Should I close this web site down?

Not so long ago I received an email from someone who strongly objected to this web site. They claimed to be a follower of Jesus, and after raising their objections, they ended their first email to me with this assertion:

"It would be better for you to close the web site down. I doubt very much if it is pleasing to God."

They also wrote about a crisis experience, concerning which they asserted the following:

"...Then I felt someone sit on the bed next to me and put an arm around my shoulder. He said quite clearly, "I have not given up on you." Of course I opened my eyes, which had filled with tears, and there was nobody there."

"Since then, I have realised that my Christian faith is about my RELATIONSHIP to Jesus, even if he rarely sits on my bed these days, and about my obedience to the Holy Spirit. Scripture is helpful, but it is not the central matter I once thought it to be."

I'm not going to identify them here, but I am going to post an extract from my reply.

My reason for doing so is that this individual's beliefs, and consequent objections to my website, are firmly within the 'post-modern evangelical' camp, and are typical of many who call themselves 'Christians' yet do not accept what the Bible actually teaches.

To claim to have audibly heard the voice of Jesus with their own ears, or to claim to have otherwise 'heard' or 'sensed' the voice of God outside of Scripture, yet to reject the centrality of the Bible and claim that it is merely 'helpful' but no more, is very dangerous.

There are far too many people today who imagine they are 'evangelical' Christians when, in reality, they are the modern counterparts of 19th century liberal heretics and apostates. The starting point where these people go wrong is in their doctrine of Scripture, from which all of their other errors flow.

An extract from my reply:

...I wanted to say some things about doctrine of scripture, i.e. what we believe about the Bible itself, because this is foundational for everything else. It's vitally important that we get our doctrine of scripture right.

The traditional evangelical view of scripture, and it's a view that is orthodox all the way back to the patristic era, is that the Bible, as originally given, is God's verbally inspired word, without error, and the final authority on all matters of faith and practice. In this view, the canon of scripture is complete and closed, with nothing to be added to it. Supporting this view are the claims that scripture makes for itself, and the way Jesus himself quoted and regarded the Old Testament, and commissioned the apostles to write the NT.

In liberal theology, and in recent decades in much so-called evangelicalism too, there has been a move to reject this. Many people who call themselves Christians will say that the bible may be important, but it is not necessarily without error, and that what matters is not what the Bible says but our relationship with God.

There are some serious problems with this.

Firstly, it sets up a false dichotomy to suggest that obedience to God's word and the highest regard for God's word on the one hand, and restored relationship with him on the other hand, are alternatives. Scripture teaches they are not. The true believer will echo the Psalmist's words, "Oh, how I love your law!"

Secondly, the liberal view, though it has the appearance of being more open and accepting than the old 'narrow' and 'dogmatic' view, is every bit as dogmatic. The liberal view rejects the idea that we can know with certainty what God has said from his word. It dogmatically rejects the idea of a closed and authoritative canon.

But people who hold to the liberal view of scripture still do make assertions about God, about what He is like, about what he loves and hates, and how to have relationship with him.

This should then raise the question, 'where are you getting your ideas from about God?'.

To reject the canon of scripture, and then make assertions about God, is to reject the bible but then replace it with a canon of our own invention. It is idolatry to replace God's own self-revelation with our own ideas about what God is like. So we must go back to what God has said in his word if we want to know the truth.

You are asserting ideas about what God is like just as I am. The crucial question is where are each of us getting these ideas from? From God's own self-revelation in his word, or somewhere else?

For example, you wrote:

> I believe God looks on our hearts and not on some list of rules for
> how correctly we have interpreted them.

Where do you get this idea from? What is the authority upon which you base your assertion? If you are going to base your belief about how God judges you upon this idea, you had better be sure of its provenance.

What you assert is a false dichotomy. God does indeed look on the heart. But the bible also teaches that disobedience to what God has commanded is sin. God's commands are not 'some list of rules' but are the standard by which people will be judged, and, if they have not turned to Christ in repentance and faith, they will be condemned for violating God's rules. E.g. Revelation 20:11-15. The fact that God looks on the heart makes us all the more guilty, as the Bible clearly teaches that to contemplate breaking one of God's rules is itself sin, even if the act itself is not carried out, e.g. Matt 5 re. unrighteous anger and lust.

Jesus himself is very clear about this. Read the whole sermon on the mount, Matthew 5-7. Again and again Jesus pointed people to God's law, his rules, and showed how we utterly violate them and cannot save ourselves. Jesus taught that God's law clearly reveals to us that we are all guilty before him for breaking his rules.

> I seem to
> remember Jesus talking about gnats and camels in this regard.

Do you know where this comes from? It's from Matthew 23:24. Look at the previous verse for the context:

"23 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices-mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law-justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel."

So Jesus is clearly referring to two different aspects of God's written law. He first mentions about the tithing of spices, one area of God's written law. He then mentions another area of God's written law, having to do with justice, mercy, and faithfulness. He then condemns the Pharisees because they observe the less important area of God's written law, only to then ignore the more important area of God's written law.

Notice how Jesus condemns the Pharisees with "You should have practiced the latter, WITHOUT NEGLECTING THE FORMER." (my emphasis)

To summarise Jesus' reference to gnats and camels in its correct context:

Jesus is clearly teaching that ALL of God's written law is to be honoured and obeyed, not just some parts of it.

