Thoughts on the Modern View of Christian Freedom

My heart is one of seeing a radical devotion to Christ among Christians today. Unfortunately, there is a movement currently among the American Christian church where the main focus seems to be on Christian freedom, rather than a Christian lifestyle of holiness and reverence to Jesus. 

I have stated before, both here in the blogosphere and in sermons that there is a very real danger in this current wave of teaching coming from youth oriented churches. Anytime we emphasize personal freedoms over responsibility to others (do not stumble a brother), and reverence to  Jesus (be holy for I am Holy), we are on the wrong and very dangerous path.

Pastor John MacArthur
Despite the fact that I feel as though the bible does not support the Reformed Theology preached by most in the “reformed churches” and pastors of today, specifically the doctrine of predestination as they teach it, I find myself strangely drawn to the teachings of one such man; John MacArthur. 

What the Christian world has in John MacArthur is a well known and well respected pastor who is taking an unpopular stand against what has been coined as the “YRR” (Young, Restless and Reformed) generation of current day Christians. While most are in what we might call the “youth” movement itself (to me that means 20-something or less), many are wildly popular 30-40 something pastors who find emphasizing freedoms does a great deal to fill seats and pews, and get the ‘fan-base’ excited, but fail to look beyond the attendance count or the offering total to look for results or consequences.

Well, I strongly disagree with the YRR movement/trend, and to my liking (and of no great surprise to me), so does John MacArthur. He recently wrote a blog that I have shared below. 

Since this was posted on an open blog, I have copied and pasted it here. For a direct link to this article, click HERE. It is not only relevant to the discussion, but says things with an authority within the Reformed Church that few other can offer. 

Before you read his blog post let me share with you this thought. Speaking from experience, the Seattle area is a tough area when trying to preach a biblical responsibility to holiness. We are the world capitol of the ‘micro-brewery’, and seemingly theological extremes in testing the Hipster Christianity marketplace. I have been openly critical of the reformed theology seemingly so abundant locally, and the ultimate pathway that (when taken advantage of by the human psyche) leads people to go: to SELF first. 

What we face here is an attitude of, “I have freedom, and if you cannot recognize that I have this freedom, than you are…:

[Insert Choice insult here-

1. Too weak of a Christian
2. Too young or uneducated of a Christian
3. Un-elightened

4. Too judmental
5. Pharisaical 
6. etc, etc…]

…less of a Christian than I am, and therefore are to be looked down upon”. Or, “I’m guaranteed a ticket to heaven, I’ll do as I please. All I have to do is ‘redeem‘ these things that I do ‘in the name of Jesus‘, and I can do whatever I want with my freedoms, and everything will be fine.” This sort of theological rhetoric, while perhaps not preached directly- in a word-for-word style from the pulpit, is intimated by so many of the Driscoll/Mars Hill/Acts29/YRR group, and the results are pervasive, self-evident and harmful.

The seriousness of the errors in this theology are, in the end, the results that we see in the youth movement of today. Most young people seem to be gravitating towards this theology. They see a rebellious freedom in it that allows them to identity with, and look no different then the world, a tactic they see as necessary in being able to “reach the current generation”. To them, being indistinguishable from the world has its benefits. 

Additionally, adults who have been seasoned mature Christians are falling back into their old ways as a celebration of these newly re-recognized freedoms. Or, when faced with the challenges of an ongoing Christian life lived out for Jesus, they are choosing to slip back into old habits that they themselves once vilified as sin. 

Regardless of which category one might fall into, those who do not share their views are then deemed theologically shallow or immature now. They shine an aura of ‘enlightenment’ in their faith, that the rest of us have not ‘received’ yet. In other words, who are we to judge their fruit anyway…

It’s so very strange. I do not find Driscoll’s teachings to be so, “Weeee!!!, go do whatever you want, you’re going to heaven no matter what” in style or content.  For the most part these guys do tend to try and preach conservatively in all the right places socially; staunchly anti-abortion, pro-family, anti-gay marriage etc. HOWEVER (and this is the proof of the failure of the doctrine), the net result is not a conservative following. Rather, it is an almost cult-like trail of people reveling in their freedoms that past generations looked upon as sin or even debauchery, flagrantly ignoring the possibility of stumbling a brother, and raising their pastors and teachers to pedestals they should not be on. The proof is in the pudding as they say, and the pudding smells of beer and the stale cigarettes.

