Letter to a Denominational Minister
An Inquiry into the Authenticity of American Christianity
by Stuart DiNenno
March 29, 2023
This is a letter to Michael Spangler, who is a Christian minister ordained in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) but is currently affiliated with the Cornerstone Church of Burlington, NC, which is a Presbyterian congregation of the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) denomination. The writing of this letter was inspired by a brief discussion he and I had on social media. Although it is addressed to Mr. Spangler, as the reader will see, he is not the subject of it, nor is it about his church or denomination in particular. Rather, it is an examination of the religion of all the Bible-believing churches (so-called) in America, whether denominational or independent, but with a special emphasis on the congregations and denominations that identify as Reformed. It could be addressed to any minister in these churches and indeed should be read as if it is.
Recently you and I had a discussion on a social media website and you were greatly offended by some of the statements I made about what I see as rank infidelity and hypocrisy in the professing Church. We were conversing about a particular movement among the Presbyterian churches which I believe to be a fraudulent one. Within that discussion I made the following statement: “I do not believe that we have authentic Christianity in America today in the sense of organized churches.” I know you strongly disagree with this assessment but I thought that if I could make a thorough case for it and present it to you, then you might be willing to consider my points, with the possible outcome being that you and I become of one mind on the matter. Perhaps, at the very least, it will help you begin to view the present circumstances of American professing Christendom in a new and more realistic light. I begin with the understanding that you might ignore it all but, if nothing else, it will be a good mental exercise for me and help me to better organize my thoughts on the subject, and because this is going to be made public, perhaps others will learn from it.
In this letter I am going to present a series of what I believe to be factual observations, along with pertinent Bible passages, and quotes from both faithful Christian ministers and church assemblies of the past, and I will pepper it with questions that you can answer, Michael, if you choose to do so. Of course, I have no authority over you and no influence in today’s ecclesiastical world, so you may see no reason to provide answers to me, but I believe you will at least recognize that these are questions which you need to be able to answer for yourself and for those who come to you with similar inquiries.
So how do we begin an examination of America’s churches to determine if authentic Christianity is being preached and practiced today, and if it is, to what extent? I am sure you will agree that it is an impossible task to individually examine every “Bible-believing church” in America, and since both you and I profess to be of the Reformed faith, I will make the job a bit simpler by narrowing down the investigation to the putative Reformed and Presbyterian denominations.
Before we begin our investigation, let us first consider if we have a valid proposition with which to work. Is it even legitimate to claim that the church, in the sense of properly constituted public organizations, can die out in a nation? Or is this a condition that is not possible and so not worthy of consideration? I ask these questions because some have made the following accusation against me: “To say that the church has failed to the point where it is not manifested in any of the present ecclesiastical institutions, is to say that Jesus’ words were not true when He proclaimed that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church. You would have us believe that the promises, power, and grace of God has failed.”
This is the typical reply I receive from today’s self-identifying Reformed ministers and other defenders of the “churches” when I tell them I believe the denominational congregations are all apostate and that the church has ceased to exist in America in an institutional sense. What they fail to recognize is that they are making the same erroneous allegation that the Roman Catholics used in opposition to the Protestant Reformers who were maintaining that the church, in the sense of public institutions that are truly preaching and practicing biblical Christianity, could indeed cease to exist and actually had done so under Romanism before the Reformation revived true Christianity in the 1500’s. French Protestant Reformer John Calvin (1509-1564) wrote the following in the Prefatory Address to King Francis I of France, which is contained within his Institutes of the Christian Religion:
“Our controversy turns on these hinges: first, they [the Romanists] contend that the form of the church is always apparent and observable. Secondly, they set this form in the see of the Roman Church and its hierarchy. We [the Reformers], on the contrary, affirm that the church can exist without any visible appearance…”
“They [the Romanists] rage if [one declares that] the church cannot always be pointed to with the finger. But among the Jewish people how often was it so deformed that no semblance of it remained? What form do we think it displayed when Elijah complained that he alone was left? How long after Christ’s coming was it hidden without form? How often has it since that time been so oppressed by wars, seditions, and heresies that it did not shine forth at all? If they had lived at that time, would they have believed that any church existed?”
Calvin, in this letter, was asserting that the church consists of the true Christians, not the institutions that serve the Christians. The gates of hell often prevail over institutional churches, sometimes even to the point that the church is not publicly manifested anywhere in a nation. However, the gates of hell cannot prevail over the church in the sense that Christians are exterminated from the world. There always will be a remnant of Christians on earth to worship God, even in the worst of times, and Christ never ceases to rule over the earth, as Calvin went on to explain:
“But Elijah heard that there still remained seven thousand men who had not bowed the knee before Baal. And we must not doubt that Christ has reigned on earth ever since he ascended into heaven. But if believers had then required some visible form, would they not have straightway lost courage?”
Based on statements contained in this letter to the king of France, it appears Calvin was maintaining that the church had disappeared in a public sense prior to the Reformation, being institutionally represented only by apostate Romanist congregations. Of course, the Romanists insisted that this was not possible but Calvin showed that his position was not an innovation when he quoted a luminary of the early church, Hilary of Poitiers (310-367), warning against becoming too attached to the outward forms of the institutional church because it would be given over to Antichrist:
“Indeed, Hilary considered it a great vice in his day that, being occupied with foolish reverence for the episcopal dignity, men did not realize what a deadly hydra lurked under such a mask. For he speaks in this way: “One thing I admonish you, beware of Antichrist. It is wrong that a love of walls has seized you; wrong that you venerate the church of God in roofs and buildings; wrong that beneath these you introduce the name of peace. Is there any doubt that Antichrist will have his seat in them? To my mind, mountains, woods, lakes, prisons, and chasms are safer. For, either abiding in or cast into them, the prophets prophesied.””
In Calvin’s commentary on Jeremiah 29:14, he made the same point again and applied it to the period immediately preceding the Reformation:
“And hence we may gather a useful doctrine — that God in a wonderful manner gathers his Church when scattered, so as to form it into one body, however he may for a time obliterate its name and even its very appearance. And of this he has given us some proof in our time. For who could have thought that what we now see with our eyes, would ever take place? that God would in a secret manner gather his elect, when there was everywhere a dreadful desolation, and no corner found in the world where two or three faithful men could dwell together. We hence see that this prophecy has not been fulfilled only at one time, but that the grace of God is here set forth, which he has often manifested, and still manifests in gathering his Church.”
I say that we are back in the same dark circumstance and I believe that God will bring us out of it, just as He did 500 years ago. When He does, men will be saying exactly what Calvin said, “Who could have thought that what we now see with our eyes, would ever take place?”
Whether you agree or not with my judgment that all of the institutional churches in America are apostate, you can at least see that the same assertion has been made before in other times and places, and is not a denial of the words of Christ who said that the gates of hell shall never prevail over the church. My case remains to be proved but it is at least a viable proposition for consideration.
So where do we start the examination? Most inquirers probably would begin by scrutinizing what the Reformed churches teach and profess to believe. It cannot be denied that many of the Reformed ministers still preach much truth and their congregants profess the same. In fact, more than a few of today’s Reformed ministers preach expositionally chapter-by-chapter through large portions of the Bible and give forth accurate interpretations of it. Not only so, but there are still some who use the biblically faithful Reformation era confessions and catechisms for instruction. If this is in indeed the case, and I believe that it is, how can it possibly be that all the Reformed churches are spiritually dead? Is this not the means by which God brings men to a saving knowledge of Himself?
