Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. Psalm:119:9
Believers throughout every generation have experienced manifold problems in their attempts to live for Christ. Although circumstances and situations may vary greatly over millennia, God has nevertheless provided His remedy, which is both timeless and completely sufficient: "by taking heed thereto according to thy word."
When God has provided the solution, it doesn't take special insight to recognize that Satan, God's adversary, will make God's Word the chief focus of his strategy of subversion. It began in the Garden of Eden, when the Serpent, in dialogue with Eve, cunningly seduced her into reconsidering what God had commanded: "Yea, hath God said...?" Dialogues have a way of subverting God's absolutes by either adding erroneous content or subtracting critical truth. That has been Satan's amazingly effective game plan throughout the ages as he has "blinded the minds of them which believe not" and shipwrecked the faith of some who believed (2 Corinthians:4:4; 1 Timothy:1:18-19).
The "Yea, hath God said...?" tactic is nearly always followed by a direct rejection of Scripture, as took place in the beginning ("Ye shall not surely die" -Genesis:3:4) and opens the way for God's Word to be denigrated, scorned, distorted, mocked, lied about, and so forth. Although the Bible has been assaulted for thousands of years, Scripture tells us, and observation confirms, that the offensive against the Word will be unprecedented in the last days (2 Timothy:3:1; 4:3-4; 1 Timothy:4:1-2).
My personal observation of the Adversary's strategy began as a biblical Christian some three decades ago, beginning with my work with Dave Hunt in exposing the cults (Cult Explosion and The God Makers documentary films), and shortly thereafter, alerting the church to cultic beliefs and practices that had crept in among Christian fellowships (The Seduction of Christianity). For what it's worth, I've spent more than a quarter of a century observing and writing about trends within evangelical Christianity. Let me identify the tactics that I believe best exemplify Satan's assaults on the Word in these last days before Christ's return.
I was a Roman Catholic before being born again. Jesus said to Nicodemus, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God," neither can he "enter the kingdom of God" (John:3:3, 5). I was both blind and separated from the kingdom of God until my spiritual rebirth, which Jesus declared was imperative: "Ye must be born again" (v.7). Although Jesus made it a "must," many if not most evangelicals today pay little heed to what He commanded, and they consequently have accepted the more than one billion Roman Catholics as "brothers and sisters in Christ." Among their numerous distortions of the teachings of Scripture, many Catholics profess to being "born again" based upon their having been baptized as infants. The Church of Rome similarly accepts all baptized non-Catholic Christians as "separated brethren."
Thirty years ago, some young adult evangelicals confronted me with the fact that I was not their "brother in Christ" and explained to me what the Scriptures taught, which alone could make that relationship with Jesus a reality. Today, the influence of organizations such as Evangelicals and Catholics Together, Promise Keepers, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, most parachurch ministries on college campuses, the evangelical-supported Catholic movie The Passion of the Christ, and the rapid growth of ecumenism have created an atmosphere of accepting Catholics as believers. Consequently, I (and many others that I know) have been rebuked by evangelicals for pointing out that the Roman Catholic Church has a gospel that is contrary to the Scriptures—and therefore can save no one. Moreover, we've been told that we have offended "fellow Catholic Christians" by witnessing to them. This is an unprecedented latter-day development among evangelicals, especially those in Christian universities and colleges.
Today's "twenty-something" age group, give or take a few years, has become a targeted generation by the Adversary in ways that are unparalleled in modern church history. This objective is in keeping with the undermining of the Word of God by diluting, even denying, its authority. What makes the strategy particularly insidious is that it's an inside job, i.e., it's being perpetrated by those who claim to be evangelicals or who at least have evangelical roots. Referred to as the Emerging Church Movement, it's a development that is attempting to reach today's post-modern culture for Christ by "reinventing Christianity," making it more accommodating to the attitudes of young adults. For example, since the post-modern generation is characterized by a disdain for authority, whatever seems to suggest authority, such as preaching or teaching, is downplayed or revamped as "conversation." (See TBC 1/08 ,3/08 ,8/08 ,12/08 )
Sound doctrine, which 2 Timothy:4:3 tells us will not be endured in the last days, is antithetical to this movement. Its most prolific author, Brian McLaren, demonstrates this throughout his writings: "The church latched on to that old doctrine of original sin like a dog to a stick, and before you knew it, the whole gospel got twisted around it. Instead of being God's big message of saving love for the whole world, the gospel became a little bit of secret information on how to solve the pesky legal problem of original sin."1 Elsewhere he says, "I don't think we've got the gospel right yet. What does it mean to be saved?...None of us have arrived at orthodoxy."2 On the contrary, I know a number of five and six-year olds who have "arrived at orthodoxy" by understanding and believing the simple gospel.
The Emerging Church Movement comes closer to fulfilling Paul's prophetic warning to the Ephesian elders (Acts 20: 28-31) than any other recent trend of which I'm aware. Indeed Emergent leaders are "speaking perverse things" and "drawing away disciples after themselves." TBC has received numerous letters from parents and evangelical pastors who find their young people seeking out emergent churches for the "new" experiences, which they offer in abundance: religious art (primarily impressionistic images of "Jesus"), "biblical" films, rituals based upon Catholic/Orthodox liturgy, "community," personal relationships, contemplative spirituality and mysticism (some include yoga), Bible "dialogues," ecumenical interaction with "people of faith," a social gospel, plans to save the planet, restore the kingdom, and so forth.
The "Yea, hath God said...?" strategy has been very successful in undermining the critical belief in the sufficiency of the Word of God. Although the Bible claims to be sufficient for "all things that pertain unto life and godliness" (2 Peter:1:3), many Christians who profess to believe the Bible no longer regard it as sufficient. This is particularly evident regarding counseling. Many evangelical churches have become a major referral source for secular psychotherapists; shepherds more often than not are committing their sheep to such God-denying hirelings for resolving life's issues.
