Thursday, July 27, 2017

A Post-Faithful Report from Lipscomb University - #2

Report & Analysis

28 July 2017 - Gospel Call Media - (Charlotte, NC) - Last month in Nashville, TN on the campus of Lipscomb University there was a pro-denominational gathering known as InterGenerate 2017 (TM).  It was a purposeful, proactive, and plotted yoking of the universities "Institute for Christian Spirituality" with the radically pro-sectarian organization known as GenOn Ministries (TM).  The director of this conference herself, Dr. Holly Allen of Lipscomb University, disclosed in my hearing that the entire conference was made possible by a $5,000.00 grant from the president of Lipscomb University, Dr. L. Randolph Lowry.(1)

This reporter was there.  I was determined to hear with my own ears any evidence of movement away from the "faith once for all delivered to the saints" at Lipscomb University.  What I heard was far worse than my greatest fears.  Though there are many faithful faculty, staff, and students remaining at Lipscomb, the leadership of the Bible Department has gone "retro."  What I heard has more in common with 2nd century Gnosticism than it does the the "pattern of sound words."

The conference essentially is attempting to replace, not only the essence of the gospel, (2) it seeks to aggressively change how that gospel is conveyed.  Paul asserts in Romans 10.17 that "faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God."  The eunuch in Acts 8, when asked if he understood what he was reading, replied; "How can I, except some man should guide me?"  The spoken and heard Word of God is the chosen conveyance of God.  It has not changed.  Sadly, this conference is interested in every form of communication EXCEPT biblical preaching for "ears that hear."  Among a number of un-biblical portals, I heard conference presenters advocate uber interactivity, the use of children in worship services, and drawing out of prayers with crayons for adults.  It was like being at a "magical mystery tour" of extreme spiritual experimentation.

Sadly, Origen, Augustine, and Aquinas would have been far more comfortable at this conference than would have Peter, Paul, and John.  In the 2nd century the Gnostic's claimed both an exclusive and higher knowledge than that which was common to ordinary Christians. Now, as then, those who see themselves as the "best and the brightest of all time," have a "buzz word" language to confuse traditional and understood meanings so as to "sound" faithful as they attempt to force the "car over the cliff."  Here is a list of novis-Gnostic words and terms I heard (along with definitions) (3) while at the conference.  (I'm sure there were others, these are the ones I caught.)


  • "Cross-denominational" - The transference of truth across conflicting denominational lines without objection.
  • "Spiritual" - Feelings of religion in lieu of trust, obedience, and faithfulness.
  • "Intra-denominational" - Conflicting doctrines within a singular denomination.
  • "Multi-denominational" - All denominations are equally viable, one is good as another, truth is in multiples and not in singularity.
  • "Traditions" - In lieu of the Bible, this is where conflicting denominations justify their existence.  All "traditions" are all equally worthy.
  • "Faith Formation / Spiritual Formation" - Takes the place of obedience to the gospel, an evolution and not an event.  As you may have heard; "Faith is a journey, not a destination." (4)
  • "Historical Roots" - The foundation of conflicting denominations is rooted in history and not upon the Bible.  The novis-Gnostic's reject the existence of singular, revealed, inerrant, and inspired truth.
  • "Explosive Free Range Worship" - The 21st century version of the "silence of the Scriptures" is a license for never ending progression away from revelation.  ("We can do anything we want as long as the Bible doesn't expressly forbid it.")
  • "Accommodation" - The act of dumbing down worship, preaching, and teaching to the lowest common denominator,  i.e.don't put anything over a 4th grade level.  This is also known as "Changing forms to suit the capacity."
  • "Paradigm" - That which comes from the past and must be discarded at all costs.  All things from the past are counter-evolutionary and therefore must be considered useless.
  • "Story" - A term that is associated with fiction that is applied to all the historical accounts found in the Bible.
  • "Testimony" - "My story" trumps revealed Scripture.  What I feel is more important than what I can learn from the Scriptures.
  • "Practical Theology" - The pragmatic tail that wags the theological dog.  What works is more important that what is revealed.
  • "Pragmatic Academic" - Outcome based educator who practices "practical theology."
  • "Narrative of Scripture" - The Bible is a story from Genesis to Revelation devoid of interpretation of the Holy Spirit, devoid of dispensation, and testament. It overtly rejects the concept of II Timothy 3.16 - 17.
  • "Re-clothing Communion" - The radical change of the Lord's Supper to include, integrate and accommodate the mindset of very young children. 
  • "Collaborative Theology" - In lieu of studying the Scriptures, this is the blending of many conflicting doctrines so as to render them all devoid of conviction.  For years this has been also known as the "unity in diversity movement."  It is based upon human wisdom and ignores the Scripture entirely.
  • "Tribe" - A term used for referring to people of conviction as being somehow backward for the faithfulness to revelation.  When one admits to belonging to a "tribe" one can then "admit" that there are "Christians" in all "churches."  


