Responsibility; Santa Claus; and the Devout Brethren and Their Pack of Lies

Excerpts from The Greatness of the Great Commission, by Kenneth L Gentry.

Accepting Responsibility

From the Publisher’s Forward by Gary North, pages xiii-xiv

Escaping Responsibility

It is always difficult to sell personal responsibility. The dominion covenant establishes mankind’s responsibility over the creation and under God. This involves a lot of responsibility. In a fallen world, this hierarchical system of responsibility also places some men over others in certain institutions and in certain circumstances. Men must exercise dominion over each other, depending on what institution we are talking about.

Those who enjoy exercising power are not hesitant to misuse this inevitable hierarchical aspect of every society. They endorse the power religion. Those who fear responsibility are also willing to endure oppression for the sake of security. They endorse the escape religion. What neither religion wants is freedom under God, which means self-government under God’s Bible-revealed laws, the God who brings negative sanctions, who sends people into eternal torment if they refuse to make a covenant with Him.

Christianity is the alternative to both the power religion and the escape religion.[1] It teaches the whole Bible, which includes the dominion covenant. It preaches restoration with God, meaning the restoration of man’s law-governed authority over the whole world.[2] But without redemption, and without obedience to biblical law, men cannot be trusted by God to exercise lawful dominion. So, in His grace, He has made a way of restoration. This is the saving, healing gospel of Jesus Christ. Nothing is to be excluded from Christ’s healing: not the family, not the State, not business, not education, and surely not the institutional Church. Salvation is the salve that heals the wounds inflicted by sin: every type of wound from every type of sin.

This is why the Great Commission was given: to enable mankind to return to faithful service under God and over the creation. God’s salvation brings us back to the original task: to exercise dominion to the glory of God, in terms of His Bible-revealed law. The gospel will succeed in history before God comes again to judge the world. The Bible gives us hope for the future.

[1] Gary North, Moses and Pharaoh: Dominion Religion vs. Power Religion (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1985), pp. 2-5.

[2] Gary DeMar, Ruler of the Nations (Ft. Worth, Texas: Dominion Press, 1987).

The amount of time given to oppressors continually shrinks. It’s already doable to gut the force of some invading army, however high-tech and well-equipped: as time goes in, it will get much easier to evade and defeat domestic oppression using non-violent means, and – in a century or two – even by force of arms.

I have a suspicion: that the amount of time given to cowards is also shrinking. Not as swiftly as the power-worshipers, as the escape artists don’t cause as much damage to others. But God hates the failure who hides his talent, just as much as He hates the man who steals His talent to buy some whips for the backs of his fellow man.

God as Santa Claus

From pages 158-9

Regarding the matter of superficiality, John A. Sproule laments: “The tragedy today…  is the apparent disinterest in the preaching of doctrine in the church…. Caught up in the craze for ‘Christian’ entertainment and psychology, the church is worse off for it.”[1] Regarding the accelerating changes in this direction inside American evangelical churches, David Wells warns that “the impetus to change is coming from without rather than from within, and this impetus is primarily sociological, not theological.”[2]

It’s not so much a case of “the secularist leads,and the Christian follows” as much as “the people wish to play and laugh – not study and obey – and the preachers who want a comfortable living supply what the laity wants.”

Too much in the popular church growth mentality reduces the role of sound biblical preaching and teaching in deference to crowd-pleasing antics to draw the play-oriented masses into churches.[3] These masses must then continually be entertained by throwing Christian theology to the lions. Of last century’s influential evangelist, Dwight L. Moody, Weisberger writes: he “completed the reduction of evangelism to a matter of technique and personality.[4]· North’s comments are apropos:

“Is it any wonder that the doctrine of eternal damnation is de-emphasized in preaching today? Is it any wonder that God is spoken of mostly as a God of love, and seldom as the God of indescribable eternal wrath? D. L. Moody, the turn-of-the-century American evangelist, set the pattern by refusing to preach about hell. He made the preposterous statement that “Terror never brought a man in yet.” That a major evangelist could make such a theologically unsupported statement and expect anyone to take him seriously testifies to the theologically debased state of modern evangelicalism. It has gotten no better since he said it.”[5]

If there is no sound doctrinal base to the Christian life, there can be no proper starting point for a holistic Christian faith.

So it’s Moody who – in modern times – led the shift from “God as the High Judge” to “God as Santa Claus”?

Good to know who I should pin the responsibility for this evil lie.

“But Moody didn’t deny hell! He just refused to talk about it!”

“Lying by omission is a specialty of serpents.”

[1] John A Sproule in John S. Feinberg, ed., Continuity and Discontinuity: Perspectives on the Relationship Between the Old and New Testament (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1988), p. 318. James Davison Hunter has written a powerful critique of the theological drift in evangelicalism entitled: Evangelicalism: The Coming Generation (University of Chicago Press, 1987). In an article on Hunter’s book, entitled “Theological Drift: Christian Higher Ed the Culprit?,” Randy Frame notes: “Hunter argued in the book that contemporary evangelicalism is moving away from tenets of belief and practice long considered orthodox. There are some who say that the current conflict at Grace Theological Seminary exemplifies Hunter’s observations…” (Christianity Today, April, 9, 1990, p. 43). See article in the same issue: “Trouble at Grace: Making Waves or Guarding the Truth?,” p. 46.