The assumption of most Christians is that where there is much biblical truth preached, there must be authentic Christianity and the true church. But is it necessarily so? Is it possible that despite preaching which contains much truth, and even nothing but truth, a false religion can prevail? It seems counter to good reason to believe so and yet if we make a diligent search for the fruit of today’s so-called Reformed Christianity, I believe that none can be found. If indeed the end result of a diligent investigation into the practice of the Reformed churches is that we find a fruitless religion, then what choice do we have but to believe that a pseudo-Christianity is in view, regardless of its preaching and profession? The infidelity itself will have been proved at that point and all that will be left for us to do is to find out why it is so. That is, if we conclusively determine that this religion has no vital signs, then we can pronounce it legally dead, and it only remains for us to discover the cause of its morbidity.
Now I imagine that you would immediately balk at my claim that today’s Reformed Christians do not produce any fruit, Michael, and would say to yourself, “I know many godly people in the churches who exemplify true piety in their lives.” I am sure you believe this to be the case and I have no doubt that many tokens of what appears to be genuine religious devotion are exhibited among the members of today’s Reformed churches. However, people can, in all sincerity, devote themselves to any religion and even show themselves zealous for its purity and propagation, and yet be self-deceived. They either may sincerely follow a false form of Christianity or they may sincerely, but falsely, believe that they have been grafted into the true Christian religion. Often such people will display signs that they are of an upright moral character without actually being inwardly converted. In times when the churches are falling away, such as in our day, I believe there are likely to be many unconverted persons of this description within even those churches that maintain an orthodox profession, and so it will become that much more difficult to discern true Christians from false professors. I will delve more deeply into this regrettable circumstance further along in the letter but keep in mind, Michael, that “many in that day” are going to speak of their devotion to God and all their religious works, and will be shocked to hear the reply “I never knew you” (Matthew 7:22-23). For now I will only say that the most reliable test of a genuine love of God comes when there is a price to be paid for it, and I intend to plainly show in this letter that today’s “Christians,” Reformed or otherwise, certainly do not believe in a religion that would ever require a sacrifice from them. Nor do they ever make one and this is because they always diligently avoid taking a faithful stand that would require them to do so. This trait of their infidelity is what I believe best reveals the fact that today’s purported Reformed Christianity is a counterfeit.
But let us begin to look into my claim that we can have a dead religion in spite of the accuracy of its theological profession. No one can deny that an accurate understanding of biblical truth is a foundational attribute of a true church, and both of us affirm that a confession of such truths is a necessary element of genuine Christianity. Nevertheless, we do know that there are many who possess mere “head knowledge” and have not actually tasted the grace of God in regeneration, though they are perfectly capable of making a convincing confession of their non-existent faith, and this can be true on a large scale. Consider this quote by American Congregationalist minister Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758):
“A true knowledge of God and divine things is a practical knowledge. As to a mere speculative knowledge of the things of religion, many wicked men have attained to great measures of it. Men may possess vast learning, and their learning may consist very much of their knowledge in divinity, and of the Bible, and of the things pertaining to religion, and they may be able to reason very strongly about the attributes of God and the doctrines of Christianity, and yet herein their knowledge fails of being a saving knowledge, that it is only speculative and not practical.”
Now you may be thinking, Michael, that Edwards’ statement is true but to apply it to the great majority of churchgoers is drawing his words out too far. And I understand that it is difficult to think of the many “nice” people at church as wicked. But let’s not forget that of the overwhelming number of the Israelites it was said through the prophet Isaiah: ”…this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me…” (Isaiah 29:13) and Jesus Christ applied the same words to the majority in His day (Matthew 15:8).
Now what does it mean to draw near to God with the mouth and honor Him with the lips and yet to be far from Him in heart? It is obvious that this means saying the right things but doing it in hypocrisy — professing a love for God and claiming an adherence to His truths, but actually possessing neither. No doubt all the religious people to whom these words were spoken did not think of their fellow worshippers at the Temple or in the synagogues as the “many wicked men” described by Jonathan Edwards, but we have it on the authority of God that very many of them indeed were, and since we again saw history repeat itself in the apostasy prior to the Protestant Reformation, of which time John Calvin asserted that the church had ceased to be manifested publicly, we ought to at least be willing to consider the possibility that the same could be happening today.
It can be very difficult to accept that there is religious hypocrisy around us on a massive scale. You sharply criticized me when I said that one particular religious movement within the Presbyterian churches is fraudulent, and I know it is even more difficult to accept my assertion that all of the Reformed and Presbyterian churches are counterfeit. But John Calvin, the biblical prophets, and Jesus Christ himself, called the great majority of religion in their days false and in so doing condemned very large numbers of people as “hopeless hypocrites,” (if they persisted in their hypocrisy and did not repent) which is how you described my characterization of the people to whom we were referring in our discussion. You were greatly offended by my claim that this particular movement is a fraud; however, regardless of the difficulty you may have accepting my proposition, it is obvious from biblical testimony and the witness of history that pseudo-Christianity on a very large scale can exist at times, and when it does it is not wrong for men to declare the fact. I say that the same phenomenon is happening in our day. It only remains for me to make a case to support my claim.
So we see that merely examining what ecclesiastical organizations, their ministers, and their congregants claim to believe is not enough to tell us if they have authentic Christianity. It could all be a mere lip service, just as it has been at other times in history. We need a better test. We could move on to an examination of what is being preached in today’s Reformed churches, and I will look more closely at that later in this letter because I believe that even the best of today’s preaching has a great defect by omission. However, I have already acknowledged that there still is a great deal of truth being preached in more than a few of the self-styled Reformed churches. In fact there are some denominations, such as yours, where it is difficult to find anything in the preaching that is doctrinally erroneous. Again, the infidelity is not manifested in the words that are spoken but in the deeds that are practiced or are left unpracticed. My proposition is that what we have in what is called Reformed Christianity today is a spiritually dead religion that is careful to speak words of doctrinal accuracy (more or less depending on the particular denomination) and to conform its church meeting practice to scriptural precepts (more or less depending on the particular denomination) but which consists of little or nothing beyond these things. It is a “say much but do nothing” religion that produces no essential change in its adherents and so does not manifest in them any fruit of genuine spiritual life and, in fact, gives much evidence of their dead state.
It seems to me, Michael, that you admitted the same when you said about the particular group of Presbyterians we were discussing: “I agree there is enormous spiritual weakness hiding under a veneer of orthodoxy, and also a very weak or non-existent opposition to egalitarian leftism…,” It is interesting that you acknowledge these facts about them (and the same could be said for today’s professing Reformed and Presbyterian Christians in general) and yet you do not reach what I believe to be the obvious conclusion from the facts. Why would you think that professing Christians who habitually display “enormous spiritual weakness,” which is to say that they do not act as we should expect Christians to act, and have “a very weak or non-existent opposition to egalitarian leftism,” which is to say that they invariably yield to the Anti-Christs (and, as I will show, conform and cooperate with them), are anything but false professors? Perhaps their behavior could be overlooked if they were new converts but how can we excuse such abject weakness and cowardice seeing that it never changes over many years? Is this not denying the power of the Holy Spirit to sanctify men? Certainly, true Christians will have moments of fear and weakness, but where in the Bible do we find godly men whose lives are fraught with such contemptible traits to the point that they are defining characteristics of their being?
