Sunday, February 07, 2010

Phil Johnson on the Neo-Liberal Stealth Offensive

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude 1:3-4)

I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. (Acts 20:29-30)

In the e-Journal by 9Marks ministry (Jan/Feb 2010, 7:1), Phil Johnson, who is the Executive Director of Grace to You, has written an excellent and extremely pertinent article on the attack of the enemy against the churches. He begins:

The gospel’s most dangerous earthly adversaries are not raving atheists who stand outside the door shouting threats and insults. They are church leaders who cultivate a gentle, friendly, pious demeanor but hack away at the foundations of faith under the guise of keeping in step with a changing world.

No Christian should imagine that heresy is always conspicuous or that every purveyor of theological mischief will lay out his agenda in plain and honest terms. The enemy prefers to sow tares secretly, for obvious reasons. Thus Scripture expressly warns us to be on guard against false teachers who creep into the church unnoticed (Jude 4), wolves who sneak into the flock wearing sheep’s clothing (Matt 7:15), and servants of Satan who disguise themselves as angels of light (2 Cor. 11:13-15).

In light of the disaster of the New Evangelical experiment, especially as epitomized in the Seeker sensitive movement, causing biblical illiteracy to rise to shockingly new levels, evangelical churches are ripe for the infiltration and taking over by liberals of all stripes, from the capital "L" Liberals on the left to the Neo-Orthodox on the right.

In his article, Johnson details the 4 trends that is leaving evangelicals vulnerable to subversion:

1. They recklessly follow the zeitgeist.


Beware of church leaders who are more worried about being contemporary than they are about being doctrinally sound, more concerned with their methodology than they are with their message, and more captivated by political correctness than they are by the truth. The church is not called to ape the world or make Christianity seem cool and likable, but to proclaim the gospel faithfully—including the parts the world usually scoffs at: sin, righteousness, and judgment (cf. Jn. 16:8). Jesus expressly taught that if we are faithful in that task, the Holy Spirit will convict hearts and draw believers to Christ.


2. They want the world’s admiration at all costs.

... When we need to shave corners off the truth or compromise righteousness in order to gain the world’s friendship, bearing the reproach of Christ is an infinitely better option. No true friend of God deliberately seeks the world's camaraderie (Jas. 4:4).

But one of the common characteristics of liberalism is an obsession with gaining the world’s approval and admiration no matter the cost.


When churches give in to that craving for worldly approval, they inevitably subjugate the gospel to a more popular message. At first, they won’t necessarily deny (or even challenge) core gospel truths such as the historical facts outlined in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. But they will abbreviate, modify, or add to the message. The embellishments usually echo whatever happens to be politically correct at the moment — climate change, world hunger, the AIDS crisis, or whatever. Those things will be stressed and talked about repeatedly while the historic facts of Christ’s death and resurrection, the great themes of gospel doctrine, and the actual text of Scripture itself will be largely ignored or treated as something to be taken for granted.

Feed any church a steady diet of that for a few years and they will have no means of defense when someone attacks the faith more directly. That’s precisely what is happening today with various attacks on substitutionary atonement, the exclusivity of Christ, the authority and inerrancy of Scripture, and other essential Christian truths. All of those things were first downplayed in order to make the church’s message sound more “positive.” Now they are being subjected to a full-scale assault.


3. Their “faith” comes with an air of intellectual superiority.

Liberals treat faith itself as an academic matter. Their whole system is essentially a wholesale rejection of simple, childlike belief. Their worldview foments an air of academic arrogance, setting human reason in the place of highest authority, treating the Bible with haughty condescension, and showing utter contempt for the kind of faith Christ blessed.

Consequently, liberals are and always have been obsessed with academic respectability. They want the world’s esteem as scholars and intellectuals—no matter what they have to compromise to get it. They sometimes defend that motive by arguing that the secular academy’s acceptance is essential to the Christian testimony.

Of course that is a quixotic quest. It is also a denial of the Bible’s plain teaching. Believers cannot be faithful to Scripture and win general accolades from the wise men, scribes, and debaters of this age. The world hated Jesus, and he made it clear that his faithful disciples mustn’t expect — or seek — the world’s honor (Jn. 15:18; Luke 6:22; cf. Jas. 4:4). Paul, himself a true scholar in every sense, wrote this world’s wisdom off as sheer foolishness: “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God” (1 Cor. 3:18-19).

True Christian scholarship is about integrity, not accolades. Liberalism covets the latter, and that explains why liberals are always drawn to ideas that are stylish and politically correct, yet they are resistant to virtually all the hard truths of Christianity, starting with the authority Scripture claims for itself. Be on guard against that tendency.

4. They despise doctrinal and biblical precision.

This may sound like an oxymoron, but while treating faith as an academic matter, liberals prefer an almost anti-intellectual, agnostic approach to dealing with the specific truth-claims of Scripture. They like their doctrine hazy and indistinct.


Heavy doses of that flavor of postmodern, neo-liberal evasion have conditioned multitudes of church members to regard carefulness and precision in handling doctrine as both unimportant and potentially divisive. These days the person who shows evidence of doctrinal scruples is much more likely to be held in suspicion or disdain among evangelicals than the neo-liberals who have deliberately made the study of biblical doctrine seem so cloudy, confusing, and contentious.


Do read the complete article by Phil Johnson, as it shows us the deadly compromises made by New Evangelicalism, who sold out their evangelical birthright for a bowl of academic respectability soup. When you sow to the wind, you reap the whirlwind. May we learn from their mistakes and turn from them.