IS THERE A CHRISTIAN “ESTABLISHMENT”?
We just went through the unusual
experience of two back-to-back conventions – the Republicans first and then the
Democrats. One common theme between them has been talk of “the establishment”.
With the G.O.P., people like Mitch O’Connell. John Boehner, and now Paul Ryan
were elected based upon appealing to issues valued by Republicans – freedom,
less government, moral certitude, adherence to the U.S. Constitution, judges
who interpret existing laws as opposed to creating new ones, and being a
reliable partner to our allies and resisting the lawless and institutions that
promote and carry out terrorism.
However, issue after issue was ceded to
the Obama Administration. Important issues. AND WITH NO REASON GIVEN.
When Donald Trump gained traction, they were like a deer in the
headlights and seemed to oppose him more than Obama or Hillary Clinton.
They were exposed as frauds, and we found out they really did NOT believe the
same way as their voters did. Trump’s numbers skyrocketed. So many in his
party rejected him and actually worked against him, some even pledging to vote
for his opponent showing where their hearts REALLY were.
With the Democrats, their new
establishment is far more liberal and “progressive” than traditional democrats
like Scoop Jackson, Hubert Humphrey, Harry Truman, and JFK. People like
former Pennsylvania Robert Casey were big on economic issues but totally
prolife. He was marginalized and disrespected, and his own son has become
anathema to all he stood for. The party flipped. It now promotes
unrestricted abortion, the promotion of sexual perversion, treating the U.S.
Constitution as a useless relic, appointing judges who make laws and overturn
the will of the people when they cannot get what they want legislatively as
opposed to simply interpreting existing laws, and pandering to minority groups
while secret emails showed how much they despised them. Bernie Sanders is
a socialist, but opposed the T.P.P. and the deep pandemic corruption of the
Democrat establishment. The Clinton Foundation was an utter fraud, and
Hillary’s diatribes against Wall Street rang hollow when she was getting a
quarter million dollars a speech for saying next to nothing and certainly not
offending Wall Street. The last release of emails proved that the fix had long
been in. The debates were scheduled on Saturday nights when no one was
watching. The press provided questions in advance to Clinton. The outright
cheerleading of Hillary by the mainstream media with ZERO probing questions was
galling to everyone.
Bernie and Donald were both considered
outside their party, with Repubs claiming Donald was a closet Democrat and
Bernie reverted to being an Independent. Strangely, the fact than Donald
was attracting a lot of Democrat votes to expand the base went unappreciated
and the bringing in of normally apolitical millennials through Bernie seemed to
mean nothing to either party.
Not many people seem to dispute
the fact that each party has an establishment and that those are harsh,
dishonest, disingenuous, and not open to doing things in a different way.
So, does the same issue exist in
the church? I say it does. I believe the evidence is
overwhelming. Why do I say this?
Like the parties, the Christian
Establishment has a “GroupThink” mentality. They expect people to go along
robotically with what they say. Like the Republicans and
Democrats, there is more than one establishment. They have some issues in
common, but many distinctives. Yet, the problems are the same.
The evangelical establishment has
become to mean the following:
1) The Bible is the word of God, but we will not stand on the Bible
in terms of Genesis with an earth about 6,000 years old and no molecules-to-man
evolution. Look at Westminster Seminary’s website and the OVERWHELMING
majority of “Christian” colleges. Also not the utter DISTAIN for true
Christians who actually believe Jesus when he wrote the ten commandments that
the creation took in six days as the basis for the Sabbath. The harsh words for
“fundamentalists” rival those Cruzers had for Trump.
need to demonstrate BY OUR LIVES more than witnessing the truths of the gospel.
I believe Jesus Christ was perfect and that if there ever was any life that
could preach the message it was his. Yet he spoke constantly and
ministered the truth. As the Bible says, “How shall they hear without a
must minister to felt needs. We must not have a one size first all gospel
(Praise God, that is precisely what we DO have!) We must determine what people
think they need and minister to that as they do at Willow Creek. The fact
is, people have to be CONVICTED by the Holy Spirit as to what they need – they
often have no idea. They often concentrate on the superficial whereas God deals
with the heart. The preaching of the cross is the power of God unto salvation.
4) Hate the sin but love the sinner. Not in the Bible.
