Guide Christianity In Crisis: The 21st Century

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Nearly two decades ago Hank Hanegraaff's award-winning Christianity in Crisis alerted the world to the dangers of a cultic movement within Christianity that.
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When riches fail to materialize, the exploited often dejectedly leave what they thought was Christianity and seek safe haven in some other venue within the kingdom of the cults. The problem here, of course, is cultural conformity.

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Far too many Christians are being transformed by our culture rather than by Christ. Seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness has been perverted into seeking our own kingdom and everything else we can get our hands on. Nowhere is such cultural conformity more apparent than in the Faith version of the incarnation of Christ. In literature and tape, radio and television, Prosperity peddlers present a Jesus who looks remarkably like themselves: He lives in a big house.

He is decked out in designer clothes. He has a huge donor base and is said to have so much money that He needs a treasurer.

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For some televangelists, the notion of a wealthy Jesus is merely a dogmatic assertion. As such, Hagee points to the Gospel of John as proof positive that Jesus had a big house. That meant it was a big house. Hagee likewise argues that Jesus wore designer clothes.

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  8. It was a designer robe. John Hagee, of course, is not alone. John Avanzini, for years the star fundraiser for the Trinity Broadcasting Network, tells his vast television audience that if Jesus was poor, He wants to be poor. If Jesus slept under a bridge, He wants to sleep under a bridge. But if Jesus was rich, we too should be rich! Prosperity preachers are so committed to presenting a Jesus who wears a Rolex that they are willing to do whatever it takes to sell this myth to their parishioners.

    Prosperity gurus are not merely content to preach their pretexts. Avanzini, for one, goes so far as to attack apologists and theologians for teaching that Jesus was poor. He then presented what he claims to be the true meaning of the passage—a meaning that has escaped the Christian church for nearly years. With reckless abandon he turns the good news of the Gospel, as recorded in Luke , into a perverted prosperity pretext.

    Christ took your poverty on the cross and gave you the riches of Abraham. The curse of poverty has been broken at the cross. Is the good news to the poor referenced by Christ in Luke really a promise of prosperity for twenty-first-century Christians? Was the curse of earthly poverty really broken at the cross? The answer should be self-evident. Far from a guarantee of riches in the present age, true followers of Christ in every age will experience trial and tribulation.

    Not only do Faith teachers maintain that Jesus was wealthy, they contend that His disciples lived in luxury as well.


    Avanzini, for instance, argues that the apostle Paul was so rich that he had the financial resources to block up the justice system of his day. But how can anyone read 1 Corinthians —13 and contend that the apostle Paul and his companions had the kind of money that could block up justice? How could Scripture more clearly articulate their true condition?

    Christianity and the Social Crisis in the 21st Century

    Or his immortal words in Philippians —9? What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him.

    Following the resurrection, the disciples of Christ never again considered their Master a means to their ends. To them, He was the End.

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    They rightly understood that their treasure was in another kingdom and that they were simply ambassadors, sojourners, and pilgrims. The disciples knew this was not their final dwelling place. They recognized that their destiny was eternity. Christ did not come to bring financial prosperity; He came to focus our attention on eternal prosperity. How magnificent a sight it must have been to witness the Lord standing on the shore of Galilee, pleading passionately with His followers to labor not for that which perishes, but for that which is eternal John The rich man, who lived his earthly life in luxury, was not even dignified with a name in eternity.

    But Lazarus, who lived in poverty, received comfort in the eternal kingdom v. They have not conformed their teachings to the ancient Scriptures. Instead, they have conformed themselves to American society. American culture is obsessed with upward mobility and crass materialism, which is precisely what the Faith movement panders to.

    Its watchword is not self-sacrifice, but self-aggrandizement. In sharp distinction, Scripture commands us not to conform to the pattern of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. The issue is not what you have, but what you do with what you have. I am persuaded that the Bible teaches a form of Christian capitalism—responsibility associated with wealth. It does not promote the possession of money for the sake of money, but instead encourages us to use money for the sake of the kingdom.