That’s the quandary and the proof at the same time. No matter what you preach, conservative or not, if the theology is a guaranteed ticket to heaven no matter what (as is the root to reformed theology and their predestination stance), than the result is the very attitude and lifestyle we see MacArthur speaking out against. Trouble is, MacArthur does not see it that way. He instead finds himself in the unenviable position of criticizing those most popular pastors and teachers in his own Reformed theological movement, all the while being blinded to the fact that it is the theology itself that has caused the problem.

A good friend and mentor of mine, Mr. Justin Alfred, once took me to a verse to prove a point in understanding original language texts. I will never forget his teaching. In Genesis 6:5, only six chapters into the story of God’s Creation, He Himself came to report upon the condition of man, Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” In other words, before the thought even forms in the mind of the man, before that formulated thought can be transferred to the heart of the man, that thought, or the beginnings of that thought, are ALREADY EVIL! 

Given the chance, without the restraint of the Holy Spirit and the heart of a man who’s will is set on the love of Jesus Christ and serving Him, he will chose evil every time! It’s literally a no-brainer. If we allow people even the thought that there is no free-will, a thought that there is no eternal personal accountability, that by being ‘chosen’ or predestined by God means anything less than just the fact that He is all knowing and outside of time able to see what your future holds, then you can preach all the conservative thought and doctrine you like, but the masses will chose evil every time.

To all you YRR’ers out there; Youth will not always be with you. And reformed and restless is no way to go through life.


Beer, Bohemianism, and True Christian Liberty

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

by John MacArthur
If everything you know about Christian living came from blogs and websites in the young-and-restless district of the Reformed community, you might have the impression that beer is the principal symbol of Christian liberty.
For some who self-identify as “Young, Restless, and Reformed,” it seems beer is a more popular topic for study and discussion than the doctrine of predestination. They devote whole websites to the celebration of brewed beverages. They earnestly assure one another “that most good theological discussion has historically been done in pubs and drinking places.” They therefore love to meet for “open dialog on faith and culture” wherever beer is served—or better yet, right at the brewery. The connoisseurs among them serve their own brands and even offer lessons in how to make home brew.

It’s clear that beer-loving passion is a prominent badge of identity for many in the YRR movement. Apparently beer is also an essential element in the missional strategy. Mixing booze with ministry is often touted as a necessary means of penetrating western youth culture, and conversely, abstinence is deemed a “sin” to be repented of. After all, in a culture where cool is everything, what could be a better lubricant for one’s testimony than a frosty pint?

Of course, beer is by no means the only token of cultural savvy frequently associated with young-and-restless religion. All kinds of activities deemed vices by mothers everywhere have been adopted as badges of Calvinist identity and thus “redeemed”: tobacco, tattoos, gambling, mixed martial arts, profane language, and lots of explicit talk about sex.

Cast a disapproving eye at any of those activities, and you are likely to be swarmed by restless reformers denouncing legalism and wanting to debate whether it’s a “sin” to drink wine or smoke a cigar. But without even raising the question of whether this or that specific activity is acceptable, indifferent, or out-and-out evil, we surely ought to be able to say that controlled substances and other symbols of secular society’s seamy side are not what the church of Jesus Christ ought to wish to be known for. In fact, until fairly recently, no credible believer in the entire church age would ever have suggested that so many features evoking the ambiance of a pool hall or a casino could also be suitable insignia for the people of God.

It is puerile and irresponsible for any pastor to encourage the recreational use of intoxicants—especially in church-sponsored activities. The ravages of alcoholism and drug abuse in our culture are too well known, and no symbol of sin’s bondage is more seductive or more oppressive than booze. I have ministered to hundreds of people over the years who have been delivered from alcohol addiction. Many of them wage a daily battle with fleshly desires made a thousand times more potent because of that addiction. The last thing I would ever want to do is be the cause of stumbling for one of them.

Besides, deliberately cultivating an appetite for beer or a reputation for loving liquor is not merely bad missional strategy and a bad testimony; it is fraught with deadly spiritual dangers. The damage is clearly evident in places where the strategy has been touted. Darrin Patrick, who helped pioneer “Theology at the Bottleworks,” acknowledges the gravity of the problem:

As I coach and mentor church planters and pastors, I am shocked at the number of them who are either addicted or headed toward addiction to alcohol. Increasingly, the same is true with prescription drugs. One pastor I know could not relax without several beers after work and could not sleep without the aid of a sleeping pill. [Church Planter (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 51]

In biblical times, wine was necessary for health reasons. The risk of amoebae and parasites in drinking water could be significantly reduced or eliminated by mixing the water with a little wine (1 Timothy 5:23). The result was a greatly diluted wine that had virtually no potential for making anyone drunk. Purified tap water and refrigeration make even that use of wine unnecessary today.

