Modernism in the Church
There has been, for a long time, an insidious infiltration of worldly thought and morals into the Church. Th ere has been an attempt to deceptively “modernize” the behavior, belief system, and attitudes of its believers. The encroachment of “modernism” thought brought an era of seeking new forms of religious expression and rejection of traditional or previously accepted ideas. To the modernist, Christ was an example of how God wanted us to live our lives. In this way modernists separated the spiritual from the natural and were able to reconcile their Christian religion with the new knowledge of the modern world. Scientific reasoning overshadowed any supernatural or spiritual reality. Liberal theologians relegated the Bible to ancient mythology and attempted to remake Christianity along secular lines.
Sayings like, “What would Jesus do?” and “walking in His footsteps,” replaced the Biblical, “are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Cor. 3.18 Modernism had its impact upon the Church, but real disillusionment set in when it apparently failed in its attempt to make the world a better place using human reasoning alone. However, much of the Church remained tainted from it.
As the twentieth century came to a close, we now found “postmodernism” thought entering the Church, and like its predecessor it also attacks orthodox Christianity. It is a philosophy that affirms that there is no objective or absolute truth, especially in matters of religion and spirituality. When confronted with a “truth,” such as the reality of God, salvation only in Christ, and immorality of abortion or homosexuality, the postmodernist might well say, “that might be true for you but not for me.” While this response might be appropriate when discussing matters of favorite foods or preferences for style of dress, this mindset is dangerous when applied to spiritual reality because it confuses matters of opinion with, that of Biblical truth.
While truth is unchanging and factual, an opinion is highly variable because it is not based upon substance but upon an individual’s life experiences—it is very subjective and therefore varies with the individual. One’s life may well be contaminated with various amounts of misinformation or indoctrination leading to a high level of bias and intolerance. Spiritual reality, the intangible and invisible things of the spiritual domain including the Kingdom of God and the domain of Satan, does not change with time or circumstances—God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Postmodernists try to convince the Church to eliminate the absolute truths of their faith and to make everything relative to an individual’s belief or desires—thus taking another bite from that Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
When followed to its logical conclusion, rejection of absolute spiritual truth ultimately says no faith or religion is objectively true. Thus, statements like, “nor is there salvation in any other; for there no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4.12 is, according to postmodernists, a false claim. Such would argue if you are a Christian, be a good Christian; a Muslim, be a good Muslim; a Hindu, be a good Hindu, etc. There is a detachment from the Bible as the Word of God to one of stories and fables used to guide one in life.
So, do you see how the Church, under the attack of these heretic philosophies, and worldly thought in general, has been infiltrated with false notions and understandings of Biblical truths? Do you know there is a better and higher form of worship? One may argue worship is of individual preference, and one is wrong to judge any form of worship. Welcome to postmodernist thought. A more perfect worship does exist, and all effort must be made to seek God in its understanding. In other words, all things of our Christian faith are absolute truths and exist as vanishing points in the distance, and we must press towards them. If you and I independently look away from our particular mode of worship and focus upon only Christ, our worship will begin to come into harmony with one another. It is only when subjected to soulish emotions, secular memes that spreads throughout the culture, and fleshly preferences does worship drift apart…even as some local churches have two Sunday morning services: one traditional with familiar hymns and one contemporary with a current modern music style, both of these fall short of true worship.
The toll these worldly philosophies have had on the Church is devastating, to the point that the very words upon which our faith is based is no longer understood to mean what they are designed to mean. When tempted, Jesus answered and said to Satan, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” Mt. 4.4 Every word means every utterance is distinct with a specific Godly intent. Each word is a concept, an idea revealing a plan or intent of God and must be handled with care and thoughtfulness. Words like love, faith, grace, born again, forgiveness, judging, righteousness, and even the word ‘Christ’ are not ambiguous terms that have different meanings under different circumstances, cultures, or times in history. However, these have all been twisted and perverted in various ways to mean something other than its scriptural intent. The Church is in dire need of teachers that are not set in place to regurgitate concepts and doctrines taught in liberal seminaries or Bible schools or charismatic TV ministries, but to have teachers that hold sacred the word of God and cautiously, as it is written,
“But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” 2 Cor. 4.2
To “handle the word of God deceitfully” is used in similar meaning to adulterate, corrupt, or to snare. In the latter of snaring, clever people use false doctrine as bait—holding out the worm to conceal the hook. Church doctrine becomes false because words become adulterated from their true meaning. Take for example the word judgment or simply judging.
