|Bono on his Co-Exist tour wearing his Co-Exist headband
Last week, President of the Christian organization Focus on the Family Jim Daly sat down with U2 rocker Bono. Mr Daly emerged from that interview trumpeting Mr Bono as a Christian, and write a glowing piece for Focus on the Family’s website and also published in the Washington Post called “Why Orthodox Christians Should Appreciate An Unorthodox Bono“.
In parts one and two of the series of three parts, I looked at–
1. Focus on the Family’s increasing apostasy
2. Whether Bono is a Christian
And now in part 3 we’ll look at the lack of discernment in Christians today. Not everyone who claims Jesus is a Christian and it is important to understand that. I’ll tell you why.
–Accepting unquestioningly all people who claim Christianity but who obviously are not, blurs the lines of the faith.
–We are supposed to share truth to a lost and dying world. Non-Christians, including false Christians we accept as genuine, do not have that truth to share.
As GotQuestions states, “The evidence of a true Christian is displayed in both faith and action. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). James says, “I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18). Jesus put it this way: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). A true Christian will show his faith by how he lives. Despite the wide variety of beliefs that fall under the general “Christian” label today, the Bible defines a true Christian as one who has personally received Jesus Christ as Savior, who trusts in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ alone for forgiveness of sins, who has the Holy Spirit residing within, and whose life evinces change consistent with faith in Jesus.”
We are supposed to care who says they are a Christian because Christians are supposed to have the truth of Jesus in us and abide by the Spirit. If we do then we’re brethren, and we build each other up, pray for each other, and help each other. If they are not, we know to evangelize them with our words, witness to them with our lives, and separate from them in our spirit. Mindlessly accepting everyone who utters “Jesus” like a magic password, blurs those lines and foils the notion that we are supposed to be separate, holding onto the only truth in a dying world of relativism. This unwillingness to engage in what is at root a problem of discernment is the number one problem in the church.
John MacArthur said, “People ask me this all the time, “… What do you see as the biggest problem in Christianity? The biggest problem in the church? It’s simple for me to answer that. The biggest problem in the church today is the absence of discernment. It’s a lack of discernment. It’s the biggest problem with Christian people, they make bad choices. They accept the wrong thing. They accept the wrong theology. The are prone to the wrong teaching. They’re unwise in who they follow, what they listen to and what they read.”
He continues, “I’m afraid that is pretty typical of the contemporary evangelical scene. There is a lack of precision in thinking, there’s a lack of consistency, there’s a lack of integrity. It’s just a hodgepodge, listening to anybody and everybody, reading anything, making no particular judgments. In fact, to make a judgment may be seen as unchristian. Boundless, endless credulity, anything and everything except there’s got to be good in all of it, how dare you question anybody’s view on anything. And I really believe that because of this pervasive attitude, evangelical Christianity, biblical Christianity as we know it is fighting for its life. Amazing to think about.”
Bertrand Russell had a lot to say about our lack of consistency and lack of integrity to the truth, as we’ll see below.
The reason biblical Christianity is fighting for its life is related to something that Martyn Lloyd Jones predicted 40 years ago. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote in his 1970 book ‘Romans: An Exposition of Chapters’:
“Disapproval of polemics in the Christian Church is a very serious matter. But that is the attitude of the age in which we live. The prevailing idea today in many circles is not to bother about these things. As long as we are all Christians, anyhow, somehow, all is well. Do not let us argue about doctrine, let us all be Christians together and talk about the love of God. That is really the whole basis of ecumenicity. Unfortunately, that same attitude is creeping into evangelical circles also and many say that we must not be too precise about these things. If you hold that view, you are criticizing the Apostle Paul, you are saying that he was wrong, and at the same time you are criticizing the Scriptures. The Scriptures argue and debate and dispute; they are full of polemics.”
Polemics defined is: contentious arguments that are intended to establish the truth of a specific understanding and the falsity of the contrary position. (source). That is Christianity in a nutshell, isn’t it! Jesus is the only way to heaven…you must repent or die…Jesus is God and there is no other… These are polemical arguments. A polemic is one definite controversial thesis. Debate is the second cousin to polemics. Debate is not so definite, debate allows for common ground between the two disputants. A polemic is intended to establish the truth of a point of view while refuting the opposing point of view. In polemics, there is one truth only. In debate, there is compromise and common ground. That is why we cannot debate and compromise in Christianity.
The problem today is that people debate. They don’t engage in polemics. A polemicist says, “There is only one truth and here it is, there is no other name by which you many be saved than that of Jesus. If you do not claim that name in repentance, you will go to hell.” (Acts 4:12, 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9). Saying that truth today is becoming increasingly radical. Also radical is marking the boundaries of Christianity and claiming that such and such a person is outside of it.
Christianity is itself a polemic. The book of John establishes right and wrong, good and evil, light and
dark. There is either or. Jesus is either God or He isn’t. You are of this world or you are not. Yet today there is a refusal to state the one truth, polemically, and this has allowed all manner of untruths to creep in. For example,
“But there are some things in the Word of God that are very clear and those are the things that are at the heart of our faith. And one of them is to understand who is a true Christian. And it’s astonishing to me how confused people are. I talked to one of the students at the college who went to Amsterdam 2000 this summer, this convocation of thousands of evangelists. And he is a college student, he said to me, “I couldn’t believe what I heard. The thing was opened by a Roman Catholic priest, and there was a man there who denied the resurrection of Jesus Christ and they all received applause and a standing ovation.” By evangelicals? And when somebody steps in and says, “Stop this charade, this pretense of Christianity, let’s get down to who’s really a Christian,” you get vilified and marginalized and alienated. But that’s okay because what matters is the truth. So we’re trying to deal with the truth.” (source)
Christianity by nature of its polemical stance, is divisive. It is supposed to be. I am not saying that people are supposed to be divisive on purpose by being disagreeable for the sake of being disagreeable. However, stating the truth divides. Didn’t Jesus say,
“The Sword of the Gospel”
“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” (Matthew 10:34-36).