These are "smooth words" and we must be wary of them!

Remember Isaiah 30.10b: "Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits:"

[Lord willing, this will be an on-going series.  The next report will deal with the theological assumptions of Dr. Leonard Allen who is the head of the Bible Department at Lipscomb University and is married to the conference chairman, Dr. Holly Allen.] - RM

NOTES:
(1) These facts were all verified in detail in our first report 13 July 2017 and available on this same blog.
(2) There were many denominations in attendance, all advocating "different gospels."  There were Presbyterians, Lutherans, Catholics, Disciples of Christ, Anglicans, Episcopalians, et. al.  The theme, stated numerous times and numerous ways was, "truth is relative, it is multiple, ever changing, evolving, emerging, and is individually defined."  The only truth I did not hear was that "truth is revealed, unchanging, singular, and is not individually defined."
(3) The definitions are mine based upon how these words / terms / phrases were used at the conference in my hearing. As there is no such thing as a "New-Gnostic" dictionary, I WELCOME your better definitions that I can use to update any mis-definition on my part!
(4) The radically emergent ETHOS CHURCH in Nashville, where Dr.'s Leonard & Holly Allen attend brags about having an atheist leading a mission team to Kenya a couple of years ago!  You see, he's on a "journey" to faith and his "journey" is just beginning.  (Verifiable on the 3rd session of Leonard Allen at the 2016 Pepperdine Lectures, if you care to look it up.  It's on YouTube.)

Thursday, July 13, 2017

A Post-Faithful Report from Lipscomb University #1

13 July 2017 - Gospel Call Media - (Charlotte, NC) - I heard it with my own ears in person.  The InterGenerate 2017 (TM) conference was held on the campus of Lipscomb University, Nashville, TN and I was there June 25 - 27, 2017.  Not wanting to print "hear-say," I was there in person with reporters pencil in hand.  The purpose for going?  To verify one way or the other whether the university which claims to be "affiliated with the churches of Christ,"(1) continues to adhere to the "apostles doctrine" or not.  This is why I was there.  To claim "affiliation" without "faithfulness to the apostles doctrine" is simply existential, chaotic, and contradictory nonsense.  Sadly, from what I heard from the very opening of the conference, the answer is "no," Lipscomb is no longer faithful to what she once was.

From the very moment I arrived, I was perplexed.  I found not a single confessing member of the church of Christ on the program.  Other than brother and sister Ireland from my home congregation (present with me the first night of the conference), I did not meet even a single confessing member of the Lord's church among the 150 attending.  Most disturbing of all, we were the only ones present with Bibles.  The last two days of the conference, as far as I could comprehend, I alone came with a copy of God's Word.

The conference was a collaborative effort between the universities "Institute for Christian Spirituality" (2) and the openly pro-denominational GenOn Ministries (TM) organization. (3)  The purpose of this first ever InterGenerate Conference (TM) was to promote the bridging of generational gaps as a primary tool for more effective church growth, regardless of denominational affiliation.    

This pro-denominational / inter-denominational conference being at Lipscomb University was no accident nor was it incidental.  In fact the conference was orchestrated by Lipscomb faculty member Dr. Holly Allen (4) and overtly funded by a $5,000.00 grant from the institutions president, Dr. L. Randolph Lowry. (5) (6)  Despite the inspired apostle Paul's clear warning against "unequal yoking" in II Corinthians 6.11 - 7.1, Lipscomb University, Dr. Allen, Dr. Lowry, et al have unequally yoked themselves with the non-Christians (7) of GenOn Ministries (TM). to openly endorse and promote sectarian division.