Keep in mind that you applied your description to not only one individual, or a handful of men, but to many. Your assessment of the Presbyterian group mentioned in our discussion is factual but you are loath to consider what the facts may be telling you: that you are witnessing a colossal sham. You called me “terribly wicked” because I was condemning them as fraudulent but there is nothing wrong with calling a spade a spade. Perhaps the real evil is in not facing up to what your own observations plainly declare, and being an accomplice to the propagation of a counterfeit Christianity, both by cooperating with it and by condemning those who oppose it.
But this letter is not about any one sect or denomination; it is about what is commonly identified as evangelical Christianity in America, with a particular emphasis on the ostensible Reformed and Presbyterian churches, and I believe what you said could be applied to all of them.
You and I will certainly agree, Michael, that genuine Christianity will change men for the better. The question is: How do we determine if such a change is occurring among the members of today’s Reformed churches? What is the evidence of spiritual regeneration, i.e., the new birth, that we should expect to see? Jesus compared the spirit of God to the wind in John chapter 3, and said “thou hearest the sound thereof.” On this point the Pulpit Commentary says: “We cannot know all the mysteries of the wind, but we see and feel the effects of its presence in nature. So the mystery of regeneration comes visibly to the surface of Christian life in the fruits of that life.” What are the fruits that come visibly to the surface of a Christian life? In Galatians 5:22-23 we are told that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” Of course, true Christians will possess these attributes to varying degrees but they are things that do not always contain a visible manifestation, many non-Christians at times seem to have at least some of them, and they are intangible traits that are difficult to measure in an objective way.
So in authentic Christian churches we should expect some fruit of righteousness to be visible in the lives of the people, or at least a good number of them, but it is not always an easy thing to discern on an individual level. We could conduct some sort of survey to examine individual churches as to their authenticity. However, we not only would need to have an objective way to determine if those fruits are present in the individual members, but we would need to make inquiries into their personal lives which, of course, would present insurmountable obstacles. If such a survey were to be of any value, it would require us to interview a large number of churchgoers over a representative sampling of congregations and scrutinize their way of life. Even if we were capable of doing so and we could find church members who would allow us to peer into their private lives, we still each would have to make our own evaluations on which we likely would not agree.
Moreover, we both know of the “almost Christian” who outwardly appears to keep the commandments of God and lives what could be called a righteous life but is actually ungodly and self-deceived. Consider the words of British Presbyterian minister Matthew Henry (1662-1714), from his commentary on the parable contained in Matthew 25:14-30 comparing the slothful servant who buried his talent in the ground to many professing Christians who trust in their own counterfeit faith:
“Many a one goes very securely to judgment, presuming upon the validity of a plea that will be overruled as vain and frivolous. Slothful professors, that are afraid of doing too much for God, yet hope to come off as well as those that take so much pains in religion. Thus the sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason (Proverbs 26:16). The servant thought that his account would pass well enough, because he could say: “there thou hast that is thine.” (Matthew 25:25) “Lord, I was no spendthrift of my estate, no prodigal of my time, no profaner of my sabbaths, no opposer of good ministers and good preaching; Lord, I never ridiculed my bible, nor set my wits to work to banter religion, nor abused my power to persecute any good man; I never drowned my parts, nor wasted God’s good creatures in drunkenness and gluttony, nor ever to my knowledge did I injury to anybody.” Many that are called Christians, build great hopes for heaven upon their being able to make such an account; yet all this amounts to no more than “there thou hast that is thine” as if no more were required, or could be expected.”
I add to Henry’s observation one of my own: There are even those who are not “slothful professors” and who do “take so much pains in religion,” and yet are false Christians. I once knew a man who had a very large collection of old Reformed books, and in fact, his entire house had become a library of them with bookcases everywhere. He was not slothful and took great pains to educate himself about Christianity, and there was no reason to doubt his profession of faith until it came out later that he was a thief (and an unrepentant one) who had not only stolen money from his business partner but did so to buy more theology books for his collection! Of course, this level of hypocrisy is far beyond the ordinary, but my point is that there are those who work quite diligently at acquiring religious knowledge and are yet unconverted, and I say that this is quite a common phenomenon in “Reformed” circles today.
So we see that apart from the logistical absurdity of conducting an examination of a multitude of church members to find out if they are truly practicing authentic Christianity, it would be very difficult to make a judgment about who is and who is not doing so, even if we assume that our standards of judgment would agree, which they likely would not. The great majority in America’s churches could be the kind of people that Matthew Henry is speaking of, or those could be the exception, but we cannot determine it by examination of individual church members.
That being said, certainly there are discernible fruits of authentic faith and a genuine love of God, and I will now begin to explain how we can determine, on a scope comprehending the entirety of the American professing Church, that they are absent from what is called Christianity today.
In order to begin to test my assertion, we need a simple and sure way to assess the faithfulness of American churches. It must be one that uses a biblical measure, is completely reliable, not open to subjective interpretation, can be used to judge on a macro scale, and does not require us to examine the preaching and practice of individual ministers and church members.
The good news is that we have such a test. And not only do we have one that can be applied to the Reformed churches but we have one that can be used to make a determination about all the “Bible-believing churches” in America. The test is also a very easy one to apply. It does not require us to examine the confessional documents of individual churches or denominations, listen to any preaching, visit any churches, or pry into anyone’s personal life.
What is the test? It is this simple: We can look at the state of the society in which we are living today and compare that to societies in the past in order to find a match or a close similarity. Then we can proceed upon the claim of the churches that they are preaching and practicing authentic Christianity. Next we can let the Bible tell us what should be happening in our society if the claim of the churches is true. If we find a contradiction here — that is, if we find a particular circumstance which demonstrates that there must be something greatly defective about today’s Christianity in order for the circumstance to exist, then we can do a further inquiry to try to determine precisely what is defective about this religion.
Now I say that we live in a country that has morally degenerated into a modern-day version of pre-Christian ancient Rome — or maybe Sodom and Gomorrah is a better match. I think you will not dispute this point, Michael, and so I will not spend time trying to prove it. I think we can agree that a country which has enshrined sodomite “marriages” into law, has Drag Queen Story Hour presentations for children in its public libraries, and not only allows the abomination of transgenderism but even has a government that protects it, has hit rock bottom, and this is only to mention the worst of the “sexual” perversions and not the public practice and promotion of innumerable other evils that violate all the commandments of God. However, if you do dispute this point, I am willing to make a lengthy case for it.
Simultaneously, and in the same land, we have thousands of “Bible-believing churches,” including a few hundred that call themselves Reformed. These all claim to be practicing authentic Christianity. Now you might claim, Michael, that only the “Reformed” churches have genuine biblical Christianity but that won’t make any difference to my argument because whether we apply the test to all the “Evangelical” churches or apply it only to those identifying themselves as Reformed, the result is the same, as you will see.
What does the Bible tell us that we should expect to see as a result of this co-mingling of light and darkness? If we have a country with a Sodom and Gomorrah culture and we have multitudes of Christian churches in the same country, what should be the outcome? Should we expect peace or a sword, Michael? I believe you already know the scriptural answer to that question, but we will look at a few Bible verses just in case there are any doubts.
“Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (2 Timothy 3:12)
Notice that we are told “all shall” suffer persecution not “some could” or a “few might.” Yet there is no persecution of our churches, Reformed or otherwise. None. This is not possible if we have authentic Christian churches in the midst of a culture that has degenerated to the level of morality similar to that found in the ancient Roman society (and is even worse, in some respects) in which Paul was dwelling when he wrote these words.
“For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.” (Philippians 1:29)
Look up the antonyms for the word suffering and you will have a description of American “Christianity.” The words pleasure, comfort, and ease readily come to mind. Again, it is an impossible scenario for the Reformed churches to be faithfully preaching and practicing biblical Christianity in a Sodom and Gomorrah culture and have a complete absence of conflict as a result.
“Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” (John 15:20)
One cannot both affirm the truth of this statement and affirm that we have genuine Christianity in America. Since none of our churches are being persecuted, then to claim that the Reformed churches are faithfully adhering to true Christianity is to deny these words. Either the churches are not being persecuted because they are greater than their Lord, in contradiction to what Jesus said, or they are not being persecuted because they are not servants of the Lord at all.
Of course, I could quote many more Bible passages, as we both know that suffering for righteousness’ sake is a continually recurring theme in the Bible and most especially in the New Testament Scriptures under words such as affliction, tribulation, persecution, etc. You well know, Michael, that Paul the apostle wrote to several churches exhorting them to stand fast under persecution in the first century Roman Empire. We have hundreds, if not thousands, of “Bible-believing churches” in America today dwelling in a similarly degenerate culture (or maybe worse). To how many congregations could you write exhorting them to stand fast against persecution? Not one, because there is no persecution. How can this be if we have authentic Christian churches residing in the midst of a Sodom and Gomorrah society?
Please consider the words of English Puritan minister Thomas Brooks (1608-1680) and the Bible verses he quotes:
“Ah Christians, since they have crowned your head [Christ] with thorns, there is no reason why you should expect to be crowned with rosebuds. “In the world ye shall have tribulation” (John 16:33), “we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22) As there was no way to paradise but by the flaming sword, nor no way to Canaan but through a wilderness; so there is no way to heaven but by the gates of hell, there is no way to a glorious exaltation but through a sea of tribulation. They do but dream and deceive their own souls who think to go to heaven upon beds of down, or in a soft and delicate way, or that think to be attended to glory with mirth and music, or with singing or dancing. The way to happiness is not strewed with roses, but full of thorns and briers, as those of whom this world was not worthy have experienced.”
Where is the tribulation that both Scripture and Thomas Brooks speaks of here, Michael? Does this not condemn American “Christianity” from head to foot, including what are called conservative, Bible-believing, confessional, Reformed churches? Whether or not you fully agree that “there is no way to heaven but by the gates of hell,” or that “there is no way to a glorious exaltation but through a sea of tribulation,” surely you can see that this is the complete opposite of what today’s so-called Christians in America expect the Christian life to be. Are there any among them, including their ministers, who expect anything other than “to go to heaven in a soft and delicate way”? Is there any doubt that the great majority of them would not have Christianity on any other terms? Is not the soft and comfortable life of American churchgoers the equivalent of a “bed of down”? Is it not true that it would be wild exaggeration, if not outright delusion, to say that any of them have a life “full of thorns and briers”? Is it not, to put it mildly, a tremendous inconsistency for Christians to be living in a Sodom and Gomorrah culture and yet never be leaving their “beds of down” and never suffering any “thorns and briers”? For all the supposed zeal for doctrinal accuracy of the professedly Reformed, there’s not any difference between them and the most shallow and ignorant of Evangelicals regarding what Brooks said or touching any of the points I made above, which only makes them far more culpable.
Let’s look in particular at the modern-day Christian ministry: If they are preaching and practicing genuine biblical Christianity, as they claim, then why are they never persecuted? If we were living in a society that had already experienced a strong revival of Christianity and a comprehensive reformation of the church, and Christianity was then the dominant influence in the culture, as it has been for long periods of time in some countries in the past, then we could expect the churches and their ministers to be unmolested. But should we expect them to be at peace in an utterly depraved and anti-Christian culture such as we have today in Western countries? To ask that question is to answer it. There is an undeniable and impossible contradiction here. The early Christian church was surrounded by a wicked pagan culture, just as we have today, and it was bitterly persecuted. Again, the Bible tells us in 2 Timothy 3:12 “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” It testifies that John the Baptist was beheaded, Stephen was stoned to death, James was slain with the sword, Paul received the “forty lashes minus one” five times from the Jews, Peter was imprisoned twice and beaten by the authorities at least once, and all the apostles suffered persecution of some sort.
Likewise, the recorded history of the early church in the first few centuries after the time of the apostles tells us that many Christian ministers were martyred for their faith, and there is no doubt that many more of them suffered other forms of persecution. The same happened during the Protestant Reformation when the Reformers stood against the apostate church of Rome.
In stark contrast, today’s professional ministers are at peace in nations that have not seen similar levels of public wickedness since ancient Rome. It is certain that none of the Christian ministers in this generation are going to be added to Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. In fact, except for a very few pastors in Canada who were jailed recently for refusing to close their churches during the imaginary Covid pandemic, it is doubtful that you can name even one Christian minister in a Western nation who has suffered any real persecution of any kind. The fact that such persecution is non-existent today is, in itself, damning evidence that there is something very wrong with what is being labeled Christianity.
It is crystal clear that the two conditions — extreme moral degradation and authentic Christianity — cannot exist without there being periods of intense conflict and bitter persecution, and yet except for perhaps a very few isolated incidents over a period of many years, the professing Christians in all the denominations (including all of the Reformed and Presbyterian denominations), and in all the churches are dwelling in peace, safety, prosperity, and comfort, and there is no conflict between them and the satanic culture around them.
This cannot merely be called an inconsistency or a contradiction. These terms are far too soft. We have to call it what it is: an impossibility. It is not possible that a militant Christ can peacefully, comfortably, and prosperously exist alongside a belligerent Satan, and a Christ who is not militant but instead cowering in the shadows while Satan rages, is a false Christ.
Either you must deny that we live in a Sodom and Gomorrah culture or you must deny that we have genuine Christianity in America today. Which one is it, Michael? And if you affirm both, please explain how this is possible in light of all that the Bible tells us about the persecution suffered by Christians residing in a similarly degenerate society during the time of the apostolic church, and considering all that post-apostolic history has to tell us about similar circumstances.
Now I can imagine that you or someone else, Michael, might claim that persecution, or the lack of it, is not a determinant of true or false Christianity, because whether or not churches are adhering to genuine Christianity is a matter of doctrine and practice, not the response of the ungodly to the doctrine and practice. That assertion, if it could be considered in and of itself apart from any facts that bear on the matter, might be a valid one. But it is not valid simply because we cannot dissociate the phenomenon from its causes: the lack of persecution only exists because of gross infidelity in the behavior of today’s so-named Christians (including the “Reformed” churches), and especially among those in leadership positions, as I will show.
To claim that there can be hundreds of organizations practicing authentic Christianity and dwelling peacefully, safely, comfortably, and even prosperously in a culture that has degenerated to the level of pre-Christian ancient Rome, and is worse in some ways, is to assert an impossible contradiction. But we need to dig deeper for answers. There must be a great deficiency in what is being called Christianity in order for the congenial relationship between the world and the churches to exist, but wherein does the deficiency lie? What is it about today’s churches that enables them to dwell peacefully and even prosperously amidst a culture of widespread and profound evil?