[2] David Wells, “Assaulted by Modernity,” Christianity Today 34:3 (February 19, 1990) 16. A remarkable illustration of this may be found in the conservative Presbyterian Church in America’s The PCA Messenger. A reader, Carl Gauger, complained in a letter to the editor: “I find in the article… further confirmation of a disturbing trend in evangelicalism. Although we continue to voice confidence in the inerrancy of the Bible, we are tending to use it less and less…. In this article… we are given no pretense to believe [the writer’s assumptions] because of any biblical authority. It is disappointing enough to see psychology parading in a cloak of misquoted biblical references, but when even the pretense of Biblical authority is removed, I think God’s people should rise up and cry foul.” Editor Bob Sweet responded (in part): “But do you examine everything you read so critically? Do you require ‘biblical authority’ for everything?” (pp. 3, 4). Wells’ “impetus to change” is often from secular psychological theories.

[3] See Richard Quebadeaux, By What Authority: The Rise of Personality Cults in American Christianity (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1982). For important correctives to this work, see: Michael R. Gilstrap’s review, “Media Theo-Pop” in James B. Jordan, ed., The Failure of the American Baptist Culture, vol. 1 of Christianity and Civilization (Tyler, TX: Geneva Divinity School, 1982), pp. 99-110.

[4] Bernard Wisberger, They Gathered at the River (Boston: Little, Brown, 1958), p. 177. For the problems created by Moody’s revivalism, see: George Dollar, A History of Fundamentalism in America (Greenville, SC: Bob Jones University, 1973), ch. 5, “New Winds Blowing.”

[5] Gary North, Tools of Dominion: The Case Laws of Exodus (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1990), p. 167. North got this quote from Stanley N. Gundry, who was cited by George M. Manden. He then comments: “Perhaps someone will cite me, making it three-stage faith in footnotes” (p. 167, n. 126). Consider it done!

The American Roots of Escape, Retreat, and Failure: The Brethren Movement

From page 1612:

Much of the modern spread of this foreshortened time perspective is traceable to the Brethren movement in the 1830s. W. Blair Neatby gives an interesting analysis of the Brethren devotion to such:

“Brethrenism is the child of the study of unfulfilled prophecy and of the expectation of the immediate return of the Saviour. If anyone had told the first Brethren that three quarters of a century might elapse and the Church still be on earth, the answer would probably have been a smile, partly of pity, partly of disapproval, wholly of incredulity. Yet so it has proved. It is impossible not to respect hopes so congenial to ardent devotion; yet it is clear now that Brethrenism took shape under the influence of a delusion, and that delusion left its traces, more or less deeply, on the most distinctive features of the system![1]

So, the Brethren movement has poisoned American Christianity for 200 years… and counting.

I trust that God has held the Brethren responsible for their rebellion against His direct commandments. But – more pertinently for us – it is important that today’s false prophets and congenial failures be held responsible for their willful, decade-after-decade disobedience to God’s direct command, to disciple the nations and teach them to uphold God’s commandments… and the fact that today’s deeply pious, warm-hearted enemies of God encourage others in the way of disobedience as well!

Billy Graham, Tim LaHaye, and millions of other Christians hold to the “any-moment” view of the Coming of Christ, which shortens their historical perspective. Some have carried this view to logical, but embarrassing, extremes. We see the clearest examples in Edgar C. Whisenant’s 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Is in 1988[2] and Hal Lindsey’s The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon.[3] Soon to join them is Richard Rhuling, M.D., with his new book Sword Over America, that is said to point to the early 1990s as the time for the Battle of Armageddon.[4]

Fruitless and powerless preaching. Fruitless and powerless prophecies.

I recommend that you judge these men by their (lack of) fruits.

It is sad to say, but these men are following in a long train failed prophets.[5] This “any moment” viewpoint kept Graham diligently working, even if not carefully preparing for the long haul. This has kept too many other Christians sitting back, away from the fray (except for a few notable areas of exception, such as anti-pornography and pro-life advocacy), while expecting the end. But a long, developmental, hope-filled view of history is fundamental to any serious Bible-based approach to the whole of life.[6] If there is a tendency to promote a “blocked future,” there will be no promotion of a holistic Christian faith.

Encouraging slackness, laziness, and inertia among God’s people is just another way to rebel against the King.

I have no time for this. And neither should you.

There is work to be done, and a world to redeem.

And we are to be Christ’s tools, filled with His Spirit, to change the world for the better!

[1] W. Blair Neatby, A History of the Plymouth Brethren, p. 339. Cited from Joseph M. Canfield, “Discussion Paper No. 3: The Delusion of Imminence!” (unpublished manuscript, June 30, 1988), p. 1.

[2] Edgar C. Whisenant, 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Is in 1988 (Nashville, TN: World Bible Society, 1988). Whisenant claims to have published several million copies of this work. After his initial failure (the Rapture did not occur in September, 1988, as he predicted), he even tried to update it to January, 1989, then September, 1989. He soon lost his following.

[3] Hal Lindsey, The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon (New York: Bantam, 1980). Though Lindsey is not as bold, his sensational books lead in the same direction, with such statements as: “The decade of the 1980’s could very well be the last decade of history as we know it” (p. 8, emphasis his).

[4] See: Jim Ashley, “Ruhling Believes ‘Crisis’ Events Near,” Chattanooga News-Free,

Press, October 7, 1989, Church News Section.

[5]  See: Dwight Wilson, Armageddon Now! The Premillenarian Response, to Russia and

Israel Since 1917 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1977).

[6] “Christianity is a force for total transformation, even of the cosmos (Rom. 8:18-22). Nevertheless, it is not self-consciously revolutionary. It does not seek to overthrow civil governments by elitist-imposed force. Instead, it steadily overthrows all governments – personal, familistic, church, and civil – by the cumulative spread of the gospel and the process of institutional replacement. This is the New Testament kingdom principle of leaven (Matt. 13:33).” North, Tools of Dominion, p. 189. This, obviously, is a program that requires much time.

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