers also jump on the redefining “Christian” bandwagon. In introducing Glenn Beck as a guest on his program, James Robison described Beck’s faith journey:
[quote] We have a guest today who had his life changed because he saw a consistent, caring life in the life of a Mormon. He found Jesus because we’ve talked about it a whole lot, and Jesus is in his heart, and you don’t ever have to wonder. He came to our church, one of the great evangelical churches in the nation, Gateway, and told about Jesus coming into his life. He’s told many of my friends. And I love this man, and I want you to welcome Glenn Beck to Life Today. [end quote]
So according to James Robison, Mormons now fit the definition of “Christian.”
David Barton—still influential in many circles even after his inaccurate histories of America were exposed—also affirms Glenn Beck:
[quote] Here’s a guy who was raised as a Catholic. He found Jesus in Alcoholics Anonymous when he really screwed up his life, and he’s now going to a Mormon church. But that doesn’t say anything about his personal relationship with Jesus, and that’s what people need to look at. [end quote]
In response to an interviewer’s question, Barton went on to say that he believes Beck “is a Christian in every sense of the word.”
Changing the definition of “Christian” has a ripple effect. It also alters the definition of the “church.” R.C. Sproul offers this biblically sound definition of ekklesia, the Greek word for church:
[quote] ekklesia means “those who are the called-out ones.” Simply put, the invisible Church, the true Church, is composed of those who are called by God not only outwardly but inwardly by the Holy Spirit. When Jesus calls someone to discipleship, He is calling that person to Himself, to belong to Him, to follow Him, and to learn from Him and of Him. [end quote]
You can see the problem here. Once we’ve redefined Jesus, it’s no longer clear who He is that people belong to, follow, and learn from. So the muddied definition of “Christian” follows from the corrupted defining of Jesus and results in the contaminated definition of “church.” The Church is no longer called-out ones if it includes those who have never been called out.
In a January 2014 Christian Post article, “The Gift of Church: Everyone, Whether Believer or Not,” radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt offered his version of a redefined church:
[quote] I have belonged to many churches in my fifty-seven years, beginning with St. Pius X in Warren, Ohio, and most recently to both a Presbyterian congregation and a Catholic parish.
Everyone—every single person reading this and every person in the world—needs to belong to a church no matter whether they believe or not. The great worship director or liturgist, the terrific priest-homilist or preacher will be known for the energy and enthusiasm in proclaiming the gospel, and every participant will at least say the words of gratitude that are at the heart of every Christian service, thus setting the tone for a week ahead lived in accordance with the practices of collective worship. [end quote]
The “gospel” Hewitt refers to, of course, is not the true Gospel. Evangelical pastors, Bible-believing conservatives, and Roman Catholic priests do not preach the same gospel. That’s why we had a Reformation. Hewitt, though, does not seem concerned with such historical realities. Here’s his prescription for finding a good church home:
[quote] Pick a church. Practically any church. Go and go and go again and again and again.... There are huge theological divisions between churches, but they hardly matter if you are unchurched. Here’s my advice: pick the biggest church within five miles of your apartment or house and just go there. Stick there for a year. Then decide if you need to change because of theology. If you are a cradle Catholic, find your closest Catholic parish. Familiarity will make the first few visits easier on you even if you are shy beyond belief. [end quote]
Just go to the biggest church closest to your home? Catholic, Protestant, or whatever? Hewitt’s preaching is preaching of the congenial community, not the Gospel. You might hope that Hugh Hewitt’s perspective would disqualify him from speaking for evangelical organizations, but unfortunately, it doesn’t. He has been a keynote speaker for Summit Ministries (an organization I used to endorse but no longer do), a ministry that supposedly teaches young people how to defend a biblical worldview. Hewitt has even blurred the distinctives of his own faith by declaring, “I’m an Evangelical Roman Catholic Presbyterian.” [source: Transcript of Hugh Hewitt program in which he makes this statement, posted at: http://www.hughhewitt.com/andrew-sullivan-on-the-conservative-soul/]
Some folks in the Christian education establishment are also doing their part to “widen” the definition of Christian. Ambrose College in Canada, a school founded by Canada’s Christian and Missionary Alliance and Church of the Nazarene, sponsored a conference in 2014 “Global Impact Week, March 4-8, 2014, Catholics and Evangelicals in God’s Mission Together” at which Ambrose president Gordon T. Smith shared the platform with Fr. Tom Ryan, a Roman Catholic priest. The seminar topics that week included:
“One Lord, One Faith, One Mission—the Mission of God” (Roman Catholics and evangelicals are not on the same mission.)
“Catholics and Evangelicals, Looking Back, Looking Forward, Assessing Their Relationship”
“Vatican II—50 Years Later: An Evangelical Response.”