In a word, it is conformity — craven conformity. Today’s “Bible-believing churches,” including the “Reformed” churches, get along swimmingly with the world because they conform themselves to it. They take great pains to be inoffensive to the ungodly and they are careful to avoid coming into conflict with the anti-Christian zeitgeist. This they do, not in a way that preserves the integrity of their religion, but in a way that emasculates and eviscerates it, all while simultaneously trying to present themselves as upholders of Christian orthodoxy. It would be a difficult tightrope for them to walk if it were not for the fact that there exists a very large market for a comfortable, cost-free, halfway Christianity, and many who will readily overlook and excuse whatever inconsistencies such a compromised religion will invariably present.
This craven conformity is most clearly manifested by the behavior of today’s churches in relation to what are the most anti-Christian movements and people-groups in America. I will give three examples and then explain the common thread that binds them together.
The first example of craven conformity is the fact that what are commonly identified as Christian churches today are shamefully silent and inactive in the face of the sodomite movement. We have had “pride” parades in America since the 1970’s, and the churches could have easily stopped them, but they did nothing and they continue to do nothing. We had many millions of churchgoing men in America back then, and still do today, and if only a small percentage of them, maybe ten or twenty thousand in each major city (and we easily should be able to muster fifty thousand), had gotten out into the streets and stood in the way of the marchers, that would have put a quick end to it. When these abominations began to appear it was during a time when the general public and the police forces would have sided with the Christians, but they were too apathetic and pusillanimous to do anything about it and are much more so today. Of course, the fact that the general public and the police are no longer on our side is not an excuse for failing to put up public opposition, but that would likely bring a certain amount of suffering to the opposers and paying a price for one’s convictions is not a part of modern American “Christianity.”
In fact, today one cannot even count on the support of the church leaders if he merely speaks against the sodomites. Several years ago, I spoke out online against a man who had contacted me about landscaping work, claiming that he was married to another man. I did this in a response to a negative review of my business which was posted online because I refused to work with them (you can still see what I wrote under a review by Colton S. about halfway down this page). The man to whom I responded must have stirred up all the queers in Atlanta and this resulted in me getting a huge number of negative reviews on the same site (about 160, most of which were later removed), as well as many hate-filled phone calls, texts, emails, in addition to losing customers. The local news channel even did a report on me, which is still online. Because of this opposition, a friend of mine named Jeff Mock (now deceased) who was a member of the Free Church congregation in Atlanta, contacted the elders of his church and asked them for support. This is part of the reply he received from one of those elders:
“Seems to me that Stuart could have handled this more wisely. It is dissimilar, both legally and scripturally, from the cake baker and florist cases, in that his client was not requesting/demanding that Stuart do something sinful in his landscaping plan. Nor would it have been sinful for Stuart to work for that client. Rather, Stuart offered his unsolicited opinion of the man’s relationship with another man because he is uncomfortable with it. So, in a very real sense, Stuart set himself up for this, and is going to have to bear the consequences.”
You see, Michael, according to this church elder the “wise” thing for a Christian to do is to keep his mouth shut and his head down, and only speak out against the sodomites if he has something personally to lose from them or is required to do something sinful himself. If he can work for weeks or months on a project with two men pretending to be a married couple, then he should do it and remain silent about their evil. He should not turn them away and offer “unsolicited opinions,” especially public ones, against their wickedness, even when they are trying to damage his business. If he does so, well then, he has only himself to blame for the consequences. Maybe he will learn not to be such an upstart next time.
This is only spineless hypocrisy masquerading as wise and prudent Christian advice. While it is true that it is permissible to work with all sorts of unbelievers living sinful lives, and that we would have to leave the world to completely avoid doing so (1 Corinthians 5:10), this should not be used as an excuse to remain silent in the face of egregious evils that are destroying our nation. There are times when it may be, according to the letter of the law, permissible to keep our thoughts to ourselves and yet be detrimental for us to do so. As it is said, all it takes for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing. We have an epidemic of do-nothing “Christianity” that has resulted in the abjectly wicked culture we have in America today, and I say that good men do not look for excuses to do nothing against evil or remain silent about it. Moreover, it is certain that this same church elder would not have taken the position he did if I had refused to work with a convicted murderer or rapist. They are not protected minorities like the sodomites and my refusal to provide service to them would not have raised an outcry, though sodomites are also classed as capital offenders in the Bible. It was just a matter of being cowed by the “woke” mob and deceitfully using the Scriptures as an excuse for going along with the spirit of the age, so as not to make waves. To do otherwise would lead to paying a price for taking a stand against the wicked and today’s “Christians” cannot bear that.
Earlier in this letter I mentioned the abomination known as Drag Queen Story Hour. This is where sexually deviant men dress as women, in the most hideous forms possible, and then tell stories to little children in public libraries. According to Wikipedia, they target children ages 3-11. This is not being done secretly but openly — they even have their own website where they say that the program “captures the imagination and play of the gender fluidity of childhood and gives kids glamorous, positive, and unabashedly queer role models.” They want to draw your children into their filthy way of life and destroy them. Drag Queen Story Hour is not something that has just popped up spontaneously and organically. It has been carefully planned and is funded by some very wealthy Jews (and I am going to talk about the Jews next). This has been going on since 2015, eight years now, and according to their website, they have 28 chapters in the US. But how many Christians would even know this movement existed if they had to depend on the churches for information about it? Very few, I am sure. They are silent about such things, much less do they put up any opposition to them. Can you imagine this being true of the Christian men in the Puritan era? They would be bitterly condemning it and would be out in the streets en masse fighting against it, regardless of whether they had the support of the majority of the people or not. If you understand this fact, Michael, then you ought to be able to see that it is utterly absurd to claim the religion being followed by America’s Reformed churches today is of the same spirit. Beyond doctrinal profession, there is no similarity whatsoever, and the Puritans would be heaping mountains of contemptuous words upon today’s “Reformed Christian” men for their yellow-bellied hypocrisy.
The second example of the professing churches being conformed to the apostate world around them is their attitude and behavior toward the self-identifying Jews of this age. What is the most malevolent, obstinate, and malignant ethnic or religious group in opposition to Christianity? There is no question that it is the Jews. These are the people who are either the originators or the primary driving force behind nearly every Anti-Christian movement you can name today, including all the various forms of Marxism, and of feminism, birth control, abortion, all the sexual deviancy, usury, unjustified warfare, etc. Yet who is the most protected class of people among today’s supposed Christians? It is also the Jews. You can hear the Reformed speaking against Roman Catholics today and you can hear them speak against other groups such as the Muslims, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Mormons, but you rarely find any mention of the Jews, and if you do, it is likely to be about the Jews of biblical times or about the modern-day Jews’ rejection of Christ and nothing about them beyond that. There is no one in the “Reformed” churches exposing all the destructive movements that are being driven by the Jews today. Why is that, Michael? Why is it that you have to learn about these things surreptitiously through a network of friends on the Internet and by digging for books, articles, and videos that are outside of the mainstream but you cannot learn about any of it through your local church? If today’s churches are “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15), then why is it that one cannot obtain truth in them about how the enemies of Christ are destroying Christian nations?
