Thoughts from the Christian perspective: discernment issues as they relate to the current state of the church and society.
We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer
One of my favorite hymns is Isaac Watts’ When I Survey the Wondrous Cross when sung to Lowell Mason’s tune “Hamburg.” But as with other great old hymns, such as Amazing Grace twisted into Grace Like Rain, this wonderful hymn is being used for a song called The Wonderful Cross.
One thing both these new uses of old hymns do is remove very important verses with their solid doctrinal statements and replace them with trite choruses to be sung over and over. I don’t understand why contemporary “artists” can’t just come up with their own songs instead of mangling old ones, except for perhaps it’s an easy way to make another buck without having any talent for hymn-writing.
I have to admit that, unlike Grace Like Rain which removes the very memorable tune of Amazing Grace and replaces it with a horrible, tuneless dirge, The Wonderful Cross at least keeps “Hamburg” as the tune for the verses.
Unfortunately, these gross misuses of old hymns don’t stay on the CDs or radio - the church has decided to adopt them as part of their worship services. It seems to be all about pleasing the rock and roll crowd with their emotional need for 7/24 choruses (7 words sung 24 times).
Well, here is Isaac Watts’ When I Survey the Wondrous Cross as normally printed in hymnals, with that second verse which is deleted from the contemporary model. Let’s go back to this in our worship services, and leave The Wonderful Cross version for the kids and their iPods.
When I survey the wondrous cross
on which the Prince of Glory died;
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
save in the death of Christ, my God;
all the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to his blood.
See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
or thorns compose so rich a crown.
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were an offering far too small;
love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.
[For the purists, there is a 4th stanza before the last one which I have never seen in a hymnal, although it wouldn’t hurt to add it:
His dying crimson, like a robe,
Spreads o'er His body on the tree;
Then I am dead to all the globe,
And all the globe is dead to me]
It is an adage in the military that you need to know your enemy in order to fight him. It really is the same in Christian apologetics; if you don’t know what the heretics are teaching, then it is difficult to teach against them and win people to the truth. I just finished reading Irenaeus’ Against Heresies, and he had this to say in his preface of Book IV:
The man, however, who would undertake their [heretics] conversion, must possess an accurate knowledge of their systems or schemes of doctrine. For it is impossible for any one to heal the sick, if he has no knowledge of the disease of the patients.
Reading 1 Timothy 4 today along with William MacDonald’s Believer’s Bible Commentary, I came across this thought-provoking comment:
The word hypocrisy suggests “wearing a mask.” How typical this is of the false cultists! They try to hide their true identity. They do not want people to know the system with which they are identified. They masquerade by using Bible terms and singing Christian hymns. Not only are they hypocrites, but they are liars as well. Their teaching is not according to the truth of God’s word; they know this, and purposely deceive the people.
Their conscience is seared with a hot iron. Perhaps early in their lives their conscience had been tender, but they suppressed it so often and sinned against the light so much that now their conscience has become insensitive and hardened. They no longer have any scruples about contradicting the word of God and teaching things they know are untrue.
Think about those false teachers who know very well what the Bible says about homosexual behavior and yet their consciences are seared because they seek the approval of man. Think also about Joseph Smith who knew very well that his Book of Mormon was a fraud, that polygamy was debauchery, and that his system of gods was false, yet he kept the pretense until death because he benefited personally. And think about the many Word of Faith teachers who are exceedingly wealthy because they dupe their followers into sending them large amounts of money.
All these false teachers know what they teach is false, but they “no longer have any scruples about contradicting the word of God and teaching things they know are untrue.” They will be judged more severely than those who they teach. (James 3:1)
This is a repost of one of the first articles I wrote for this blog over three years ago. ============================================ In the Summer-Fall 2007 issue of the Midwest Christian Outreach Journal was an article written by one of my favorite apologists, G. Richard Fisher, about the false teachings spread by Youth Specialties. He had a really good point about the state of the church in general.
"The church at large reminds me of Dr. Victor Frankenstein. It assembles long-dead, lifeless heresies and errors, animates them and turns them loose. Main-line denominations wonder why they are losing members and money and slowly are being put to death. The lifeless bodies of beliefs these church leaders are cobbling together are wreaking havoc among those under their care. The tragedy in spiritual terms is incalculable. Those involved with mystical pursuits say they are seeking God, but they really are seeking only experiences for themselves and in themselves. We could call it the 'adrenaline church.' Self-centeredness is never a sign of spirituality, but rather it is only a ploy of the deceived imagination."
The specific teachings the article dealt with are those mystical heresies and aberrations being brought in by the Emergent movement, such as Centering Prayer (also called Contemplative Prayer), labyrinths, and "Lectio Divina," none of which is found in the Bible - or even hinted at!
Those looking for some in-depth exposure of the false teachings of the Emergent movement should get the book, "Faith Undone," by Roger Oakland. It is available through Lighthouse Trails, a link at the right of this blog.