I was sent an article written by Pastor Chuck Baldwin, posted July 30, 2015 on his website. The title I was asked to read was, “WHAT A WASTE!” It should have been sent out as, “THE CHURCH IS TO BLAME!” Pastor Baldwin wrote:
“The Church is to blame for legalized abortion on demand; the Church is to blame for the SCOTUS decision to legalize same-sex “marriage”; the Church is to blame for the growing Police State in this country; the Church is to blame for America’s war-mongering abroad; the Church is to blame for the growing influence of false religions in America.”
I read the article as asked to do, and I must admit, I am disturbed by the wholesale assault against “the establishment church”, by an established pastor. The website says, “Chuck Baldwin is a syndicated columnist, radio broadcaster, author, and pastor dedicated to preserving the historic principles upon which America was founded. He was the 2008 Presidential candidate for the Constitution Party. He and his wife, Connie, have 3 children and 8 grandchildren. Chuck and his family reside in the Flathead Valley of Montana.”
I find his assault on the church uncharitable, and more than a little unfair.
First, the true church of Jesus Christ is not the same as the pop cultural churches represented by the Joel Osteen’s of this world, or those who preach the health and wealth gospel. The true church is more of a “little flock”, than a large one, which means that the church does not have the , or political clout to effect as much change as Mr. Baldwin wants everyone to believe that it has.
Second, it is likely that, according to Jesus, the church has managed to preserve America this long by being the hidden “salt of the earth”. In other words, if anyone wants to see how bad conditions can get in America, remove the current influence of the true church and you will have decadent Rome, or Nazi, Germany, or an official godless Russia. We are not there yet as a nation, but it is not far ahead of us apart from spiritual renewal by the grace of God.
Third, the true church has a primary responsibility to evangelize and proclaim Christ. And, that is being done, so there is some good news. Each day souls are being saved, and the kingdom of God grows little by little.
Fourth, it is unfair to assume that faithful ministers of the gospel will not surrender their 501 (c) 3 status if necessary. I suspect many will.
Finally, it is ironic that the author condemns ministers for taking advantage of a tax exempt status, and then asks for a donation. Perhaps those who advocate a life of living by faith should practice the same. Let ministers of the gospel ask for nothing, and appreciate everything.
In the final analysis, the real blame for evil in the world lies within the heart of individuals who commit that which is harmful to self, and harmful to others. Jesus taught this very concept when He said that out of the abundance of the heart, a man speaks. God is not going to destroy America because of the church for the true church, faithful Christians are doing their job.
God will judge the false religions in our society. God will also judge the secular rulers, and the people in American society for the evil laws that have been passed, and supported. God will judge America as a nation for the slaughter of the innocent, the perverse lifestyle choices, and the acceptance of homosexuality. And yes, the Lord will also discipline each local professing church, and each Christian when necessary. However, the Lord has also promised to preserve His own in the hour of trial that comes to a nation.
Unlike, Mr. Baldwin, I believe the true church of Jesus Christ is still the most glorious institution on planet earth. False religions do abound in America, and many of them are identified with the name of Christ, but the Lord knows His sheep, and they follow Him. The wholesale condemnation of the church of America that the article conveys is not helpful.
The conclusion of the matter is this. Any writer, any theological construct, which demeans, degrades, and denounces the church, plays into the hands of the Enemy. Such a message, such a messenger, does not glorify God. Ephesians 5 teaches that the Lord is sanctifying and purifying His church, that He might present it pure and holy. Therefore, an unqualified assault on all the people of God is just not right.
The author concludes his article by quoting Charles Finney. It is a good quote, if you believe in man’s ability to save himself, and man’s ability to save others through moral persuasion. Here is the quote.
“Famed Nineteenth Century revivalist Charles Finney is widely reported as saying, “If there is a decay of conscience, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the public press lacks moral discernment, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the church is degenerate and worldly, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the world loses its interest in Christianity, the pulpit is responsible for it. If Satan rules in our halls of legislation, the pulpit is responsible for it. If our politics become so corrupt that the very foundations of our government are ready to fall away, the pulpit is responsible for it.’”
Pastor Baldwin obviously thinks in the same vein as Charles Finney. But, should he? Phillip R. Johnson notes, “It is ironic that Charles Grandison Finney has become a poster boy for so many modern evangelicals. His theology was far from evangelical. As a Christian leader, he was hardly the model of humility or spirituality. Even Finney’s autobiography paints a questionable character. In his own retelling of his life’s story, Finney comes across as stubborn, arrogant—and sometimes even a bit devious.
Finney’s ministry was founded on duplicity from the beginning. He obtained his license to preach as a Presbyterian minister by professing adherence to the Westminster Confession of Faith. But he later admitted that he was almost totally ignorant of what the document taught. Here, in Finney’s own words, is a description of what occurred when he went before the council whose task it was to determine if he was spiritually qualified and doctrinally sound:
“Unexpectedly to myself they asked me if I received the Confession of faith of the Presbyterian church. I had not examined it;—that is, the large work, containing the Catechisms and Presbyterian Confession. This had made no part of my study. I replied that I received it for substance of doctrine, so far as I understood it. But I spoke in a way that plainly implied, I think, that I did not pretend to know much about it. However, I answered honestly, as I understood it at the time” [Charles Finney, The Memoirs of Charles Finney: The Complete Restored Text (Grand Rapids: Academie, 1989), 53-54].
Charles Finney rejected the sovereignty of God, the helplessness of man, and the total depravity of the human heart, while exalting man’s free will, and the ability of preachers, like himself, to persuade people to change. With such unmitigated arrogance it is easy to condemn others, assault the church of Jesus Christ, and blame all Christians for all the greatest evils of the society.
The practice of blaming Christians for the most pressing problems of society was exercised long ago by Jews in Israel, which led to the death of Jesus Christ. It was deemed expedient by the Sanhedrin that one Man should die, then for the nation of Israel to perish.
Then, the blaming of Christians for the problems in society was tried by the Roman emperors,. Nero in particular assaulted the Christians which led to the death of many faithful believers in the Coliseum.
Today, ISIS blames Christians for the economic and social problems in the Middle East. In the name of their god, Allah, Muslims men rape women, torture children, and cut the heads off of Christians. ISIS says the church is to blame.
The enemy of the church is often within the professing congregation. I would suggest that an enemy of the church is the one who condemns it without mercy. A friend of the church is one who calls it to repentance with tears in his eyes. Jeremiah was called, “The Weeping Prophet”. Jesus wept over Jerusalem. I wonder if Mr. Finney, with his fiery zeal, or those who launch a wholesale condemnation of the church, ever wept over the people of God, the church, or a nation. It is easy to hate, criticize, condemn, and cast a wide net of disparaging remarks against the church. It is harder to love those for whom Christ died.