The Christian ministers of the past were not afraid to condemn the Jews for their wickedness. If you want to see proof of this, Michael, then after you read this letter, you can read my article entitled Righteous Condemnation of the Jews in Christian History, which is merely a collection of quotes against the Jews by prominent Christians in past ages. It is interesting to note that no one in the history of the Christian church spoke out against the Jews more strongly than Martin Luther, the man God used to start the Protestant Reformation in the early 1500’s, but other than denying the validity of the Jews’ reasons for rejecting Jesus Christ, today’s putative Protestant ministers won’t speak a word against them, despite the fact that Jewish subversion of Christian civilization is far worse today than it was in Luther’s time.
The third example is the about-face turn that the churches have made in regard to race over the past several decades. If we could go back in time to no more than just three generations ago in America, it would not be possible to find a church that is racially integrated and tolerating interracial marriages. But today the opposite is true. It now may be impossible to find a church in America that opposes these practices. The question is: How did this abrupt and dramatic change occur?
I am not going to say a great deal on this point because I have already written a rather lengthy article on the subject entitled A Conversation on Race Between Two Christians, and I would only be repeating much of it here. If you have not already done so, Michael, please take the time to read it.
I have, however, excerpted a small portion of it below in the next three paragraphs. I believe that this will be enough to make it clear that the churches have not changed their position on racial matters for any other reason but that they have conformed to the world around them.
Let’s look at the general trend of institutional Christianity, Michael. What has been the tendency over the years in regard to the fidelity of the churches in America? Are they becoming more faithful as time progresses, or are they becoming more and more unfaithful? I am sure you would agree that it is the latter. Setting aside the questions of equality for the moment, disregarding a few rare exceptions that may exist among a handful of churches, and focusing on what churchgoers do rather than what they merely say, is there even one example of a Christian doctrine to which anyone could point and honestly say that the “Bible-believing churches” of our age have collectively become more faithful in their practice of it as compared to the churches of generations ago? If not, is it reasonable to believe that apostatizing American churches, which have moved in the wrong direction on everything else, have suddenly got their doctrine on race correct, and that all of our Christian ancestors, who were much more faithful in all other respects, were 180 degrees in the wrong on racial matters for centuries? Is it not much more reasonable to believe, and even painfully obvious to see, that the reversal in racial beliefs is being driven by the Anti-Christian world and that the so-called churches are only following along and conforming to it, as they have been doing on so many other points?
If racial segregation is sinful, then why was it practiced almost universally by Christians in America prior to about 1960 and going all the way back to colonial times (1600’s) but there were no evangelical Christians condemning the practice and calling for reform? And is it just a coincidence that as the church in North America and Europe becomes increasingly worldly and apostate, that it has increasingly embraced racial intermarriage? And is it also just a coincidence that as the unbelieving society suddenly began shrieking about a man-made sin called “racism” in recent decades, that the church also at the exact same point in history adopted this “sin” into its moral code, though what they call “racism” is never condemned anywhere in the Bible or in any church writings prior to the late 20th century? And does it make sense to believe that the church, which is degenerating on every other point of morality, is going in the other direction on this one point?
It is true that there has been a dramatic change on the topic of race among ostensible Christians in recent decades but this is not because they have suddenly discovered biblical teachings that condemn what they formerly practiced; it is only because they have succumbed to the spirit of the age and given in to the constant bombardment of equality propaganda from the ungodly world, and so they have conveniently reinterpreted passages of the Bible in order to conform themselves to the zeitgeist and to avoid coming into conflict with the Anti-Christian society in which they reside. In other words, the embracing of racial egalitarianism by the modern-day churches is only a further manifestation of their apostasy.
So what is the common thread that binds these three examples of craven conformity together, Michael? It is very obvious that it is fear. It is a fear of being out of step with the world. It is a fear of having to suffer social ostracization for not conforming. It is a fear of having one’s name cast out as evil, even if the charge is false. It is a fear of losing friends or family members. It is a fear of losing church members. It is a fear of losing jobs, businesses, or opportunities. It is a fear of having to bear persecution or affliction. In short, it is a fear of having to pay a price for one’s faith, and where that fear exists to the point that it results in a habitually lily-livered conformity to the ungodly world to avoid tribulation, then we have no reason to believe that true faith is present.
In the parable of the sower, Jesus Christ spoke of those who take delight in hearing the Word of God but are offended when they have to bear persecution and therefore fall away. “And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended.” (Mark 4:16-17)
Today’s professing Christians do not face any persecution, so they likely would deny that this doctrine applies to themselves. But is it not obvious, Michael, that these words can be applied not only to those who fall away under affliction or persecution, but also to those who are careful never to bring affliction or persecution upon themselves “for the word’s sake” to the extent that they become unfaithful? If men are fearful of suffering for the kingdom of God to the point that they hide away from the ungodly world, cooperate with it, conform themselves to it, and never speak out against its evil in order to avoid paying a price for doing so, is this not just the inverse of the same infidelity? Is not consistently failing to do one’s Christian duty so as to avoid persecution the same as showing himself unfaithful when he is forced to bear persecution? Yes, both are equally hypocritical and equally are a denial of Christ. Both groups may contain those who “when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness” but both show that they “have no root in themselves” to be able to endure suffering. They have no true faith because they have not the root of regeneration from which genuine faith invariably springs. One shows himself to be a false convert by being unfaithful when he must bear persecution; the other shows himself to be a false convert by being unfaithful in order to avoid persecution.
Is it not true, Michael, that whoever men most fear and are most careful not to offend is their true god, regardless of who they profess to be their god? Who then is the god of American “Christianity”? Is it not the Anti-Christian world? Is it not true that American churches have peace with this world because they are careful not to speak against it, shrink back from any confrontation with it, and even conform to it when they can do so and yet still try to maintain a “veneer of orthodoxy,” as you call it? Is there any love of God where there is no self-denial for Him — no willingness to pay a price for standing against the evil He hates but instead a habitual yielding to it in order to avoid bearing the reproach of the ungodly world?
It is a paradox, but the love of God is often manifested through hate. That is, a hatred for wrongdoing. Those who have a fervent love of righteousness will have an equally fervent hatred of evil. David said of the wicked, “Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies” (Psalm 139:21-22). And we are told “ye that love the LORD, hate evil” (Psalm 97:10) and “the fear of the LORD is to hate evil” (Proverbs 8:13) and “hate the evil, and love the good” (Amos 5:15). Where is this holy hatred for wickedness to be found in today’s purported Christianity, Michael? You might tell me that some of the Reformed churches teach these things and that they pray for God’s judgment against the wicked, but do they actually take any meaningful action themselves to stand against the many evils in our society? Is it not true that men praying to God for Him to do something while they cower in the shadows and do nothing, is an abomination? Are not such hypocritical prayers detestable in God’s sight?
While it is possible that a false church teaching false doctrine could be persecuted for speaking out and standing against evil; churches that are in perpetual peace and comfort because they never oppose the wicked who are destroying their nation show themselves to be false regardless of whatsoever doctrine they teach. There must be both God-honoring teaching and God-fearing practice and where there is not, there is no church.