God hates sin and the sinner. He hates homosexuality, partiality, racism,
murder, filthiness. As Jack Cottrell has well said, “A. H. Strong
(“Systematic Theology,” p. 290) observes that God both hates and loves the
sinner at the same time: “hates him as he is a living and willful antagonist of
truth and holiness, loves him as he is a creature capable of good and ruined by
his transgression.” In other words, God hates the sin, and he also hates the
sinner. “You hate all who do iniquity. You destroy those who speak falsehood;
the LORD abhors the man of bloodshed and deceit” (Ps. 5:5-6). This and many
other passages show that God’s hatred is directed against the PERSON who sins
and not just the sin itself.” The Evangelical Establishment is
harsh toward those who actually believe Romans 1. Abominations are not
negotiable. If you do not believe me, read recent Intervarsity books
which are so soft on sin. When you object, they latch into you with claws like
Cruz did with Trump.
charismatic gifts are no longer present. W have the Bible and they are useless
for today. The Bible says not to QUENCH the Holy Spirit. I
Corinthians 14 talks about the essential need for the gifts to be in evidence
by EVERYONE in EVERY service.
pastor must have theological training and is the head of the church. You cannot
find that in the Bible. There were elders and the people were called to
minister. I know so many with massive theological educations who like the
Scribes and Pharisees miss the entire point of the gospels. The Bible
gives the qualifications for leaders, and notably ABSENT is ANY mention of
formal training. It is based upon life integrity. I have found that
many pastors with “acceptable” training have been socialized into the
establishment’s way of thinking. They do not have intimate communications
with God. They barely scratch the surface of what is in the Bible, and they
tend to preach their ideas as opposed to what is actually in the Bible. So much
preaching is pabulum, not the heart of the gospel and the essentials for
sanctified Christian living.
church members must contribute 10% of their gross income to the local church
who solely decides how to spend it. This is called tithing, but was a
creation of the establishment to build cathedrals and was unknown in the early
church if you take the time to read the writings of the church fathers.
While the Sabbath is dismissed along with most of the rest of the Old Covenant,
this alone is held up as an absolute. Some churches I know insist one tithe to
be leader and some require you to produce your 1040 tax return so they can
assess you your giving! God forbid! Paul taught us that we are NOT to give
under compulsion. We are free in Christ. I would add that most of the New
Testament calls to be generous deal with THE POOR and the WIDOW, and the
ORPHAN, not to fund preachers and buildings. Paul noted those living high
n the hog off the gospel, and determined to pay his own way. I have paid
my way my entire ministry, and I have preached more messages than most
pastors. The Bible says one can make their living off the gospel, but I
have found that when people pay you to preach they want CONTROL over what you
say. Sometimes it is overt (and I have stories to tell) and sometimes it
is subtle or simply implied, but I am delighted to have TOTAL FREEDOM to speak
whatever God tells me to say without the fear of being fired or not getting
paid. I would not trade that FREEDOM IN CHRIST for ANYTHING.
Briefly, three more establishments –
first the Charismatic and Word Faith Establishment. The Charismatic movement
morphed in something unrecognizable if you were there in the beginning,
although some bad seeds were there very early on. I do not use that term
for myself any longer – I am simply a New Testament Christian. It brought
a whole lot of good to the table, but was corrupted like just about every other
move of God. Here is how it works:
You can take number six above and put it on steroids. You are promised all
manner of blessings for simply being generous.
The Seed-Faith teaching says that by giving to a man of God, you will give you
crazy stuff. The promises get bigger and bigger and the “testimonies” wilder
and wilder. It dilutes the whole idea of sacrificial giving – we give
because we love God and want to meet real needs. It also creates
mega-wealthy leaders which Paul scorned and the poor, the widow, and the orphan
get little of anything of what people sacrifice.
Everything is in the atonement – healing, money, etc. The net result is
that what really IS in the atonement gets short shrift. The atonement is a
GUARANTEE. Our salvation is guaranteed in Christ. Healing is not
guaranteed – even the most successful faith healers are at one percent, at
least in America, and some of the biggest names do not have even ONE medically
verified healing. I believe in healing and have seen and experienced it.
I preach it. I anoint with oil. I believe real New Testament style healing will
be restored to the church. However, not through showboaters,
money-oriented folks, or slick ministries, but through sincere men of
God. THE SAME WITH MONEY. Most of the best Christians have suffered
financial deprivation during some period of their lives, some MOST of their
lives. Remember, the Bible was not simply written for Americans, it is
universal, and you need to evaluate people in the third world as closely as
those in a wealthy suburb.