    While some Faith teachers assert that they have the same concept in mind, the evidence shows otherwise. Not only do most Faith teachers induce their supporters to give by appealing to their greed, but they indulge themselves in the process. Talk all you want. Bad mouth all you want. In the end, prosperity proponents teach a lifestyle of self-indulgence and selfishness, as opposed to self-denial and selflessness.

    The ex-wife of televangelist Richard Roberts summed it up ever so eloquently:. To identify with Jesus, however, meant to identify with the Cross. The difference between serving self and serving the Savior is the difference between cultural conformity and conformity to Christ. The elucidations of their errors, however, are virtually indistinguishable. As such, Parsley has parishioners practicing the preposterous.

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    If someone inquires about such strange behavior, Parsley has a ready response. Joel Osteen is similarly disposed. Like subprime mortgage lenders of days gone by, he urges followers to reach beyond their means. He offers up himself as a prime example. The home was so far beyond the realm of possibility that Joel uttered words of fear rather than words of faith.

    Christianity in Crisis: 21st Century (Spanish edition)

    Start seeing yourself rising to a new level, doing something of significance, living in that home of your dreams. All of this, of course, is sanitized with a semblance of Scripture. Christ took your poverty on the cross and He gave you the riches of Abraham. If you will practice the principles of prosperity in the word of God, this says God will make you the head and not the tail.

    God will open the windows of heaven and bless you with blessings that you cannot contain. He will give you houses you did not build. If you listen carefully to the Faith preachers, there is a constant refrain. The way in which one demonstrates that he or she has faith is by giving. Not traditional giving, however.

    If you got a hundred dollars or a thousand dollars and you were going to get a thousand dollars, I tell you what, you just broke even. In this movement they were joined by Christian individuals and groups that advocated religious freedom not out of indifference to dogmatic truth but out of a concern for the free decision of personal faith. The state of Christian faith and life within the churches during the 17th and 18th centuries both reflected and resisted the spirit of the time. Even though the Protestant Reformation had absorbed some of the reform energy within Roman Catholicism, the theology and morals underwent serious revision in the Roman Catholic Counter-Reformation.

    Fighting off the attempts by various countries to establish national Catholic churches, the papacy sought to learn from the history of its encounter with the Reformation and to avoid the mistakes that had been made then. Protestantism in turn discovered that separation from Rome did not necessarily inoculate it against many of the trends that it had denounced in Roman Catholicism. Orthodox theology of the 17th century both in Lutheranism and in the Reformed churches displayed many features of medieval Scholasticism , despite the attacks of the reformers upon the latter.

    Partly as a compensation for the overemphasis of orthodoxy upon doctrine at the expense of morals, Pietism summoned Protestant believers to greater seriousness of personal faith and practical living. As the discoveries of science proceeded, they clashed with old and cherished notions about the doctrine of creation, many of which were passionately supported by various leaders of organized Christianity. The age of the revolutions—political, economic, technological, intellectual—was an age of crisis for Christianity.

    The critical methods of modern scholarship, despite their frequent attacks upon traditional Christian ideas, helped to produce editions of the chief documents of the Christian faith—the Bible and the writings of the Fathers and reformers—and to arouse an unprecedented interest in the history of the church. The 19th century was called the great century in the history of Christian missions , both Roman Catholic and Protestant. By the very force of their attacks upon Christianity, the critics of the church helped to arouse within the church new apologists for the faith, who creatively reinterpreted it in relation to the new philosophy and science of the modern period.

    The 20th century saw additional challenges to the Christian cause in the form of totalitarianism, of resurgent world religions, and of indifference. Both the relation of church and state and the missionary program of the churches thus demanded reconsideration. But the 20th century also saw renewed efforts to heal the schisms within Christendom. The ecumenical movement began within Protestantism and Anglicanism , eventually included some of the Eastern Orthodox churches, and, especially since the Second Vatican Council —65 , engaged the sympathetic attention of Roman Catholicism as well.