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Evangelicals Stammer and Capitulate when Confronted

Written by Prof Johan Malan.

The following article was recently posted to www.sacredsandwich.com

No matter what you think of Larry King, he certainly has a way of getting down to the nitty-gritty of the Christian gospel when he has prominent Christians on his CNN program. It seems he never misses the opportunity to put these public professors on the spot when he inevitably asks the same canned question to all of them, “You believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven, and if you don’t believe in Him, you’re going to hell, right?”

It is simply astonishing, however, when many of these Christians have reacted to this question as if they had no idea it was coming. It is as if Larry suddenly used his suspenders to lob a spitball in their face. These Christians just sit there like deer caught in the headlights and don’t know whether to move left or right to avoid the oncoming impact of the question. “Well, I, er, that’s a difficult question, Larry… I, um…”

Recently, “Smilin” Joel Osteen was on Larry’s show and displayed more dance moves than Fred Astaire. After commenting that ministers on his past shows have maintained that you have to believe in Christ to go to heaven, King asked Osteen if Jews and Muslims who don’t accept Christ go to heaven. Osteen’s response: “You know I'm very careful about saying who would and wouldn't go to heaven. I don't know…”

I don’t know?

Now to be fair to Joel, he did issue a statement after his Larry King appearance (probably in response to the tremendous flak coming from his supporters) where he apologized for his weak gospel presentation on the show. So what’s the problem? Too little, too late, I'm afraid. The damage is done, and despite Osteen’s behind-the-scenes apology to his Christian constituents, there are now millions of Jews and Muslims who watched him on Larry King that night and have been reassured by a prominent Christian that their Christ-less religion can still get them into heaven.

And lest you think I’m just picking on poor Joel, I would add that other well-known ministers have seemed more than willing to modify the Christian message for the Larry King audience, as well. Rick Warren, for instance, side-stepped a direct question from King about whether agnostics and atheists are pleasing to God. In response, Warren gave the impression that unbelievers can maintain their open rebellion against Christ and still be appreciated by a generic God for their “purpose-driven” works.

Sadly, Warren used the same sort of fuzzy presentation in Chapter 7 of The Purpose Driven Life when he cited only the first part of Proverbs 16:4 to somehow prove that EVERYONE has a wonderful purpose: “The Lord has made everything for his own purposes.” Here again, as in the King interview, Warren seemed reluctant to deal honestly with the whole biblical truth that says: “The Lord has made everything for his own purpose, even the wicked for punishment.” Why is Warren so intent on obscuring this truth by chopping off the end of a Bible verse?

It should be noted, of course, that Warren made some positive remarks about Jesus Christ later in the Larry King interview, but the question remains: why did he shy away from giving the biblical answer to Larry’s blunt question about unbelievers? Such flowery or fuzzy responses can supply very little reason for an enemy of God who might be watching the program to change his ways and turn to Christ.

My fear about this behavior is really not whether Osteen and Warren have personal doubts about the truth of the Gospel, but that they are exhibiting a growing trend where Christian leaders seem reluctant to be “offensive” to unbelievers and the world. Sure, they’ll talk freely about Jesus at church, but in other diverse venues they stick to a nonspecific God to avoid possible conflict or persecution.

As Christians, however, we aren’t part of a secret religious club where the hard truths of the Gospel are only fit for members. There shouldn’t be one message for inside church and one for outside. For starters, the Gospel message is supposed to be Good News for all, but that doesn’t mean it won’t contain some bad news for the unbeliever who refuses to hear it. The wrath of God against all sinners (Romans 1:18) is a certainty that must be fully realized for the unbeliever to rightly comprehend the Good News of Christ’s sacrifice for those who are found in Him. It is imperative, therefore, that a minister of God never fails in speaking boldly to this truth in the hopes that God’s Spirit will convict the sinner and drive him to the Cross.

So why do popular preachers come on Larry King and capitulate on the Christian message in one way or another? Perhaps it is because of the negative, often intense reaction they know they will get for being so bold in their faith. It certainly happened to John MacArthur during a roundtable discussion with other religious figures on the question of what happens after you die. Time after time, MacArthur reiterated his firm conviction that the Bible says “neither is their salvation in any other name other than Jesus Christ.” Not once did he infer that a practicing Jew, Muslim or atheist could be found pleasing in the eyes of God. The reaction from Larry King and the other panellists, ranging from a Rabbi to an atheist, was predictable. In their minds, it is unloving and unfair for God to send us all to hell for our sins, and to make faith in some good teacher from 2000 years ago the only condition to save us. So MacArthur was seen as the “bad guy” among the panellists and ultimately, in the eyes of the world.