4) Practices such as “slaying in the spirit”,
“soaking”, uncontrolled behavior, and variations of “personal prophecy” which
are alarmingly close to dealing with a familiar spirit have spread like
wildfire to the Biblically illiterate. While God can certainly give a word to
someone, and I have seen that a lot and in fact have done it myself, I have also seen long lines of people wanting someone to speak over them which
often results in the "prophets" telling people what they want to hear
- having a great ministry, travel, money, etc., much like what your astrologer
might tell you. A "prophet" told me I would be a billionaire.
I was hoping he would be right, but you get the idea.
Women can minister the same as men. Just try to object to this abject
disobedience to the Bible. “Neither male nor female” is as prevalent as
Hillary’s “A Woman’s Right to Choose”. I remember when my wife taught
psychology at a Christian college. We had her class of students on our deck
talking about life. This came up sure as shootin’. They only
changed the subject when I asked if any of them every studied the times First
Corinthians was written in. There were two cultures in Corinth, the
Athenian Culture, which was traditional male-led and the Spartan culture, where
education was egalitarian and women had major roles in running businesses and
the economy. This was granted in part because of practicality since the men
were seafaring by-and-large, but also as a trade-off to not criticize the men
for homosexuality. The presence of the Spartan Culture was unique. The
reason Paul was so pointed was than EVEN WHEN IT IS PERMITTED BY THE CULTURE,
God’s way stands. This was totally opposite to their position that it was
written to unenlightened male chauvinist society and not at all applicable
today. The devil really turned that around. The other objection is that
the submission of women was a curse to them which is released in Christ.
If that were true, why tell Christian women to submit??? In Timothy, we
are told it was CREATED this way, not simply a result of sin. Read the curse in
Genesis carefully. That goes beyond what Paul is saying as the order of
creation. All this said, I have had numerous clients and interchanges
with Christian women pastors. NONE was without SIGNIFICANT spiritual
deception. It goes with the territory. You should also vet every MAKE
pastor as well so you do not follow a self-willed or deceived person either.
Next, the Black Church Establishment. I
need to be very careful here because there is a fair amount of diversity on
some issues and some of what I have shared above applies as well to a significant number of Black churches. However there are dominant issues upon which there is very
widespread conformance so I will deal with those.
1) The Black church sees itself as the rock of the Black community
and expects blacks to come. While whites are not excluded, they are generally
few in number and share the dominant political mindset. There is a mindset that
black preachers are superior and that black music is superior and those who go
to "white" churches are ;piled at somewhat askance. I have been
blessed by both black preaching and black music, so I would be the last one to
diminish either, but content is critical, and when in comes to passing the
Biblical accuracy test, there is much to be desired. I love a diversity of
music and appreciate a very wide variety of styles. The more recent phenomenon
of harder music is a somewhat logical progression from being more edgy, and
this has happened in predominantly white churches as well, especially those in
the Hillsong model with black drapes and very loud, hard music. I had to
walk out of a service in a black church where the singer had the mike practically
in his mouth and was thumbing the audio booth to make it even louder. It
was painful. The same happened in a Carmen concert, though that was a
concert as opposed to a service. If reconciliation is to be real, people need
to worship together and not be segregated. Unfortunately, there are so many
vested interests, and perhaps a fear by some pastors that they would not be in
charge anymore. The pressure to conform is great, with "thinking
white" a greater sin than the real sins Jesus talked about. Unfortunately,
that Balkanizes Christianity, especially in view of the next point.
The modern Black church is an extension of the Democrat party. Those who
depart are heavily marginalized. I know a black pastor who preached moral
issues, never political partisanship - he faced a rebellion and his church
ended up in foreclosure. I know another pastor who was strong on moral
issues and had candidates who espoused them come visit at election time. He
flipped in 2008 and started preaching abominable things. While many black
Christians consider themselves conservative, they put moral issues on the shelf
and vote overwhelmingly for the party that seeks to marginalize ALL Christians.
Misplaced loyalties always compromise judgment. None of the demonstratively
true economic issues are taught, as one is accepted for going along, just like
in college, no matter what your ethnicity, no one cares if you understand
evolutionary theory or Marxism or whatever as long as you say you are for it.
So many churches are no longer clear in their moral teachings, as they have to
permeate EVERY area of one's life. While this was historically not the case, to
be a Black Republican today is a profile in courage.
academics are often preached hard about, the black church has copies many of
their white brothers in cherishing titles, especially "Doctor".