Even more disturbing than the open acceptance of religious division, Dr. Allen on at least 3 occasions that I heard during the introduction focused, reiterated, and insisted upon the "multi denominational" and "inter-denominational" emphasis of the conference in a most overt way. (8)  Most upsetting of all, though, was the comments made by Dr. Holly's husband, Dr. Leonard Allen. (9)  He welcomed the approximately 150 participants on behalf of the university.  As the head of the Bible Department at Lipscomb he told the assembled denominationalists that the university was "affiliated with churches of Christ" which is one of three "denominations" that came out of the 19th century so-called "Stone-Campbell" movement.  In my hearing Dr. Leonard Allen purposely and overtly asserted that the Lord's Church was nothing more and nothing less than just another denomination. (10)  By so doing he surrendered ground to error and declined to share the one true gospel with those who are lost.  Of course, had both the Allen's stood up for the truth, the conference would not have been possible or even conceived of.

There are individuals at Lipscomb University that remain faithful but they are not in the Bible department. We must pray for their continued faithfulness.  We must also pray that faithful Christians, especially in Nashville, will warn others of this departure lest they come through many a "Jude's side door." (Jude 1.4)  This reporter will follow with more reports from Lipscomb University detailing their collective departure from the faith "once for all delivered to the saints." 

NOTES:

(1) http://www.lipscomb.edu/about/fast-facts
(2) http://www.lipscomb.edu/ics
(3) https://www.genonministries.org/blogs/blog/intergenerate-reflections (This links to a blushing pro denominational blog post about the conference)
(4) http://www.lipscomb.edu/news/filter/item/0/31716 (The very pro-denominational nature of this conference is admitted here on Lipscomb's own website.  Biographical info on Dr. Allen is included in the post)
(5) Per comments made by Dr. Holly Allen as she introduced the conference on the evening of 25 June 2017
(6) Bio on Pres. Lowry: https://www.lipscomb.edu/president/biography
(7) [In the New Testament sense of the word - no participating denominations present preach and teach that one must "repent and be baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins"]
(8) Per comments made by Dr. Holly Allen as she introduced the conference on the evening of 25 June 2017.  Interestingly, even though that both she and her husband both having backgrounds in the church of Christ, neither her or her husband acknowledged this fact at any time during the conference in my hearing.  All the other participants affiliation with sectarian denominations were clearly noted.  According to comments made at the 2016 Pepperdine Lectures, Dr. Leonard Allen, Dr. Holly Allen's husband, openly admitted to their attending the radically emergent ETHOS CHURCH (http://www.ethoschurch.org/) in downtown Nashville, TN.
(9) Bio on Dr. Leonard Allen: http://www.lipscomb.edu/www/bio/detail/1248
(10) Per comments made by Dr. Leonard Allen as he welcomed the conference participants to Lipscomb University on the evening of 25 June 2017.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Press Release from Russ McCullough


Carolina Author Announces “Emerging Church” Book Release

Charlotte, NC, November 4, 2013:  The ground breaking theological/investigative work, EMERGING TOWARDS APOSTASY, is now published through Trafford Publishing ® and is available at:
 
 
Additional outlets will soon follow.

This work serves as a first of its kind handbook on changes driving the massive theological departures within surrendering churches of Christ regarding salvation, worship & leadership.

ETA explores how the allegories of Origen, the imagination of Thomas Aquinas and the “evolutionary truth” of Brian McLaren are driving deconstructive change within the Lord’s church.  These “deconstructions” have come about primarily by an embrace of post-modern/existential philosophy, so-called “evangelicalism” and an elevation of patristical writings to near Scripture status by those obsessed by change.  Classes, lectures and presentations are available from the author. -END-

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Glorious Land!

America is the most unique nation on earth, being the only nation ever formed on biblical principles.  The framers asserted that the rights to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (what they understood as property)" descended, not from government (other men), but from God Himself...rights that cannot be denied, biblically, by any man.   Peter speaks of "honoring the king as supreme" in I Peter 2.13 - 17.  Who is our king?  In America the king is not a man, it is America's collective political assertion...the Constitution.  We are a nation, "not of men but of laws."  Our oaths promise loyalty to the Constitution, not to the President and not to the Congress. 

