The Apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, tells us that we ought to have the same mind about things that Jesus has. In telling us we "ought," he is also telling us that we can. But wait! What exactly does that mean?
Obviously, it doesn't mean that we can develop a mind with the capabilities of Jesus, who is not only a perfect, sinless Man, but also our infinite God, the Creator of the universe. Even on their best day, that's not the stuff of fallen, finite beings! What we can do, however, is to develop the same kind of attitude toward things that Jesus had. Philippians, Chapter 2, verses 6 through 8, makes it clear that "mind" in verse 5 refers to His attitude of humility. Furthermore, the Greek word for "mind" in verse 5 (phroneo) is used in other places and is translated "regard," "savour" or "think." In Colossians:3:2 phroneo is translated "affection" and we are told to "set [our] affection on things above, not on things on the earth." The implication here is that our minds are to have a bias toward—even a passion for—the ways and things of God.
More and more these days, after reading about, hearing or seeing highly respected Christians compromising the faith with regard to false religions and occult practices, I find myself mostly muttering (but too often loudly uttering), "Where are their heads in this?!"
I realize that there are biblical issues which are not as simple as we would like, and true believers in Christ are not always of the same opinion regarding some points of doctrine. On the other hand, we are seeing today what amounts to a shocking disregard for very simple, fundamental teachings of the Bible by those who claim to be Bible-believing Christians.
The unbiblical, thoughtless reaction by evangelical pastors in coming to the aid of allegedly moderate Islamic leaders since September 11, 2001 has become all too common to be newsworthy. Under the aegis of "gaining respect for another's religion," numerous evangelical churches have had Muslim clerics speak from their pulpits and Muslim faithful fellowshipping and sharing their beliefs at church functions, even potlucks. Is this a tough one regarding biblical discernment? Hardly. Is there even a hint of "respecting another's religion" in any of the sixty-six books of the Bible? Not one! Would the Bible then have us love Muslims? Absolutely. And to love them biblically means to treat them personally as those whom Christ loves and for whom He died. We are to do no less than reflect His love in all our interactions with them. But it's the antithesis of love to convey the message, explicitly or implicitly, that their religion will do anything other than keep them separated from God now and for all eternity.
Islam rejects the Jesus of the Bible; it rejects His deity; it rejects His death, burial, and resurrection as the full and only payment for humanity's sin; it rejects Christ's words: "I am the way, the truth, the life; no man comes to the Father except by me" (Jn:14:6). Coming to the conclusion that Islam rejects God's only way of salvation hardly requires a Ph.D. in theology. So where are the minds of more than a few evangelical leaders in this?
Has Bill Hybels, pastor of the Willow Creek Community Church, and considered the genius behind the "seeker-friendly" church growth movement, written off the fundamentals of the faith? A month after the September 11 tragedy, a Muslim cleric, Fisal Hammouda, shared Hybels's pulpit for a discussion about Islam. The imam and pastor discussed strong ties between Christianity and Islam, and the congregation was impressed. They learned from the charming Hammouda that jihad, more often than not, was an individual "holy war" to overcome personal weaknesses such as a sweet tooth. Seriously? Hybels was concerned that there "are some Christians spreading rumors and half-truths that the Qur'an encourages violence." It may be that Pastor Hybels has never read the many verses in the Qur'an condoning and commanding violence (especially for temporal and eternal rewards) and that he simply was misinformed. However, when Hammouda claimed that Muslims "believe in Jesus, more than [Christians] do in fact," Hybels knew enough to disagree. Yet he didn't seem to have the heart to tell the congregation that Islam's "Jesus" is someone invented by Muhammad, and therefore can't save anyone. That lack of disclosure by the pastor was not inconsequential. How many among the thousands who attended the "seeker-friendly" service left with the same enthusiastic feeling noted by one church member: "I didn't know they believed in Jesus"?1 What of those who came seeking the truth?
Hybels's mentor in ministry is Robert Schuller, whose compromises with Islam are notorious. From personally preaching in the mosque of the Grand Mufti in Damascus, to allowing the Islamic leader's cleric son to preach from his own pulpit, these things are nothing new for someone who sponsors "Christians and Muslims for Peace" at his Crystal Cathedral. Exactly where his head is in all of this can be ascertained from a statement he made to an official of the Muslim American Society. He said that "if he [Schuller] came back in 100 years and found his descendants Muslims, it wouldn't bother him...."2 Perhaps Schuller has been influenced by his good friend, Billy Graham, who said, "I think Islam is misunderstood, too, because Mohammad has a great respect for Jesus...And I think we're closer to Islam than we really think we are."3
While some might regard pastors Hybels and Schuller as rare examples of compromising the basics of the faith, certainly their influence among evangelicals cannot be questioned. Willow Creek Community Church is the largest evangelical church in America. Schuller's "Hour of Power," which Graham helped him begin and continues to enthusiastically support, is the number one evangelistic TV program worldwide. Here's another troubling question: Where then are the heads of the sheep these pastors shepherd, and the thousands of evangelical pastors from around the country who flock to their conferences? At the very least, most are critically confused about the simple, biblical gospel.