Of course, such condemnation from the world for holding fast to the sufficiency of Scripture and the pre-eminence of Christ is nothing new. Certainly the savage martyrdom of the apostles and other saints throughout history attests to that harsh fact. It’s called “persecution,” and it is exactly what Jesus said would happen to us if we stood firmly with Him. So how lame is it when Christians today feel compelled to water-down Christian distinctives just because of harmless peer pressure or social discrimination? What kind of faith does one possess if “feeling awkward” is a fate worse than death? My, we have become a nation of weak, saltless Christians who seem more concerned about our popularity and our pocketbooks than about contending for the faith.

I implore you, brothers and sisters: do not emulate these Christian leaders who seem to kowtow to the world. You may never find yourself in front of one million viewers defending your faith on CNN, but there are a lot of Larry Kings out there in the world just waiting to expose your so-called intolerance and hatred by asking you if you really believe that only Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. So don’t be surprised when it happens and then surrender to the impulse to compromise for the sake of harmony. When the time comes, do as Peter insists, and always be ready to give a defence for the hope that is in you with gentleness and reverence (1 Peter 3:15). By doing so, you may not save your own life in the process, but you just might, by God’s grace, save the life of an unbeliever who hears your unwavering testimony and turns to Christ for his salvation (end of article on www.sacredsandwich.com).

Forerunner of the compromisers

A number of years ago, Billy Graham has already adopted the attitude of ecumenical compromise during a Larry King interview, thereby setting an example to other preachers on how to defend their popularity in an unbiblical way. In Dave Hunt’s book, Occult Invasion – the Subtle Seduction of the World and the Church, p. 587-590, shocking statements by Billy Graham are published. The following are excerpts from the programme Larry King Live:

King: “What do you think of other churches… like Mormonism, Catholicism and other faiths within the Christian concept?”

Graham: “Oh, I think I have a wonderful fellowship with all of them… I am very comfortable with the Vatican. I have been to see the pope several times... I like him very much. He and I agree on almost everything.”

King: “Are you comfortable with Judaism?”

Graham: “Very comfortable… In New York they have had me to the Rabbinical Council to meet with them and to talk with them and Rabbi Tannenbaum, who was a great friend of all of us, who died, he gave me more advice and more counsel, and I depended on him constantly, theologically and spiritually and in every way.”

King: “You’re a big admirer of Hillary Clinton, right?”

Graham: “Yes. I think a great deal of Hillary… I like the Clintons very much.”

Dave Hunt (ibid, p. 588-9) also quotes from an interview which Robert Schuller conducted with Billy Graham. In his Newsletter of 15 February 2001, John MacArthur reports more fully on this interview. The following question was posed to Graham:

Schuller: “Tell me, what do you think is the future of Christianity?”

Graham “I think everybody that loves Christ, or knows Christ, whether they’re conscious of it or not, they’re members of the Body of Christ… [God] is calling people out of the world for His name, whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world, or the Christian world or the non-believing world, they are members of the Body of Christ because they’ve been called by God. They may not even know the name of Jesus but they know in their hearts that they need something that they don’t have, and they turn to the only light they have, and I think that they are saved, and that they’re going to be with us in heaven… There is a wideness in God’s mercy.”

In an exclusive interview with Parade, supplement to a Sunday paper, Billy Graham said: “I fully adhere to the fundamental tenets of the Christian faith for myself and my ministry. But, as an American, I respect other paths to God – and, as a Christian, I am called to love them.” Dave Hunt (ibid, p. 589) comments as follows on this: “Unless Jesus was mistaken when He said, ‘I am the way … no man cometh unto the Father but by Me’ (John 14:6), there are no ‘other paths to God’.”

A New Zealander, who was saved in 1957 under Billy Graham’s preaching, was highly disappointed when he learned of the later developments in Billy Graham’s life and ministry. He said: “A lot of what I recently saw, heard and read… contradicted what I had experienced in 1957! Something had changed… The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association had become ‘politically correct’. It was now the friend of politicians and governments world-wide, and a welcome guest at the Vatican! Further investigation proved depressing and alarming… The decline from Evangelical orthodoxy to ecumenical apostasy has taken a mere 40 years” (quoted by Dave Hunt, p. 590).

Abide in the truth of the Triune God and His Word, even if it means rejection by the world. The Lord Jesus said: “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world… therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18-19). Acceptance by the apostate world in which we live would mean that we are unfaithful to the suffering Christ who is still rejected by the majority of people in the world: “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets” (Luke 6:26). “Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4).