The Founders were collectively the most biblically astute political body ever assembled.  They knew their Bibles far better than most preachers of today.  They knew how God had founded the nation state of Israel.  They knew that in God's political framework life was precious as it was created by God "in His image."  They knew God founded Israel upon "the one true religion" which gave man that which he yearns for the most...liberty.  Finally, they knew that God made ownership of property the central pillar of the economy of "the glorious land."  Every family was given a parcel of land to have, hold and to retain in one's family all the generations.  Even if by mismanagement or neglect, every 50 years the land would revert back to it's original owners in what the Bible calls the "year of jubilee."  Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness are central God given rights in the Declaration as they were to "the glorious land!"
 
The Declaration declared to the world our God given right to self government.  The Declaration acknowledges the separation from England by England.  Yes, there was "revolution" and "rebellion" in 1776.   It was the king and his ministers who rebelled and revolted against the English Constitution, not the colonials.  America's un-heeded plea was that the king and his government return to the covenant.  The break between us was acknowledged by us but caused by and confirmed by the English covenant breakers in London.
 
The American Constitution was the implementation of our rights to self-government under God and none other. 
 
Unfortunately our current troubles regarding immorality, violence, bigotry, religion and un-belief are in direct correlation to our abandonment to the God of Heavens directives.  The more evil we become, the further from God...and the Constitution...we drift.  Unless we repent, the "glorious land" [Daniel's phrase for Israel] will fall to a "Babylon" raised up by God to discipline us, and perhaps, destroy us.  
 

What to do?  "Preach the gospel in season and out of season."  Who, friend, can do this?  Only one entity is given the "ministry of reconciliation," the church of Christ!  It is up to the church of Christ, and she alone, to "stand in the gap" for the Glorious Land we call America.  Should "the Bride of Christ" become unfaithful, the wrath of God will surely come down upon our land.   Why did the God of Heaven raise up this "glorious land" in the New World?  Why did He providentially work through the Founding Fathers?  The answer is breathtaking!

 

It is fundamental to note that the NT word "liberty" used by the Founders in the Declaration is taken from Jesus Himself in describing His mission on earth.  We read in Luke 4.17 - 21: 
And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent ne to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,  To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.  And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down.  And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.  And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. (1) 
 
The words "deliverance" and "liberty" are both translated from the same Greek word aphesis, meaning, according to Strong's,  "...pardon, deliverance, forgiveness, remission.." 
Was America founded as a vehicle for the preaching of remission of sins?  The case is strong! 

The Founders knew that political freedom depended totally upon spiritual freedom.  Adam's said it best, "...ours is a system of government suited for a moral and religious people...and no other." 
 
Our survival as a people depends solely upon the faithfulness of the church of Christ to the Great Commission, loving God with all our hearts, minds and souls and loving our neighbors as ourselves.  God bless America, the Glorious Land! 
 
(1) KJV via http://e-sword.com
Photo Credit: http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com.  The Founding Fathers sculpture at the National Constitutional Hall in Philadelphia via Yahoo! Pictures

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

12 Polemicists of the New and Old Testaments


“Those who stand for nothing will fall for anything.”

– Alexander Hamilton

A debate is an examination of the perceived benefits of one opinion as opposed to another.  At the end of a debate there is often a common ground established between the opposing parties forming a framework for a final consensus.  A good illustration of a debate is a legislative process known as reconciliation.  The Senate has a bill as well as the House.  Reconciliation finds common ground that becomes the final bill.  Everyone “wins” and everyone “loses.”  Think of a debate as “verbal negotiation” where both parties surrender some ground to the other party in order to achieve a common goal.  The result?  Two winners, no losers.

On the other hand, a polemic is a verbal contest of one conviction versus another.  There are no compromises, winner takes all.  Wikipedia defines “polemic” thusly; “…a polemic is intended only to establish the truth of a point of view while refuting the opposing point of view.”  Think of a polemic as “verbal combat” that “takes no prisoners.”  The result?  Victor and vanquished.  In fact, the word “polemic” comes from the Greek word polemos meaning “war.”  According to Merriam Webster on line dictionary the first known use of the word “polemic” is traced to 1638.  Wikipedia asserts that “polemic” did not come into common usage until 1815 – 1820.  It’s use was not common early on as it is not listed in Webster’s 1828.