As for the professional Christian ministry in America, it is a fact that very few of them have forcefully taken a stand against the doctrines and movements that have been destroying Christian civilizations for many years, whether it is all the egalitarian lies in which we are told that everyone is equal regardless of race, gender, religion or sexual practice; or the feminism that has made many American women into pseudo-men, which has largely destroyed motherhood and the family, and has resulted in the murder of innocent babies on a scale that makes Herod or Pharaoh look like amateurs; or the sexual perversion and confusion that is running rampant through our society, into which American children are being indoctrinated and by which many of them will be destroyed; or all of the unjust warfare that our government has been prosecuting for more than 100 years now for the benefit of mega-corporations, the bankers, and the self-identifying Jews and their counterfeit Israel, resulting in many millions of deaths with no end in sight; or the grand larceny of socialism that has made all Americans participants in thievery for at least the past 80 years and which is increasing every year; or our fraudulent money system and the usury of the banking establishment; or the fact that our country is being flooded with many millions of foreigners bringing with them a multitude of alien cultures and false, anti-Christian religions. How many of them have even bothered to educate themselves as to the sources and driving forces behind these destructive movements? That is, how they came into being and who is running them?
Is it optional, Michael, for Christian ministers to speak out against the evil in their societies? Are they only required to teach accurate theology, administer the sacraments, and maybe occasionally visit hospitalized church members? Was it optional for the biblical prophets to speak out against all of the abominations being practiced in their nation? Were they not commanded by God to do so? Why then is it treated as if it is an optional function for ministers today, as if they can live in Sodom but ignore what the residents are doing and not offend God by their silence?
Swiss Protestant Reformer Pierre Viret, in his work “The Christian and The Magistrate” (1562) wrote, “Just as ministers are not bound to do what pertains to rulers and magistrates, so on the other hand if they do not sound the word, and do not speak to the rulers and magistrates with all frankness according to their calling, they will be guilty of grave guilt. For they would then be included in the number of dumb dogs which Isaiah speaks of. For their office requires them to call the rulers and magistrates to do their duty according to the Law of God.” Where are the ministers that are calling the rulers and magistrates to account for all their wickedness, Michael? Are they not all just “dumb dogs”?
Do you believe that any of today’s professedly Reformed ministers could hold a position in the Westminster era Church of Scotland, including those of your denomination, Michael? I very much doubt it, for the reasons which are given in the following linked statement made by the general assembly of that church in the year 1648. One need not even read past the title of it to see that it condemns today’s ministers: Act of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland Censuring Ministers for Their Silence and Not Speaking to the Corruptions of the Time. Where are the Christian ministers today who are “speaking to the corruptions of the time”? You might find some passing references and expressions of lamentation within today’s sermons about them but how many Christian ministers are thoroughly exposing the men and movements that have been destroying Western civilization and the Christian churches for many decades and even centuries? Few, if any. If it is true that “undue silence in a just cause, and holding our peace when iniquity calleth for either a reproof from ourselves, or complaint to others” is a violation of the Ninth Commandment, as the Westminster Larger Catechism teaches, then is not the professional “Reformed” ministry in America guilty of breaking it on an enormous scale, Michael?
I could go through the Ten Commandments and try to show you how this reputed Christianity transgresses them but, as you well know, Jesus’ summarized all ten of them in the two precepts of loving God and loving thy neighbor. I really would like to know, Michael, how a religion that is led by men who let the worst evils in their nation go unopposed does either one of those things. The Reformed claim to rightly practice church discipline but who is disciplining the discipliners, i.e., the pastors and elders, for their emasculation of Christianity? The truth is that they all need to be taken out and horse-whipped in the public square and the worst offenders ought to be hanged. If that sounds extreme to you, Michael, it is only because you do not understand that the failure of these poltroons has destroyed our nation, along with the lives of many, many, individuals and families.
Is it not interesting that if you want to use the Internet to educate yourself about all the satanic movements which have been destroying Christian civilization for many years that you have to go either to non-Christian sources or to the publications of individual Christians, but all the websites of all the professing Christian churches of every denomination are completely devoid of such information, except for possibly a very few brief articles that only touch the surface of such topics and which in total could be counted on the fingers of one hand, if they are able to be found at all? Does this not plainly tell us who the so-called churches really serve?
Could you ever look anyone in the eye, Michael, and claim that what we have today in our “Reformed” churches is the same religion as that of the Protestant Reformers? Anyone who has read biographical accounts of the history of the Reformation era knows that if the men of that time found themselves amidst the Sodom and Gomorrah culture we have today, they would be waging an all-out war against those who are supporting it, promoting it, and leading it, until one side or the other perished in the battle. They would fight with the utmost confidence that God is on their side and that He would make them triumphant, and they would be willing to suffer all things, even death, on their way to victory. Do not try to tell me that this effete, indolent, and pusillanimous religion we have in America today is genuine Christianity. It would make our ancestors vomit.
In spite of all the compromises the churches have been making to avoid paying the dear price that a faithful stand would require, in the end, they are going to be unsuccessful at avoiding persecution. I believe that what is going to happen to Evangelical and Reformed churches in America will be just like what happened to the Roman Catholics during the French Revolution and the Eastern Orthodox in Russia during the Communist Revolution. When professing Christians try to play it safe by retreating into a little religious bubble in an attempt to preserve their religion, and they both conform to the ungodly world and conciliate the wicked, instead of fighting to overcome them and thereby preserving their nation, then they may be successful in staving off affliction in the short term but because they are allowing evil to proliferate around them, the wicked eventually end up consuming everything that they had hoped to preserve. It is a strategy of appeasement that has never worked in the past and will be a spectacular failure once again.
Either way, the churches will be persecuted. If they were to take a faithful stand now, then they would endure the persecution for righteousness’ sake of which Jesus spoke and be rewarded by God for it. But if they continue to hide away from the world, conform to worldly concepts of right and wrong, and fail to take a public stand against evil, then they will be persecuted for unrighteousness’ sake, (i.e., for their cowardly and traitorous behavior), and their only reward from God will be in the persecution itself. That is, the persecution will be the punishment for their infidelity, and there will be no reward.
So far we have seen that there is no persecution of the churches and that this is an impossible contradiction if they have authentic Christianity. We also have seen that the reason there is no persecution of the churches is because of their gutless conformity. The churches conform to the world because they are of the world. But why is it so? As I said earlier in this letter, it cannot be denied that many of the Reformed ministers still preach from the Bible. In fact, more than a few of them preach expositionally chapter-by-chapter through large portions of the Bible and give forth accurate interpretations of it. Not only so, but quite a number of them use the biblically faithful Reformation era confessions and catechisms for instruction. So how can it possibly be that their churches are dead? Has the word of God become “of none effect”? Or is there some deficiency in these reputed churches that is making it of none effect? It must, of course, be the latter. The error is difficult to discern but in the following paragraphs I will explain where I believe the deficiency lies.
Many of the ministers of the allegedly Reformed churches certainly would claim that they have the three marks of true churches, according to a widely accepted definition given in Article 29 of the Belgic Confession of Faith, which was produced by faithful churches during the Protestant Reformation era, and which says: “The marks by which the true Church is known are these: if the pure doctrine of the gospel is preached therein; if she maintains the pure administration of the sacraments as instituted by Christ; if church discipline is exercised in punishing of sin; in short, if all things are managed according to the pure Word of God, all things contrary thereto rejected, and Jesus Christ acknowledged as the only Head of the Church.”
Based on this claim, they likely would object that they are doing their duty and whatsoever the state of the church actually may be is outside of their control. “Our job is to preach the pure gospel, rightly administer the sacraments, and exercise proper church discipline. Beyond this we cannot go. The rest is in God’s hands and He will determine the extent of its effect on the congregants through the working of His Spirit. We must recognize that there always will be tares among the wheat.”