And in a follow-up initiative, the “Week of Prayer for Christian Unity,” Catholic bishop Don Bolin spoke at the January 22, 2015, Ambrose chapel service and called for unity between Catholics and evangelicals. The bishop rationalized his call by minimizing any differences between the two camps:
[quote] We, too, thirst how God thirsts for us, comes in search of us. We, as evangelicals and Catholics drink from that same well, but we share a common mission. . . .
When you—hey, you ever say something like this? “Lord Jesus, only You can fill my heart’s desire. Only You can fill my deepest hopes. Without You I flounder. Without You I am lost. Show me Your face; let me hear Your voice.” If yes, then perhaps we are drinking from the same well, as we drink from other wells, too. It’s there that we might have suspicions about each other as evangelicals and Catholics. Or we think drinking from the same well, but perhaps not drinking deeply enough. Have our differences, and I don’t think anybody here wants to minimize those. Do drink from the same living water that Jesus gives us. When I worked at the Vatican, in relations with Anglicans and Methodists, I came across a prayer from John Wesley which I like very much. . . .
[You] probably know the old axiom—maybe not, maybe—I’m not sure, lex orandi, lex credenda. That is, “We pray, so we believe. As we pray, so we believe.” I think it’s very courageous of an evangelical college to invite a Catholic bishop to come and speak. Not to give a lecture, although that’s fine and good—to preach at your chapel because this is the heart of your life as a Christian community. It is where you come and pray. [end quote]
Notice that this bishop used to work for the Vatican. And what is the goal of the Roman Church since the Vatican Council II of the 1960s? To push ecumenicalism and turn everybody back to Rome. To do that, they have to convince us that evangelicals and Catholics together is biblically acceptable. As remarkable as it may seem, evangelicals themselves are helping convince each other to return to Rome.
But what does the Bible say about this? Scripture warns that we are not to merge with those who profess another Jesus and another gospel:
[quote] “But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it!” [end quote] (2 Corinthians 11:3-4)
“Note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.” (Romans 16:17)
“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.” (Ephesians 5:11)
Academic institutions aren’t the only ones contributing to the redefining process. Popular teachers and Christian entertainers do their part as well. For instance, Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, introduced Bono from the rock group U2 to his radio audience and shared his enthusiasm for the musician’s “Christian” faith when he said:
[quote] Bono grew up in Dublin, with a Protestant mother and a Catholic father, during the troubles of the 1970s. And I think that’s one of the reasons that he’s uneasy with religious labels, because of what he experienced during that time. He saw a lot of harm coming from religion.
But as you’re going to hear, he’s a believer in Jesus Christ and professes Christ as his Savior. In fact, Bono’s spiritual journey has been greatly influenced by a mutual good friend, Eugene Peterson, who’s the author of The Message. And he’s also written a great book called Run with the Horses that has had a great influence on Bono and many of us. [end quote]
It’s significant that Bono was influenced by Eugene Peterson, author of The Message. Although The Message is marketed as a Bible, it is not a true version of the Word. At best, it’s a paraphrase but with blatantly New Age leanings. Despite Jim Daly’s endorsement, Bono’s theology is not that of a Bible-believing Christian. In concert Bono has worn a “coexist” bandana featuring the cross, the Jewish star, and the crescent moon of Islam. He has shouted from the stage, “Jesus. Jew. Mohammed. It’s true. Jesus. Jew. Mohammed. It’s true.”
[quote] Some graffiti sprayed up on a wall not too far from here. It says Coexist.
Jesus. Jew. Mohammed. It’s true.
Jesus. Jew. Mohammed. It’s true.
All sons of Abraham.
Father Abraham. Father Abraham. Where are you now? [end quote]
In a speech at Georgetown University, he expanded on the theme and even extolled the merits of the Jesuits:
[quote] The American anthem is not exceptionalism; it’s universalism. There is no them; only us. Ubuntu, I am because we are. There is no them; only us. Now the Jesuits, they know something about this, the largeness of spirit, this expanded sense, enlightened sense of, of, “Who is your neighbor?” I’m not a Jesuit. My mother was a Protestant and my father a Catholic. He was not of the Jesuit order. He was of a whole other order.
But here’s what I know . . . about the Jesuits and Ignatius Loyola. He was a soldier. Right? And he was lying on a bed, recovering from his wounds, when he had what they call a conversion of the heart. He saw God’s work and the call to do God’s work. Just in the church, in everything, everywhere—the arts, universities, the Orient, the New World. And once he knew about that, he couldn’t un-know it. It changed him. It forced him out of bed and into the world. And that’s what I’m hoping happens here in Georgetown with you. [end quote]
Yet Jim Daly of Focus on the Family wants to declare that Bono is a Christian? My response to what is happening is to tell others how we need to guard the Church. In Acts 20:28-31, Paul spoke of how he did not cease to warn everyone night and day, with tears, of men who had risen from within. Like him, we need to guard the Gospel, guard the Church—to defend what it really means to be a Christian.
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