Seeker-Sensitivity Circa 1975


by Mike Ratliff

God saved me in 1986, but that was by no means the beginning of the history of my Churchianity and religiosity. No, I grew up going to church. When I was in the U.S. Navy (June 1973-July 1976) I was stationed in Washington D.C. I was in a period of rebellion at that time in which I wanted nothing to do with “church” in any form. My family was all Southern Baptists, which is the dominant denomination in Oklahoma where I grew up. However, in 1975 I moved to a new apartment just off of Columbia Pike in Arlington, Virginia. There was a married couple on my floor that I became acquainted with over the next several weeks. They invited me to their church. It was in the District. I resisted for quite awhile, but finally agreed to go. It was nothing like “church” that I was used to. The focus was not on singing hymns nor were there long dry sermons making me feel guilty about my sins. Instead, the messages were “cool” and there was an actual band that performed on stage rather than a choir. The place was full of guys with long hair wearing jeans and sandals. The women dressed very casually. The place was packed. It also had something I had never seen in a church before. There was a bookstore right inside the entrance full of books that I had never heard of before written by men and women who were definitely not “mainstream.” Continue reading

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism Promotes Self-Righteousness


by Mike Ratliff

The five points of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism as defined by Christian Smith are these:

  1. A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life on earth.
  2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
  3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
  4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when he is needed to resolve a problem.
  5. Good people go to heaven when they die.

However, this is the basis of the “theology” predominantly preached and taught throughout the “seeker movement” as my friend Lane Chaplin made clear here. I pray that you do follow that link and read Lane’s post from 2008 and also read Christian Smith’s article from The Christian Post, which is also included at the bottom. Continue reading

Pragmatism and Mustard Seed Faith


by Mike Ratliff

And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. (Luke 17:1-6 ESV)

There are many parallels between what is going on the visible church at this time with what Charles Spurgeon called “the Down-Grade Controversy” in his time. In the latter part of the 19th Century, he began addressing the growing apostasy in the Baptist Union in Great Britain. This apostasy was fueled by those leaders who wished to move Christianity from its historical focus, i.e. preaching the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit with emphasis on sin and the need of a Saviour, to one that was more in line with “Modernism.” He compared Biblical truth to the pinnacle of a steep, slippery mountain. The margin for error is very precise because one step away, and you find yourself on the downgrade. The following excerpt is from one of his sermons preached at the height of this controversy.

Doth that man love his Lord who would be willing to see Jesus wearing a crown of thorns, while for himself he craves a chaplet of laurel? Shall Jesus ascend to his throne by the cross, and do we expect to be carried there on the shoulders of applauding crowds? Be not so vain in your imagination. Count you the cost, and if you are not willing to bear Christ’s cross, go away to your farm and to your merchandise, and make the most of them; only let me whisper this in your ear; “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul? 1

Spurgeon preached the sermon from which this excerpt is taken just after he was censured by the Baptist Union for his stance against the majority’s efforts to “modernize” their churches with de-emphasis of the biblical gospel in favor of being more open to those who would be offended by the cross and the insistence that they were sinners in need of a Saviour.  Continue reading

Emergent Fallacies and The Dummying Down of the Church


by Mike Ratliff

I listened to a fantastic interview today on Crosstalk Radio from the 17th. It featured Ingrid Schlueter interviewing Chris Rosebrough. The title of the show was “Emergent Heresy – A Warning.” One of the most difficult things for me over the last few years has been in addressing the heretical things that the emergents were saying, but it seemed that there was absolutely no foundation or structure to their confusing attacks on the truth while using some of the same doctrinal words that we us in Christian Orthodoxy. This interview tied much of the confusion together for me so that I now understand that simply addressing a salient heretical point here and there with them is like trying to kill a swam of mosquitos with an ice pick. This issue really isn’t that these Emergents are messed up theologically, but that they are not Christians at all. Their religion is not Christianity, it is some other hashed together conglomeration of philosophies that have become anchored in our churches because the source of their followers are coming from our youth groups who are easily duped into their lies because they have grown up in churches in which there is no solid Biblical training. Their local church has been fed a dummied down theology that is void of biblical truth.  Continue reading

The Curse of Gospel Contextualization


by Mike Ratliff

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:13-19 ESV)

Several weeks ago I found myself in a battle of words with a couple of men who tried every argument you can imagine in an attempt to move me away from the stance I have taken, which is that truth is the truth regardless whether people believe it or not. Along with this, I also refused to “compromise” by admitting that what I held to be true was only my opinion and, therefore, their “opinion” was just as valid. While this culture may actually side with those two fellows rather than me, I still stand and refuse to budge from the stance that the truth revealed in God’s Word is not hidden from the regenerate heart. The Holy Spirit works in our hearts to validate what is true and what is not. I have always allowed discussion on these topics as long as the one disagreeing with me will use scripture alone, in context, as the basis for his or her argument. No one has taken that challenge. Instead, all I have received are philosophical arguments and quotes from some source other than God’s Word. Continue reading

Have no Fear


by Mike Ratliff

“So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.” (Matthew 10:26 ESV)

Despite what “some” say in referring to the seeker-sensitive church model as the “new paradigm” that it is the new mainstream Church in the world, God has not changed. The Church remains the body of Christ and those who belong to it came to be there the exact same way believers have since its inception. Oh, the seeker-sensitive church is a paradigm all right, and it may indeed have displaced many orthodox churches throughout the world, but all they have really done is create a pseudo-church that is friends with the world. Its apologists have attempted to blend Christianity with existentialism and humanism not understanding that these human philosophies are diametrically opposed to our faith across the board. Continue reading

Unity Through Humility


by Mike Ratliff

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4 ESV)

I just finished listening to an interview with Bob Dewaay on a radio program called Iron Sharpens Iron in which he discussed the Purpose Driven Church model and the Purpose Driven Life as well as his recent meeting with Rick Warren. He also responded to several phone call in questions. I found it very interesting that all objections to the message from Bob had no Biblical basis or the contention took scripture out of context. However, through it all he remained calm and replied graciously to everyone. That spoke volumes to me. Continue reading

Fruitless Fig Trees


 

by Mike Ratliff

And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there. In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once. When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” (Matthew 21:17-20 ESV)

It was in late fall of 2004 that I realized a very important Biblical principle. Up until then I had always assumed that when God gives us a message or lesson or sermon or counsel in which to write or teach or preach or give to those who needs to hear it, He would also cause those hearing it to recognize it as the truth, believe it,  and obey it. Reality hit hard. The principle I learned was that God is glorified when we obey Him whether the results of our obedience meet our expectations or not. What happened was that I shared with the men at our old church the wonderful news that all God really wants from us is our devotion and obedience rather than just our religiosity. The results were not exactly what I expected. For the most part, I was looked at like I was a little green spaceman from the planet Zargon.  Continue reading

Dried-up Branches


by Mike Ratliff

Bill Hybels and his Willowcreek “organization” have recently made quite a confession. It started when they did a survey of the members of their congregation. The survey was an attempt to evaluate how effective their ministries were. From the beginning they have always used numbers to determine how effective they were. After all, that is how marketing is done. Right?

What have those of us outside of the seeker sensitive paradigm been saying from the beginning about what is wrong with it? Isn’t it that their Soteriology is flawed? They have a man-focused concept of how people are saved. They assume that salvation is simply a decision and, therefore, they try to be as friendly with the world as possible so they can ease huge numbers of people into their church. Continue reading