Contrary to the current mythology, abstinence is no sin—least of all for someone devoted to ministry (Leviticus 10:9; Proverbs 31:4; Luke 1:15). It is, of course, a sin to give one’s mind over to the influence of alcohol or to bedeck one’s reputation with deliberate symbols of debauchery. As a matter of fact, drunkenness and debauchery are the very antithesis of Spirit-filled sanctification (Ephesians 5:18)—and men who indulge in them are not qualified to be spiritual leaders.
Yes, I realize Jesus Himself was referred to by His enemies as “a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Matthew 11:19). But He was none of the things that expression implied—nor did He seek such a reputation.
He was indeed “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” in the sense that He specialized in lifting them up out of the miry clay and setting their feet on a rock. But He did not adopt or encourage their lifestyle. He did not embrace their values or employ expletives borrowed from their vocabulary in order to win their admiration or gain membership in their fraternity. He confronted their wickedness and rebuked their sins as boldly as He preached against the errors of the Pharisees (Matthew 18:7-9).
Note, too, that He ate and drank with Pharisees (Luke 7:36) as readily as He ate and drank with publicans. The only significant difference was that the typical tax collector was more inclined to confess his own desperate need for divine forgiveness than the average self-righteous Pharisee (Mark 2:16-17; Luke 18:1-14).
But there is no suggestion in Scripture that Jesus purposely assumed the look and lifestyle of a publican in order to gain acceptance in a godless subculture. He didn’t.
This tendency to emblazon oneself with symbols of carnal indulgence as if they were valid badges of spiritual identity is one of the more troubling aspects of the YRR movement’s trademark restlessness. It is wrong-headed, carnal, and immature to imagine that bad-boy behavior makes good missional strategy. The image of beer-drinking Bohemianism does nothing to advance the cause of Christ’s kingdom.
Slapping the label “incarnational” on strategies such as this doesn’t alter their true nature. They have more in common with Lot, who pitched his tent toward Sodom, than with Jesus, who is “holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens” (Hebrews 7:26).
Real Christian liberty is not about flouting taboos and offending conventional notions of propriety. The liberty in which we stand begins with full indemnity from the law’s threats and condemnation—meaning we are at peace with God (Romans 5:1; 8:1). Christian liberty also removes the restrictions of the law’s ceremonial commandments (Colossians 2:16-17)—freeing us from asceticism, superstition, sensuality, and “human precepts and teachings” (vv. 18-23).

But sober-minded self-control and maturity are virtues commanded and commended by Scripture; these are not manmade rules or legalistic standards. As a matter of fact, one of the main qualifications for both deacons and elders in the church is that they cannot be given to much wine. In other words, they are to be known for their sobriety, not for their consumption of beer.

It should not take a doctor of divinity to notice that Scripture consistently celebrates virtues such as self-control, sober-mindedness, purity of heart, the restraint of our fleshly lusts, and similar fruits of the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying work in our lives. Surely these are what we ought hold in highest esteem, model in our daily lives, and honor on our websites, rather than trying so hard to impress the world with unfettered indulgence in the very things that hold so many unbelievers in bondage.

3 thoughts on “Thoughts on the Modern View of Christian Freedom

  1. I teeter on how I feel about this from time to time. While I feel that the doctrine and teachings of reformed theology border on, if not are outright heresy, I do not feel as though this is necessarily a salvational issue. If a man believes that he is saved and can do nothing about that, he may or may not have a believing and true salvational faith in Jesus. This I do not know. I have little doubt that John MacArthur has a salvational faith and understanding that it is though Jesus that he must be saved, but I’m not willing to take it much farther than that. In pRt because I’m not anle to fully explain, or understand the dichotomy between the two.

  2. Hi TOM,I have a suggestion that you read[1Jn.4:1 21].this is crucial for our modern era,this verse emphasizes believers are not to be naive about claims of spiritual authority,gullibly accepting all such claims.instead,believers are cautioned to subject the spirits to testing to see whether or not they are of God. The presence of false prophets claiming the authority of the Holy Spirit only underscores the necessity of “testing the spirits.” “Testing is an evauation of spiritual claims based upon the authority of the scriptures. This leading from the CRISWELL study Bible.

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