If the Pharisees had correctly understood God's law, they would have understood how utterly unable they were to save themselves by their own works. Instead, they were self-righteous, thinking their own works would save them.

So Jesus' comment about gnats and camels does not say anything that supports your attempted use of it.

> I don't see things quite as I did when first a Christian and so find
> myself uneasy about standing up as a self-appointed guardian of God's
> truth, as I realise that I have done this in the past, as you seem to
> be doing with your web site.

There is nothing 'self-appointed' in what I am doing with my website, for the Bible instructs believers to "contend earnestly for the faith once for all given to the saints". I am obeying God's instruction to all believers, to contend for the truth and refute what is false.

The reason Jude gives in his letter for doing so is because false gospels and false teachers are out there, and they should be rebuked and opposed. Paul put it in these ways:

" I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard!" Acts 20

" command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer " 1 Tim 1:3

" encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it" Titus 1:9

> God is not keeping a spreadsheet of box ticks on every nuance of our
> theology to tick or cross on Judgement day. He looks at our hearts
> and whether we truly love him and will receive His new life and
> forgiveness.

Again, where do you get this idea from about what God will and will not do on judgement day?

Again, there is false dichotomy in what you assert. You seem to be suggesting that truly loving him and receiving new life and forgiveness is somehow not necessarily connected to what we believe. The Bible teaches the opposite. It teaches that those who are saved are those who have truly turned to Christ in repentance and faith, and whilst they are saved by Christ, not by their theology, what they actually believe is inseparable from whether they truly know Christ or not.

"Whoever says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. " 1 John 2:4

You also seem to be suggesting that what I have taken issue with on my website are matters of subtle nuances, fine points of detail that don't really matter. On the contrary, the matters I have taken issue with on my website relate to the very heart of the gospel, of how people can be put right with God. It is false gospels that I have objected to, not fine points of detail or subtle nuances.

Some words of Jesus concerning the scriptures:

"17 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. "

Isaiah 66: "1 This is what the LORD says: ... 2b "This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word. "

In the Bible, humility is seen as synonymous with believing, trusting, and obeying what God has said. The OT prophets and NT apostles who spoke out against false prophets and false teachings were being humble by doing so. In a post-modern society, this concept of humility is turned on its head. To dare to say others are wrong is considered arrogant, not humble.

> Criticism of those working hard for the Kingdom can be really
> discouraging to them and that is why I felt that your web site was a bad idea.

I'm sure Peter felt stung when Paul stood up and publicly opposed him in front of everyone, see the account in Galatians. But what Paul did was right, because the gospel was at stake. It is so important to renew our minds with God's word, and do what he says to do. If we don't renew our minds with God's word, then our thinking about what is a good or bad idea will be all over the place.

> It is just that I have found that
> a narrow focus on theology did not bring me to a living faith, which
> is a matter of the heart, as much as of the head.

Again, a false dichotomy, as though 'theology' and 'living faith' are alternatives. The apostles in the NT were driven by a concern for correct theology, and regarded it as inseparable from living faith.

What brings people to living faith is a Person, the Holy Spirit.

"No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day." John 6:44

"The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing." John 6:63

John 3: "3 Jesus replied, "Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again"

"5 Jesus answered, "Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.""

> Since then, I have realised that my Christian faith is about my
> RELATIONSHIP to Jesus, even if he rarely sits on my bed these days,
> and about my obedience to the Holy Spirit. Scripture is helpful, but
> it is not the central matter I Once thought it to be.

How can you possibly be obedient to the Holy Spirit if you do not regard scripture, which he inspired, to be central? The Holy Spirit does not do or say anything which contradicts his word, and his word gives us the instructions we need to observe if we want to obey him.

In summary

Anyone who thinks they can follow Jesus yet regard scripture as not central is being very foolish. The 'Jesus' they are following is likely to be a 'Jesus' of their own imagination.

According to the real Jesus, the difference between a wise man and a fool is that the wise man hears Christ's words and does them. The fool does not.

John chapter 17 records Jesus praying to the Father for the disciples, and in verse 17 Jesus asked the Father, "Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth." A true believer will love God's word; will meditate on it day and night; will 'search the scriptures to see whether these things are so' whenever someone claims to be presenting God's truth to them, just like the Bereans did.

It is the height of arrogance for anyone to regard God's word as not central, yet proceed to make judgments about what is and is not pleasing to God. The only way anyone can accurately know God's mind on any subject on which he has spoken is from the scriptures.

Given that Jesus himself said, 'man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God,' it is very arrogant and foolish for anyone to presume they can follow Jesus yet regard God's word as merely 'helpful' but not central.

Anyone who thinks they can follow Jesus by limiting themselves to reading only the 'words of Christ in red' in the gospels will find themselves rebuked by those very words, as Christ clearly regarded the whole of the scriptures as God's word, and he expected his followers to do so as well (e.g. Luke 24:25 - "He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!"").

We can know what is pleasing to God from his word, the bible. It is very sad that so many so-called evangelicals today have such a poor knowledge of scripture that they fall for all kinds of false teaching, as well as falling for the false notion that God values unity regardless of truth.

The bible makes very clear that placing unity above truth is very displeasing to God. So is keeping quiet in the face of false teaching.

So are false gospels, in the words of Paul in Gal 1v8-9 "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!"

On the subject of what the gospel is, and is not, and how Christians should oppose false teaching, I will stay with what God has clearly said in his word, and have no intention of closing this site.

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