In our day and time, the clear difference between debate and polemics is blurred nearly to extinction.  Our post-modern existential culture, not recognizing truth of any kind, asserts that there is no such thing as a “conviction,” there is only the ever changing opinion.  Increasingly those holding true convictions, the polemics among us if you please, are seen as “narrow minded,” “judgmental,” “bigoted” and “hateful.”  To espouse any kind of “absolute” assaults the primary “virtue” of our culture…”tolerance.”

Spiritually speaking, even a casual examination of the Bible reveals a multitude of polemic episodes from Genesis to Revelation!  The first polemic contest in the Bible takes place while Adam and Eve are still in the garden, though not for long.

 

God: “...thou shalt surely die!”

Satan: “…thou shalt NOT surely die!”[1]

 

God took no prisoners, as the polemic promise of Christ striking Satan’s head took place on Resurrection Morning!  Nearly every page of the Bible is polemic in nature.  Good vs. evil, light vs. darkness, bitter vs. sweet, truth vs. falsehood, obedience vs. rebellion, faith vs. unbelief.  Many scriptures set the Christians polemic paradigm but two are prominent, II Corinthians 6.14 – 18 and I Peter 3.13 – 16.  In the II Corinthians passage Paul sets the polemic stage in the most stark contrast possible in the rhetorical question format. Peter pulls out his “metaphorical sword” and challenges us all to be ready for the polemic contest.  For those inclined to “tolerance,” “coexistence,” “opinion” and “accommodation,” the Bible will prove unsettling.  If one finds polemics uncomfortable, one will certainly find the Bible even more disturbing.  Polemicists abound in God’s Word!   Let’s examine 12 of the Bibles most prominent polemicists:

1.   CHRIST – Our Lord and Savior uttered the most polemic statement of all time: “I am THE way, THE truth and THE life.  NO MAN comes to the Father EXCEPT by me!” – John 14.6

2.   PAUL – Paul had polemic encounters nearly everywhere he went: “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent…” – Acts 17.30

3.   JOHN THE BAPTIST – The tenacity of John was admired by Christ as he truly was a polemicist “faithful unto death.” – “…Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” – Matthew 14.3 – 4

4.   PETER & JOHN – After being threatened by the Sanhedrin for speaking in Jesus’ Name, Peter and John offer up a polemic remembered by many even today: “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” – Acts 4.12

5.   STEPHEN – Having been arrested for speaking in the Forbidden Name, Stephen issues a polemic challenge to the Sanhedrin: “You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did.  Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute?  They killed those who previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it.” – Acts 7.51 – 53

6.   JEREMIAH – The “Weeping Prophet” never converted anyone but his polemics are still honored by God’s people.  He stood up to the king and his entire nation issuing one polemic challenge after another.  “Thus says the Lord, “Behold, I am giving this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he will burn it with fire.  You will not escape from his hand, for you will surely be captured and delivered into his hand; and you will see the king of Babylon eye to eye, and he will speak to you face to face, and you will go to Babylon.’” - Jeremiah 34.2b – 3

7.   MOSES – The polemic war between Moses and Pharaoh is iconic.  Who could ever forget; “The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, sent me to you, saying, “Let my people go, that they may serve me in the wilderness.  But behold, you have not listened until now.” - Exodus 7.16

8.   ELIJAH – As polemics go, no confrontation between good and evil is more poignant than the face off on top of Mt. Carmel between Elijah and the 450 prophets of Baal! – Observe  his polemic public prayer shouted out loud for all to hear; “O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and I have done all these things at Your word.  Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that You, O Lord, are God , and that You have turned their heart back again.” - I Kings 18.36 – 40

9.   SHADRACH, MESHACH & ABEDNEGO – It was like a spiritual “shoot out at the O.K. Coral.”  With a backdrop of the “Fiery Furnace,” Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego drew a line in the sand for King Nebuchadnezzar, the most powerful man in the world: “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter.  If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.  But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” – Daniel 3.16b - 18