This may be Satan's most cunning scheme in his assault against the Word and the Body of Christ. It is a process of seduction and intimidation. Psychological counseling has been advertized as a scientific endeavor that will help resolve the mental, emotional, and behavioral problems that Christians encounter in their daily life. Nothing could be further from the truth! It is neither scientific nor is it helpful (see Psychology and the Church: Critical Questions, Crucial Answers). Furthermore, its more than 500 psychotherapeutic concepts and methods are contradictory to biblical truth. Yet believers, especially pastors, have been intimidated by the myth that counseling is for professionals only and that only those with academic training are qualified to address a person's mental and emotional problems. Not only is that a rejection of what the church has practiced for two-thousand years, it is at odds with current research showing that professionals do not possess demonstrably superior therapeutic skills compared with nonprofessionals. Moreover, studies reveal that professional mental health education, training, and experience are not necessary prerequisites in order to be an effective and God-ordained helper.
Foundationally, psychotherapy and the teachings of the Bible are diametrically opposed to each other. Psychology teaches that man has within himself, that is, his self, all that he needs for his mental and emotional wellbeing. His problems, therefore, stem from issues external to himself. The Bible declares that man has a sinful nature that he himself cannot change. His heart is the problem, for from it originates every sort of evil (Mark:7:21-23). When attempts are made by Christians to combine psychology with the teachings of Scripture, it is, wittingly or unwittingly, the addition of "a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death" (Proverbs:14:12) and a variation of the "Yea, hath God said...?" dialogue, resulting in the corruption of God's Word.
The influence of psychology has spread throughout the church today like a plague. The Apostle Paul prophesied that the root lie of psychotherapy would prevail in the days before our Lord's return: "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves" (2 Timothy:3:1-2). This humanistic cornerstone of self-love has become a new doctrine within evangelical Christianity, taught from many of the most popular pulpits. Sermons more often than not quote psychologists and teach their unbiblical psychological concepts for credibility. National evangelical conferences that do not include a prominent psychologist as an "expert" on problems of living are few and far between.
So-called Christian psychologists are often better known and more respected by evangelicals than preachers and teachers. In fact, the most prominent and most influential evangelical in America is not an evangelist, not a preacher, not a Bible teacher—but a psychologist: Dr. James Dobson. He heads up a list of "counselors" who integrate psychology with the Bible and have become household names among Christians, including Gary Smalley, John Trent, Henry Cloud, David Stoop, Larry Crabb, John Townsend, Les and Leslie Parrot, H. Norman Wright, and on and on. Chief among organizations that undermine Scripture by mixing it with psychotherapy is the evangelical-founded American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC). It recently produced The Bible For Hope, a "newly revised counselor's Bible," which features 116 theme articles—most of them contributed by those with psychological counseling backgrounds, from psychiatrists to clinical psychologists and to marriage and family counselors.
Although the AACC boasts "50,000 members and growing stronger every day!", it pales in comparison to another entity of great influence that is producing hundreds of thousands of young people who are taught to integrate psychology with Scripture: Christian colleges and universities. The second most popular career choice among evangelical institutions of higher learning is the pseudoscience of psychology. The "Yea, hath God said...?" subversion of Scripture rages on today, with accepted "truths" from Freud, Jung, Maslow, Rogers, and a host of other atheists, humanists, and anti-Christians.
The battle for this generation of youth is intensifying. Dave Hunt addresses another onslaught, the new militant atheism, in his soon-to-be published book, Cosmos, Creator, and Human Destiny, and notes a particular assault that is without precedent: "The Blasphemy Challenge":
The Rational Response Squad is giving away 1001 DVDs of The God Who Wasn't There, the hit documentary that the Los Angeles Times calls "provocative—to put it mildly." There's only one catch: We want your soul. It's simple. You record a short message damning yourself to Hell, you upload it to YouTube, and then the Rational Response Squad will send you a free The God Who Wasn't There DVD. It's that easy. (http://www.blasphemychallenge.com/)
What can we do to prevent our young people from being seduced by the advancement of the apostasy? Teach them the Word. Disciple them. Teach them to be sound in doctrine.
I recently spent some time with young adult leaders here and in England. Many feel overwhelmed by what's taking place but are not without hope. They see the apostasy as a flood that cannot be turned back (outside of a sovereign act of God), yet they are optimistic that many can be rescued. They are aware that most of their peers who profess to be Christians have not been grounded in the faith, many are distracted by and attracted to the world, and some even think they are Christians because of their family ties. Nevertheless, these committed leaders are hopeful that the older generation—those mature in the Lord and who love His Word—will reach out to the younger generation, whether in Bible studies or one-on-one situations, as disciplers, mentors, teachers, and encouragers in Christ. They believe that the Lord will help them to reach those who He knows are willing to take up their crosses and follow Him. Their continual prayer is for more seasoned laborers from the older generation to come alongside their peers.
The Bible is the most exciting book there is, yet for years here in the U.S. our children have been fed a "let me entertain you" diet with only a hint of scriptural nutrition. That's part of Satan's "Yea, hath God said...?" strategy. The consequence is an upcoming generation that is, for the most part, spiritually anemic and ripe for the various schemes of apostasy. Deprived of the objective truths of Scripture, they are easy prey for those who would entice them through the subjective and experiential, that is, their "feelings." Nevertheless, our marching orders involve a rescue operation as found in 2 Timothy:2:24-25: "And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth."
Pray for our young people that they would have a heart for truth, but then seek out those of their generation to whom the Lord would have you minister His love and truth. TBC