The proper meaning of judgment is to pick out (choose) by separating. It is like rooting through a pile of sea shells and picking out the nicest ones to keep for yourself—you are separating according to your liking or by some standard. Judgment more typically refers to making a determination of right or wrong. Today the general attitude within the Church is not to judge; “let God do the judging.” “Who are you to judge others?” “Remove the log from your own eye before judging the speck in another.” Etc. We must rise above modernism, postmodernism and the world in general and seek a Godly understanding of, Jesus’ warning, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” Mt. 7.1
To understand this scripture it is important to first believe that it is an utterance that of “every word that precedes out of the mouth of God,” Mt. 4.4, then be certain it is used of the proper context within the passage, and lastly determine how it compares with other similar passages. Take for instance the scripture, “Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.” 1 Cor. 7.1 In the literal Greek the word háptomai actually means to “touch or lay hold of.” Simple reasoning would tell us that this does not mean men should go through life and never touch a woman; for this is not consistent with other scriptures or in the context of the passage. Rather, an extended meaning for háptomai is to “know carnally” or have sexual contact with a woman. Thus, some modern Bible translations actually translate háptomrai as “sexual relations,” which is a correct interpretation.
In like manner Christ here does not condemn judging as a court judge, for that, when done according to justice, is lawful and necessary. Nor does He condemn our “forming an opinion” of the conduct of others, for it is impossible not to form an opinion of someone manifesting immoral behavior or other deeds we know to be evil. Certainly we can call sin to be sin. Rather, Christ is referring to the habit of forming a judgment hastily, and without considering mitigating circumstances in the action of others. Like the man driving by a farm noticing the old farmer sitting in a chair while hoeing his garden. His initial thought is, “how lazy that man is for sitting while working.” However, at second glance he noticed the man not to have a leg, thus immediately changing his opinion. Thus one should not make an opinionated judgment rather than a “judicial” judgment based upon documented sinful behavior. In like manner, If I were to say that “religion” is not God’s highest for man, someone might accuse me of bad doctrine without hearing the fullness of the message that salvation is an inward matter of the heart and not simply an outward doing of religious practices.
Jesus would have His followers avoid a great error which is common in not only our secular lives but in our church life as well—the habit of being inclined to find fault with, or to be harshly critical of others. It remains true that an obvious display of bad behavior or bad doctrine may not only be judged, rebuked and condemned, but even the motive for such actions should be exposed and dealt with by the Church. All too often to act in such critical manner is based upon incorrect assumptions about the actions of others. As someone has once said, “The only exercise some Christians get is jumping to conclusions and running down others.”
Perhaps Jesus was cautioning against condemnation as well, where condemnation takes judgment one step further, and that is not only to find fault but punishment is attached to it. Paul was bold enough not only to judge a young man’s behavior but to condemn him as well.
“It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife! And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you. For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” 1 Cor. 5.1-5
The following scripture was recently brought up at an elders meeting,
“Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.” 1 Cor.4.5
This verifies the fact that God is ultimately the only true judge of all, seeing that the judgment of all things done openly and in secret, belongs to God. And regarding, judge nothing before the time, refers to the determined hour, the time God has set to judge all things. It is no secret, the hour may not be known, but it is in the day of the Lord, at His return, when He will gather all believers together in the great resurrection of the dead. There will be a new heaven and earth upon which to dwell in righteousness. God will judge the men of the world for their deeds, and for the Church, it is written:
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” 2 Cor. 5.10
Knowing the Divine righteous judgment to come, to stand before the Lord and give account of our lives, we must covet the judgment of the Church today, in this life, that we may repent of unrighteousness in deeds and character and to live a life pleasing to our Lord and God. Personally, my life is an open book, to be judged even to the extent of exposing the hidden matters of my heart, those deeply rooted ill character and improper motives that has tainted my soul and are found offensive to the Lord. I often pray this as I partake of communion, that the blood of Christ continues its cleaning in the recesses of my soul.
It is no little matter, this judgment. Unrighteous manifestations are easily observed, they stand out like a bright red pants suit at a funeral. The unseen, the motives, the intent of the heart is often more difficult to know, often requiring discernment.
“But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” Heb, 5.14
“But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Cor. 2.14
The Greek word discernment in these scriptures is anakrino; a combination of krino (previously discussed as “judging/separating”), but now with the prefix ana (“up”) added; this shows the process of discernment takes judging up to its needed conclusion. It is a more thorough judging, in this case involving inspiration by the Holy Spirit. Insight and discernment are two of the senses of the spirit. This means that the natural man is limited to his intellect, emotions, and physical senses and therefore is not equipped to discern the weightier matters of judgment, for they are spiritually discerned.
For the matter of protecting and preserving the Church, God often gives discernment to some to judge the malice in hearts or motives in behavior. For example, it was in the late hours I sat with two other men discussing matters of proper conduct. Albert, a spiritual father to me, said to the other man, “you are a practicing homosexual,” to which the man denied it. Albert then said, “you are also a liar, as a lying spirit accompanies such behavior.” The man was asked to leave the fellowship until such a time of true repentance. The man later admitted he was a practicing homosexual, a spirit of which he brought into the fellowship of believers. You see, these evil spirits cling to him and go with him wherever he goes; as it is written, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” 1 Pet. 5.8 During a previous meeting I stood next to this man in worship and prayer. I sensed something strange in the spirit, but I did not have the necessary discernment. Thankfully, Albert did, not only in this instance but in others as well.
