Thursday, February 25, 2010

That man who takes up Christ for the world...

... John Bunyan destroys the "prosperity gospel."

In this quote from The Pilgrim's Progress, a company of men ask a question of the hero of the story, Christian. In the book there is a long set-up to the asking of this question but if I were to paraphrase it I would write, "what is wrong with following Christ in order to get physical or material blessings in this life?" Christian answers:

Then said Christian, Even a babe in religion may answer ten thousand such questions. For if it be unlawful to follow Christ for loaves, as it is in the sixth of John (John 6:26), how much more abominable is it to make of him and religion a stalking-horse to get and enjoy the world! Nor do we find any other than heathens, hypocrites, devils, and wizards, that are of this opinion.

1. Heathens: for when Hamor and Shechem had a mind to the daughter and cattle of Jacob, and saw that there was no way for them to come at them but by being circumcised, they said to their companions, If every male of us be circumcised, as they are circumcised, shall not their cattle, and their substance, and every beast of theirs be ours? Their daughters and their cattle were that which they sought to obtain, and their religion the stalking-horse they made use of to come at them. Read the whole story (Gen, 34:20-24).

2. The hypocritical Pharisees were also of this religion: long prayers were their pretence, but to get widows’ houses was their intent; and greater damnation was from God their judgment (Luke 20:46, 47).

3. Judas the devil was also of this religion: he was religious for the bag, that he might be possessed of what was put therein; but he was lost, cast away, and the very son of perdition.

4. Simon the wizard was of this religion too; for he would have had the Holy Ghost, that he might have got money therewith: and his sentence from Peter’s mouth was according (Acts 8:19-22).

5. Neither will it go out of my mind, but that that man who takes up religion for the world, will throw away religion for the world; for so surely as Judas designed the world in becoming religious, so surely did he also sell religion and his Master for the same. To answer the question, therefore, affirmatively, as I perceive you have done, and to accept of, as authentic, such answer, is heathenish, hypocritical, and devilish; and your reward will be according to your works.

Then they stood staring one upon another, but had not wherewith to answer Christian. Hopeful also approved of the soundness of Christian’s answer; so there was a great silence among them. Mr. By-ends and his company also staggered and kept behind, that Christian and Hopeful might outgo them. Then said Christian to his fellow, If these men cannot stand before the sentence of men, what will they do with the sentence of God? And if they are mute when dealt with by vessels of clay, what will they do when they shall be rebuked by the flames of a devouring fire?

-John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress


Anonymous said...

Hi Matt,

Happy Thursday!

I hope I'm not beating a dead horse, but Anti-Christ is a pretty big can of worms, and now that you've opened it, I can't let it alone. I have always believed that Lucifer is the great anti-Christ, he who assumes the guise of Christ but in reality opposes and lead souls away from Him. If I understand correctly, it was St. John the Evangelist who first introduced this topic in the New Testament.
"Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is anti-Christ...And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of anti-Christ....For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an anti-Christ." This all starts in 1 John 2 and ends in John's second epistle of the KJV. But you know all this and could sermon me back all day and night.
My question is, do people like Joseph Smith and Charles Taze Russell (since these were your examples) necessarily meet this criteria?
I'm just being a little wary of Matthew 7:1...


Scarlet Pimpernel

Matt Perkins said...

Hey SP,

Not beating a dead horse at all... or maybe we are but what else is the blogosphere good for? =) Thanks for keeping me on my toes as usual. So in 1st John 1:22 we read, "Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son," and later, "And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world (4:3)."

So it seems that John was dealing with people who claimed to follow Christ in one way or another but were denying Him even while they claimed to follow Him. 2:19 sheds more light on this where John writes of antichrists, "They went out from us, but they were not of us..." So these people were going out from the Christian church and preaching a false Christ. One example that I think is clear from the text are those, most likely Gnostics, who denied that Christ, the Son of God, had come in the flesh. They believed that He was a mere phantom, as God, Who is spirit, would never want to dirty Himself with the material world, which they believed was evil. So in essence those who are called antichrist are preaching a false version of Jesus Christ, it's not that they just aren't preaching "Christ" at all. That's why it's called anti-christ and not anti-non-christ (see this quote from Francis Schaeffer):

So if those who deny that Christ came in the flesh can be called antichrist then I am confident that those who deny the very divinity of Christ (JW's) can also be called antichrist. With the Mormons I will admit that in some ways it could be less clear. I have a number of Mormon friends and they will assert that they believe in the full divinity of Christ. If that is the only test of antichrist, whether they are teaching a false-christ, then it could seem less clear with Mormons but I do think that if you dig deep into how Mormons define the "divinity of Christ" you will find that it's not the same as the divinity affirmed in Colossians 1, "For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth . . . all things were created by him, and for him." If you dig deep enough in Mormon theology I don't think they'd be able to affirm the fullness of Christ's divinity as expressed there.

Thanks for making me look into all this stuff SP, and I think you've inspired my next post for tomorrow morning!