A stunning number of leaders has honorary degrees and their
congregations adore the title, even though there was nothing done academically
to get them. Honorary degrees were intended for those with amazing life
stories who never could go to college, not as a substitute for rigorous
academic work. Thankfully, there seems to be trend toward earned degrees,
though many of the institutions attended are theologically liberal and not
nearly rigorous enough with the Bible. While title creep is a problem
everywhere, the sheer number of Bishops, Apostles, Chief Apostles, and the like
are a genuine embarrassment. Some are even women which violates
the scriptures, but whether men or women, the fascination with titles is
not wise. We are to be servants, not exalting ourselves.
related to three is the tendency to unhealthily exalt ministers and vicariously
live through them. Many black pastors are given fine cars and far better
homes than would be typical in the congregation. I will not give examples to
keep you from guessing, but I personally know of many examples. This
makes it even worse when there is a moral failure, as the tendency is get the
person back as quickly as possible, Mt Dad was seriously underpaid
as a pastor, so I do not favor starving any pastor,
However, multiple luxury cars and a luxurious lifestyle
usually impact the integrity of the message. If you question any of
this you will be the odd man out.
5) False teaching
on giving is endemic as it is in evangelical churches. However, only in black
churches have I heard that pastors insisted people show their 1040 to be
assessed their "tithe". High pressure, including walking
to the altar which marginalizes those unable to give stand out to me - perhaps
not to you. The Bible says to not let your left hand know
what your right hand is doing. I prefer private giving wherever I
am. A side issue here is financial accountability. A black bank VP
was a trustee of his church yet had no idea how much the pastor made or where
the money went. He asked me if this was typical around here, as he was
from New York. I showed him the financial report from the church I was
attending at the time, which was largely white. His eyes lit up and said
that was what he was looking for. Tables and charts and a full
financial picture plus the offer that an attender could meet with the
church finance officer if they needed ever more information. Outside
auditing is a problem with many ministries of all types, but in my business
dealing over several decades, this seems to be an acute issue in too many black
6) Lastly, in many venues, the call for salvation is very weak and
ambiguous and is mixed in with "opening the doors of the church".
This leads to many church members not being born again, and weakens the
church in terms of being able to follow the Lord in everything. Members must
be believers in any church, and I favor really checking someone out before
inviting them to be a part of you, but unfortunately churches of all
stripes want members and have lowered the bar. This particular
practice though, makes it incredibly easy for an unbeliever to join.
I will close with the Catholic
Establishment. I know numerous born-again Catholics and been to the Catholic Charismatic Conference in Notre Dame
and been in Newman Center Meetings. While
they differ fro the old school in some ways, and diminish the role of Mary and do not pray for the dead, much of the
Pope is seen as the Vicar of Christ. A Vicar means in place of”, so even
if a pope were totally righteous and sanctified, it would be wrong to accord
him that honor. However, history has shown that MANY popes throughout
history lived in debauchery. The current Pope Francis has contradicted
Jesus and the Bible so many times it is hard to believe he ever had any serious
encounter with Christ at all. Yet just TRY to change born-again Catholic
minds who think he is the best thing since Swiss Cheese. Remember, misplaced loyalties always
]2) The primacy of the Catholic Church. I and a Baptist
fellow went to a meeting at the College of St. Rose in Albany, NY at the height
of Charismatic movement for a prayer meeting. They were discussing whether
Protestants could actually be Christians – they had heard God had been working
among Protestants! As Yogi Berra liked to say, it was deja vous all over
again. I was raised primarily as an independent Baptist, and we discussed
whether Catholics could be born again if they did not leave their church.
Many of course have, and we attended a non-denominational church where perhaps
1/3 of the people were ex-Catholics. Yet many have remained. If they
spoke up, they would probably not be welcome, yet people on both sides of the
aisle stay in church which teach things contrary to the Bible. I say
LEAVE. “Can two walk together except they be agreed/” and “What
fellowship has light with darkness?”
the Democrats, Catholics used to be strong on patriotism and morality. Did you
know Al Gore used to be strongly pro-life? The infiltration by those who do not
even have a passing knowledge of Christ has made it harder for the traditional
Catholics. The Pope has been sending all the signals to encourage this
new group, and many have compromised the traditional strong stands of the
church. Those who feel they have been hijacked are being marginalized and
soon we may be able to recognize it. Like Al Gore long ago, and like Tim
Kaine now, compromise and further solidarity with wickedness is the order of
In my mind, the only establishment that
matters is the establishment of Christ’s kingdom, Unless we live in a kingdom
matter, whether one belongs to the Evangelical Establishment, the Word of Faith
establishment, of the Catholic Establishment is only a matter of degree,
We are called to come out from among them and to be separate, says the
Lord. We are to stand for what is true and not empower nor support that which
is contrary to the eternal, perfect, and infallible word of God. I
am anti-establishment. Are you?