Proper discernment must override emotions. Feeling good, feeling bad, feeling sorrow, feeling pity, all have nothing to do with it. These are soulish distractions of the natural man. This is a matter of Godly judicial judgment—guilty or not guilty from the divine perspective is the only issue. Yes, God loves everyone but He also hates sin, hates the hypocrite, hates the liar and deceiver, hates the perversion of the Gospel, and hates the wolf in sheep’s clothing. These must be dealt with objectively and judicially.
The Church must be safe-guarded at all cost. Pray that you may correctly discern: truth verses false doctrine; the outward personality verses inward character; sin verses cultural offenses; and true ministries and servants of the Lord verses self-appointed ministries. In the mouth of two or three witnesses, avoiding gossip at any cost, driven firstly by the love of the brethren then by the love for the individual—we must guard the flock at all costs. We cannot make false assumptions or accusations nor can we let fear of rebuttal or hurting feelings enter into the judgment process.
Judgment and Condemnation
Judgment and condemnation has assignment of guilt and punishment attached to it; there is no wriggle room, no space to grow and change, but there are only the consequences for unrighteous actions. The worldly element in the Church is reluctant to take such actions, especially of any modernist or postmodernist persuasions. The Church must be guarded from adversity and from welcoming into its midst sin of any sort or degree, bad or false doctrine, or illicit ministries who are wolves in sheep clothing whose intent are for selfish gain and injury to the Church empowered by the evil one.
Paul’s charge to the elders in the Church of Ephesus,
“Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” Acts.20.28
The primary focus of all Church leadership, all those who are called of God to “shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood,” is to protect, feed, and guide the flock. Peter states it simply,
“But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.” 1 Pet. 5.10
For this to happen, evil influences, sinful behavior, false prophets and teachers, and corrupt doctrine must be judged and condemned by the Church.
Judgment Must Be within the Church
There is a place for judgment. Peter is specific,
“For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” 1 Pet 4.17
And Paul also exhorted the Church as to the importance of judging,
“Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters?” I Cor. 6.2
So judgment is not only permitted by the apostles, but is encouraged to be dutifully performed in the Church. To be done in the spirit of love does not mean to be tolerant and overlooking with some sort of false compassion, but for the love and well-being of the brethren, be bold in doing what must be done for the sake of the Church, purchased in His own blood.
Read the following exhortation of Paul to the Church of Corinth,
‘I wrote you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people. I was not including the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you not to associate with anyone who claims to be a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a verbal abuser, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business of mine is it to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.” 1 Cor. 5. 9-13
This is not just a matter of encouragement by the apostle, but a most serious command to safeguard the Church from evil spirits, examples of evil behavior, bad doctrine, and false teachers and prophets by judging and, if need be, condemning. To tolerate such things is to encourage it and assist in promoting it—one actually becomes complicit with the offence.
A warning example of withholding judgment is set before us in the Old Testament,
“As for you, O son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word from My mouth and give them the warning from Me. If I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ but you do not speak out to dissuade him from his way, then that wicked man will die in his iniquity, yet I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you warn the wicked man to turn from his way, and he does not turn from it, he will die in his iniquity, but you will have saved your life.” Ez. 33.7-9
If this is such in the Old Covenant under the Law, how much more so is it today of the New Covenant in Christ where matters of life and death are spiritual, eternal, and affecting the well-being of the soul in this day and even in the age to come.
“Do not judge, or you will be judged. For with the same judgment you pronounce, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Mt. 7.1-2
Do not fear this verse but welcome its admonition and exhortation! If I judge righteously then I welcome righteous judgment in my life even to the dealing with matters unknown or suppressed to my conscious mind. How often we are blind to our own faults. This word of caution emphasizes the need for scrutiny, prayer, discernment, and collaboration (in the testimony of two or three witnesses.” (Mt. 18.16, 1 Tim. 5.19, 2 Cor. 13.1)
If righteousness is true north, any deviation from that causes one to miss the mark. The “1 in 60 rule” for pilots and navigators means that if your direction of flight is only 1 degree off, and you fly 60 miles, you will miss your destination by a whole mile. Just imagine a much a longer flight from New York to London; it will be off course by 58 miles (93 Km.) Spiritually, this is called “missing the mark” of righteousness. This may well mean we might end up at a point in our spiritual walk we never intended. This may be worked out with proper judgment and adjustments, else it may trigger regrets.
It is the responsibility of the Holy Spirit to bring correction to any deviation in the flight direction of the Christian and the Church. Working in and through the watchmen, the elders and spiritually mature He corrects the path of the Church to its true north, righteousness. And, also working by these and by the Holy Spirit within, He brings correction into the life of the believer. He does so with the love of God and making Godly judgment.