So no, Bono by believing in other religions is not a Christian. It is important to say these things. So how do you tell who a Christian is, here is MacArthur again:
“And the way to understand who a Christian is, I’ve concluded after a long time trying to get to this point, is to understand deliverance, the theology of deliverance. You can tell a Christian because they’re delivered. That’s what the Bible teaches.”
“The first category of deliverance is those who are really Christians have been delivered out of error into truth. Now listen to what I say. No one is a Christian who does not understand, believe, embrace and love the truth. What truth? The truth that we call the gospel. …When the Spirit of truth regenerates, He moves people from error to truth. He brings the sinner the understanding of, belief in, embracing of, and total commitment to the truth.”
You can tell a Christian because they know the truth and a non-Christian doesn’t. Simple.
It is important if we are a Christian be clear about any interlopers in our midst. Look at poor Bertrand Russell. The philosopher Bertrand Russell gave a lecture in 1927 in London, called “Why I am Not a Christian.” In it, he bemoans the watering down of what the definition of Christianity is, and mocks those of us who are holding the hose.
“As your chairman has told you, the subject about which I am going to speak to you tonight is “Why I Am Not a Christian.” Perhaps it would be as well, first of all, to try to make out what one means by the word “Christian.” It is used in these days in a very loose sense by a great many people. Some people mean no more by it than a person who attempts to live a good life. In that sense I suppose there would be Christians in all sects and creeds; but I do not think that that is the proper sense of the word, if only because it would imply that all the people who are not Christians — all the Buddhists, Confucians, Mohammedans, and so on — are not trying to live a good life. I do not mean by a Christian any person who tries to live decently according to his lights. I think that you must have a certain amount of definite belief before you have a right to call yourself a Christian. The word does not have quite such a full-blooded meaning now as it had in the times of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas. In those days, if a man said that he was a Christian it was known what he meant. You accepted a whole collection of creeds which were set out with great precision, and every single syllable of those creeds you believed with the whole strength of your convictions.”
Having certainty and conviction of clear doctrines was something that atheist Russell could respect, even get behind. Ultimately, so can Jesus.
“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:15-16).
Russell says our definition of Christian is too elastic, and he is right to wonder about the whole shebang of Christianity when we let so precious a truth become elasticised and stretched beyond recognition! It is his way of saying, “If they don’t care what Christianity is, why should I?” And when the false professors we have allowed into our midst fall away, and they always do, then what?
Phil Johnson of Grace Community Church and Executive Director, Grace to You, was assigned the task of explaining and critiquing the emerging church movement in one of the 75-minute sessions at the 2006 Shepherd’s Conference The resulting paper is titled, “Exposing the Postmodern Errors of the Emerging Church”. (a .pdf).
Pastor Johnson said the emerging church movement is an “irrational agglomeration of unorthodox ideas”, and of Bono, Johnson said he is one of the prime leaders of it. “This may help you more than anything I have said so far to understand the flavor of the “emerging church movement”: Bono—the Irish rocker and politico of U2 fame—seems to be the unofficial icon of the movement. If you’ve been tuned into pop-culture at any time over the past two decades and know anything about Bono, that might help you to grasp something about the look and feel of the movement”. … emergent types seem to quote Bono all the time. I would say that he sometimes seems to be the chief theologian of the “emerging church movement,” but in all fairness, that honor belongs more to John R. Franke and Stan Grenz. .. But he and Franke are the two academic theologians who have done more than anyone else to blend postmodernism and theology into a kind of quasi-evangelical doctrine”.
And that is what we have today. We have a long-standing organization such as Focus on the Family promoting an icon in Bono who represents a false movement which is bringing quasi-evangelical doctrine to quasi-evangelical Christians. On the other side we have an elder of the faith in Pr. Johnson who says that movement Bono represents is full of irrational agglomeration of unorthodox ideas, has contempt for biblical authority, breeds doubt about the perspicuity of Scripture, and sows confusion about the mission of the church.
At the January 2013 Convocation of the Bangor Theological Seminary in Maine, Rev. Steven Lewis noted that there are indicators that the religious landscape of North America has radically changed. “That landscape change includes a spiritual revival and renewal afoot but it is not religious, the Rev. Steven Lewis, academic dean of Bangor Theological Seminary, said in January in the opening session of Convocation. He called it “humanitarian spirituality.”
Who wouldn’t be confused about who’s really a Christian when seminaries are graduating theologians who are told these terrible things? It is exactly this ‘humanitarian spirituality’ which Bono exemplifies-that Jesus will vomit out His mouth. As blogger Elliott Nesch said of the Daly-Bono meeting and the resulting version of Christianity which was unfortunately validated through it, “Philanthropy is no substitute for the Gospel of Jesus Christ! … Bono is embraced and given the upper-hand in both religious and political spheres of influence. Many are following Bono in social justice but throwing the Gospel out the window. Bono’s hip Christianity will inspire many Christians to embrace ecumenism and apostasy in the cloak of philanthropy. This is a politicized social Gospel which is contrary to the doctrine of Christ.”
And THAT’S why we care about who is a Christian.
Focus on the Family, Bono, & who is a Christian Part 1
Focus on the Family, Bono, & who is a Christian? Part 2