10.               JOSHUA & CALEB – Jesus enjoins us all to remain “faithful unto death.”  When Joshua and Caleb were faced with death by stoning they continued to lay down their polemic challenge to the rebellious Israelis; “The land which we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land.  If the Lord is pleased with us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us – a land which flows with milk and honey.  Only do not rebel against the Lord; and do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey.  Their protection has been removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.” Numbers 14.1 - 10

11.               SAMUEL – One man of God transitioned Israel from foreign subjection to the dawn of power and prosperity.  The first king of Israel, Saul, turned out to be a rebellious apostate requiring Samuel to polemically challenge him.  “Is it not true, though you were little in your own eyes, you were made the head of the tribes of Israel?  And the Lord anointed you king over Israel, and the Lord sent you on a mission and said, ‘Go and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are exterminated.’  Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord, but rushed upon the spoil and did what was evil in the sight of the Lord?” - I Samuel 15.17 – 19

12.               NATHAN – One can imagine just how difficult a polemic is when    the opposition is a good friend and brother.  Such was the case with Nathan the prophet.  He was the personal prophet and confidant of his good friend, King David.  Despite his personal feelings towards the king, Nathan does not shirk from his polemic responsibilities.  "You are the man! Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, 'I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul.  And I gave you your master's house and your master's wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more.  Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.  Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.'  Thus says the LORD, 'Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun.  For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.'"  - I Samuel 12.1 – 14

 

Thank God He speaks to us through His word polemically, candidly, forthrightly and clearly!  We are challenged by Him to speak the same way to those who are outside of Gods will for “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God!”   May those hearers have “ears to hear” the polemics of God.

 

-      Russ McCullough / 9 April 2013



[1] All Scripture references are from either the King James, English Standard or New American Standard versions.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Worshipping the King - NOT a "Do It Yourself Project!"


In our study of NT worship reflecting on the TRUTH side of our Lord’s admonition to “worship God in spirit and in truth,” we concern ourselves, not only with what is true worship, but with that which is not.  The Bible calls this kind of false worship “will worship.”

During the last several weeks we have focused on congregant prayer, the reading of God’s word in public, the proclamation of God’s Word and “laying by in store” of our prosperity every Lord’s Day.  Lord willing we will examine congregational singing and the observance of the Lord’s Supper the next    two Lord’s Days.  We should emulate the apostle John in Rev. 1.9 – 11 and “be in the spirit on the Lord’s Day.”

Please, please be aware that the things spoken here are spoken in a spirit of love and caring for the souls of those that hear.  Our goal is not to condemn but to “speak as the oracles of God, neither adding to nor taking away” from the revelation that is the New Testament.  Paul speaks about these matters extensively in Colossians 2.16 – 23.

The pattern of sound doctrine was threatened at the church of Christ in Colossae.  Colossae was one of 3 cities in proximity in central Asia, close to both Hierapolis and Laodicea in the Lycus River Valley about 100 miles east of Ephesus.

Colossae was an older city already in decline at the time of Paul’s writing.  Its founding date is unknown but it dates back until at least the time of Xerxes, the king who married Esther.  Colossae would disappear from history in another 2 centuries or so after Paul’s writing.

As far as we know, Paul never visited Colossae but he took great interest in the congregation there for he knew and admired a man of the Colossae church of Christ – Epaphras.  It is likely that he was taught the gospel during Paul’s 2 year stay in Ephesus.  Epaphras raised serious concerns about how the worship of the congregation was emerging into at least 6 distinct heresies, the worship of angels, asceticism, the reliance upon “visions” over revelation, the embrace of philosophy over truth, rejection of  the Headship of Christ and the reliance upon Jewish traditions, especially feast days and the practice of circumcision.   These 6 heresies prototyped 2nd century Gnostic heresy and 4th century (and on) Roman Catholic heresy.  As the Colossae congregation was a mixture of both pagan and Jewish backgrounds, the Colossian heresy emerges with components from each camp.  Gnosticism had characteristics of both in the 2nd century.  When Roman Catholic apostasy came to the forefront it, too, was a mixture of both pagan and Jewish influences.

Colossae Heresy:                                  Roman Heresy:

*Worship of angels                                *Worship of “saints”

*Asceticism                                            *Denial of the flesh in regards

                                                              to marriage and eating of

                                                              meats.