Another indication of the mindset of many evangelical Christians is their favored response to the Harry Potter series of books and motion picture. Following our live call-in broadcast of Search the Scriptures Daily, in which J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter was the featured topic, a distressed young girl called to tell us that most of her friends and teachers at her Christian school were fans of Harry Potter. Where are their heads in this? Apparently, the same place where highly influential evangelical leaders such as Chuck Colson and James Dobson are. Initially, Colson touted the moral attributes of the books, such as "courage, loyalty, and a willingness to sacrifice to one another," as "not bad lessons in a self-centered world." In an amazing combination of ignorance and rationalization, he states that the magic of Harry Potter is "purely mechanical, as opposed to occultic. That is, Harry and his friends cast spells, read crystal balls and turn themselves into animals—but they don't make contact with a supernatural world."4 Some time later in a Prison Fellowship "Breakpoint" commentary (which followed some pro-Harry Potter articles), Colson modified his position: "Now personally, I don't recommend the Harry Potter books or the movie...." A subsequent moral conviction? Perhaps, but he followed up that statement by recommending that his readers should look to Connie Neal's book, What's a Christian to Do With Harry Potter? as an aid to discernment. 5 Neal writes, "There is such a wealth in these stories that Christian parents should seize upon."6 An interviewer described her as "a born-again Christian" and "the best known evangelical proponent of the J. K. Rowling canon." While she may be at the top of the list, she has plenty of company. A Christianity Today editorial explained, "Author Rowling has created a world with real good and evil, and Harry is definitely on the side of light fighting the 'dark powers.' "7 So let's have a hearty "amen" for white witchcraft!
Wheaton College professor Alan Jacobs certainly seems to be saying that very thing: "The question of what to do with magic powers [in the Harry Potter series] is explored in an appropriate and morally serious way." Incredible! Jacobs's school is described in the same secular article as "the evangelical Harvard." Irony aside, what does it take to understand the Holy Spirit-inspired words of the prophet Samuel: "For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft" (1 Sam:15:23)?
The context of that rebuke by Samuel to King Saul has to do with obedience. God gave Saul specific instructions, against which he rebelled, i.e., he disobeyed. Read Saul's excuses when he is confronted by God's prophet (1 Sam:15:15); this leader of the people accommodates them and rationalizes how they were going to use what God told them to "utterly destroy" as a means of glorifying Him. James Dobson's Focus on the Family ministry, arguably the most popular source of guidance among evangelicals, features a number of articles on Harry Potter. The most comprehensive one, "What Shall We Do With Harry?",8 bears a strong resemblance to Saul's rationalizations. It certainly accommodates the people: convincing reasons are given both to appreciate and to deprecate Harry Potter. A little something for both sides.
More significantly, the article exhorts its readers to use the Harry Potter books and film as a means to "engage the culture with a critical Christian thoughtfulness": "...we've taken too simplistic a view of what our reaction must be to the problematic elements of Harry Potter." A more balanced approach that will impress the world is being recommended. (This is the foundational mindset of Focus on the Family's advocacy of Christian psychotherapy, by the way.) The article, which is confusing at best, subversive to the Bible at worst, acknowledges that "God hates the practice of witchcraft" (Deut 18:10) but it avoids the simple yet critical issue: obedience. How does one "balance" obedience?
Where are their heads in this?
Too often, disdaining simple answers has caused those critical of the sufficiency of Scripture for "all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of [Jesus]" to miss what should be obvious (2 Pt 1:3). Consider, for example, today's most popular trend for helping people—and the fact that it is used in many evangelical churches. It is the 12 Steps program, originated by the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous. It's certainly biblical for Christians to help people. However, Christians, as the name implies, are to help people according to the teachings of the Christian manual, the Word of God. That entails obedience to what God says. It also involves rejecting what He tells us to reject.
A.A.'s official biography indicates that Bill Wilson received the details of the 12 Steps through spirit dictation. Scripture condemns communication with familiar spirits. The Second and Third Steps encourage turning one's life over to a "Higher Power" and "God as we under[stand] Him." Any higher power? Yes! Any idea of God? Yes! How about that of a Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Animist, Satanist—or anyone else's idea, for that matter? Sure. What about making Jesus Christ one's Higher Power? Fine, but only as long as a person who does that is respectful of the Higher Powers of others. Does anyone see a simple, idolatrous problem here? But what about evangelicals just using the methodology the familiar spirit gave to Bill Wilson? Simple again: God condemns the source, and the approach is contrary to the way He wants to transform our lives. Furthermore, why turn to such a spiritually toxic system? Where are evangelical pastors' heads in this?
"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." How is it that Christians, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, can be blind to very clear and simple teachings of Scripture? Here's a seemingly tougher one: How is it that Solomon, the wisest man (other than Jesus) to walk the face of the earth (1 Kings:3:12), who was used of the Holy Spirit to write three books of the Bible, could be blind to the sin and gravity of idolatry and thus end up suffering the destructive consequences? The answer is that even his godly wisdom couldn't keep his heart right before the Lord. In the Book of Job we're told, "Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding" (28:28). Solomon was astonishingly selective regarding some things in his life when it came down to "the fear of the Lord." He didn't have the mind of Christ in all things; that is, in his thinking, attitude, affection, etc. he was not devoted first and foremost to obeying God.
Wisdom and knowledge are terribly important; but devoid of one wanting the will of God they become the very things we distort in order to satisfy our own lusts. Pray for today's evangelical shepherds who are succumbing to "all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life" (1 John:2:16) in their teaching, and especially for their sheep, that they (and we as well) may have the mind of Christ, which is a heart to know and obey the truth. TBC