*Visions over revelation                         *Allegorical interpretation of

                                                              the Scriptures as dictated by

                                                              the church

*Philosophy over Truth                           *The Magisterium

*Rejection of the Headship                      *The elevation of the Bishop

  Christ                                                    of Rome as the so-called

                                                               “Vicar of Christ”

*Embrace of Jewish tradition                   *Embrace of church tradition

  over revelation                                       over revelation

 

The simultaneous emergence of these 6 heresies all spring from a mindset that Paul calls “will worship” translated from the compound Greek word, ethleo - threskeia  (Lit. “To will – religion.”)  It is a word not used in the New Testament anywhere else and may have been used for the first time ever by Paul to describe the magnitude of the potential problem. 

 Here’s how Thayer and Robinson define ethleothreskeia:

Thayer – “…worship which one prescribes and devises for himself, contrary to (revelation) …arbitrary (random) worship.”

Robinson – “..worship in which one goes beyond what God requires without…command.  It is the religion of self-will, the establish(ment) of (man’s) own ceremonial rites.” 

Paul makes quite the point in I Corinthians 10.1 – 12 that the Old Testament, though not written TO us, was very much written FOR us for example, instruction and warning.  What are, then, some OT examples of “will worship” that were written for our example, instruction and warning?

The first example we have of “will worship” in the OT is the account of Cain.  Cain presumed that he could substitute his preferred sacrifice for the sacrifice of command and that this substitute sacrifice would still be pleasing to God.  Wrong!  Cain’s sacrifice…his “will worship” if you please…was rejected totally by God.

Secondly, we have the account of Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10.1 – 3.  The Scripture says that these two were destroyed by fire because they presumed to offer “strange” fire before God.  The word translated “strange” in the KJV is from the Hebrew word “zur.”  Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Definitions says that this word means, among other things, “another…foreign…enemy…loathsome…alien…”  Essentially, these two men offered “another fire,” “a foreign fire,” “an enemy fire,” “a loathsome fire,” and an “alien fire.”  The ESV renders zur accurately as “unauthorized fire.”  “Will worship” is any worship un-authorized by God.

Our third example of “will worship” in the OT is found in I Samuel 13.8 – 14.  Here we find King Saul operating, again, in a presumptive direction.  He co-opted the rightful role of both priest and prophet to offer a burnt offering to God in an appeal to the Almighty for blessing the army of Israel in an upcoming battle with the Philistines.  As before, Saul’s actions were un-authorized and outside of God’s will.

We could cite many other examples but for our last one today is one found in II Chronicles 26.16 – 21.  Here King Uzziah, it is said, that "...when he was strong, he grew proud to his own destruction..." (ESV)  The king presumed to "will worship" by offering incense in the Temple of God though he was not a Levite.     As a result, the king was a leper the rest of his life.  

The explosive use of “will worship” among denominations is everywhere around us.  The recent coronation of the so-called “pope” of Rome is “will worship” from beginning to end.  One denominational church on Sardis Road in Charlotte often advertises their so-called “Taize” services that include “candles, chants and silence.”[1]  A “Taize” service is 100% “will worship” for it is un-authorized in the NT.  “Will worship” is not found just in sectarian worship but sadly in the Lord’s church as well.

Examples of “will worship” among churches of Christ today:

  • Unauthorized use of the instrument
  • Unauthorized vocal mocking of instruments
  • Unauthorized drama as part of public worship
  • Unauthorized Saturday night communion services
  • Unauthorized use of women leading in various acts of public worship
  • Unauthorized special Christmas, Lent and Easter services

In Colossians 2.23 Paul refers to these matters as “will worship.”  The NASB accurately renders “will worship” as “self made religion.”  Enough said!  Worship is NOT a “do it yourself project!”

 

 

 

 

 

 





[1] A “Taize” service is part of the so-called “Taize Community” founded in 1940 in Burgundy, France by a Protestant cleric by the name of Roger Schultz.  The communities guidelines were written in 1954 by Schultz and called The Rule of Taize.  The Taize Community is an ecumenical Protestant / Catholic / Other Traditions effort.  Adherents are directed to live their lives with “kindness, simplicity and reconciliation.”  Source: Wikipedia / Taize Community.