I agree with the Belgic Confession formula, and I agree with the last statement in quotes. But I believe the claim of the modern-day Reformed ministers that they are preaching the gospel is false. The reality is that for all their doctrinal accuracy, they are not preaching a convicting evangelistic message that confronts the hearers with the guilt of their sin and which demands repentance. They are not doing what is required of faithful watchmen according to Ezekiel 33:8-9. I have written quite a comprehensive article on this subject titled The Gospel Is Not Being Preached in America Today, which you might be interested in reading, Michael.
You also might be interested in knowing the results of the survey I conducted over the last few years. I sent the following message out by email to over fifty “Bible-believing churches,” (including some in your denomination) all of which were “Reformed” churches, except for about three or four, and all of which I knew to have numerous sermon recordings online.
“Hello, I’m looking for a video or audio recording of a strong presentation of the foundational gospel message that would be suitable for passing along to someone yet unconverted, something that contains clear definitions of sin and serves to convict the hearer of his guilt, calls the sinner to repentance, and shows him the way of forgiveness through faith in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. I see that you have many sermon recordings on Sermon Audio and I can search through them, but it is difficult to know exactly what is being preached based on the title alone, and so I thought I would ask if you could pick one that best fits my description and send me a link to it.”
I do not believe it can be denied that what I am asking for is a very basic evangelistic message and is not at all a stringent request, and so should be easy to fulfill. About half of the churches I contacted responded and I ended up listening to approximately forty sermons. It is interesting that out of all the messages I listened to, I cannot recall one that contained anything that I could call heretical. Some things were not well-stated and so could have been interpreted in a way that expressed doctrinal error, but I do not remember one example of blatant heresy. However, out of all them, I only heard one (from a Baptist church) that fit the definition I asked for. Most were not even close and certainly could not be described as confrontational and convicting in any way. Lukewarm and banal would be more apt descriptions for most of them. The Baptist message was far from a stellar example and only part of a larger sermon but it did contain the elements requested. So maybe my claim that the gospel is not being preached in America today does not apply absolutely; however, it certainly is true nevertheless, as this sort of message should not be the rare exception but one that has been preached in every church numerous times.
If I am wrong, Michael, then please show me where the error is in this simple request, or tell me where all the messages of this definition are being hidden. Another interesting point of my survey is that not one of the churches I contacted found fault with my request. They did not object to it at all; they just were unable to fulfill it. They do not deny that it is the type of message that needs to be preached but they do not preach it. Why? The reason is obvious. It is very offensive to unregenerate men and likely to drive many from the congregations.
The infidelity of today’s Christian ministers in regard to the preaching of the gospel is this simple:
They do not preach evangelistic sermons directed at the unconverted which include what German Protestant Reformer Martin Luther (1483-1546) called the “first message” that will “humiliate and terrify the sinners,” by “proclaiming the law” and English Protestant Reformer William Tyndale (1494-1536) similarly said, “teaches the people to know their natural venom and birth-poison” and “makes them meek and frightened with the law.” Their messages also do not contain, as English Baptist minister Arthur Pink (1886-1952) described it, “a scriptural setting forth of the nature of that punishment which awaits the lost — the awfulness of it, the hopelessness of it, the unendurableness of it, the endlessness of it,” and they speak almost nothing of repentance, which must be defined as a turning away from all self-pleasing, and which John Calvin called “the start of the Christian life.” All of these elements must be preached before proceeding to speak about the forgiveness of sins, the mercy of God, and the gracious reconciliation offered by Him through faith in Christ, otherwise it is unlikely to be understood why forgiveness, mercy, and grace are needed. “The recognition of sin is the beginning of salvation” (Luther) and today’s evangelistic messages, if they are preached at all, do little to create the necessary conviction of the guilt of sin.
Thus, they fail to do what Pink described as the necessary plowing of the ground before the seeds of the gospel can be sown, and so by their omissions, they preach an incomplete and false message of salvation that does not convict its hearers of their sins, does not empty them of self-righteousness, does not cause them to be of a “broken and contrite heart,” does not lead them to see that they are in a helpless condition so that they despair of themselves, does not make them realize that they can do nothing but cry out to God for mercy, and because it fails to do these things it never truly makes them see their desperate need for the Savior and so it does not produce genuine faith or bring true spiritual conversion.
A false gospel can consist not only in preaching falsehoods but also in omitting necessary and convicting truths, and the latter is the nature of the false gospel that is preached in what are called the Reformed churches.
Welsh Protestant minister Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981), in his 1971 book called Preaching and Preachers, spoke of the “very great and grievous fallacy” of preaching only what he called instructional messages and never evangelistic messages, and he believed that this “has been one of the cardinal errors of the Church especially in this present [20th] century.” He spoke of attending churches for many years and being accepted as a Christian because he was doctrinally educated and so “could give the right answers to various set questions.” Yet Lloyd-Jones said that he was unconverted for a long period of time because “the preaching we had was always based on the assumption that we were all Christians, that we would not have been there in the congregation unless we were Christians.” He said, “What I needed was preaching that would convict me of sin and make me see my need, and bring me to true repentance…” After years without it, he eventually heard such a message and repented.
This type of preaching seems to have been a rarity when Lloyd-Jones was young and today it appears to have died out almost completely, and I believe our churches have died along with it.
Perhaps, Michael, you would object that the ministers in your denomination do not assume in their preaching that everyone in the church is converted. This may be the case but they still may be failing to preach the type of messages necessary for conversion. A minister can communicate 100% accurate theology and yet be preaching in such a way that he is not confronting people with their own sins and calling them to repentance.
I have discussed this matter with other “Reformed” ministers, Michael, and an objection I commonly receive goes something like this: “Even if it is true, as you say, that today’s Reformed ministers do not preach evangelistic messages that are confrontational and convicting in nature because they are afraid of giving offense, or for other reasons, quite a few of them do exposition of the Bible verse-by-verse, and they have individual sermons that speak about sin, sermons that teach about man’s depravity, and sermons that teach about repentance. In addition, they distribute the Reformed confessions and catechisms that comprehensively teach about all matters of the Christian religion. How is it possible that they can be doing all this and yet be failing to do what is necessary to bring men to repentance and true faith?”
The answer is that truth can be communicated in a way that is educational but not personally convicting. For example, a minister can speak of sin in general terms and about all the attributes of true repentance that a Christian will possess but never actually confront the hearers with specific examples of sin through the use of God’s law and demand that they repent. Those who are already converted may learn from such a sermon but it is likely to be ineffective for bringing the unconverted to repentance. Thus, preaching can be always instructional but never evangelistic, as Martyn Lloyd-Jones asserted.
True Christian preaching is not just the bare communication of truth, as in a science lecture at a university. Many biblical truths can be communicated through many means, even directly from the Bible, and yet the preaching may bear no fruit. This is because true Christian preaching is spiritually empowered and prophetic. Preaching can only truly be called Christian when it is performed by men anointed by God and infused with the Holy Spirit, and thereby made bold and effectual in their preaching. It bears much fruit because it has the blessing of God upon it and His power working through it.
Men who are too cowardly to confront their congregations with unpleasant truths in a direct and convicting way, because they fear offending them and driving some or many from the assembly, are not men of God at all, and it should not be expected that the Lord will bless their preaching with an increase. Nor should we expect His blessing to be upon their efforts to compensate for their failure to preach such confrontational messages by instead communicating truths in an oblique, fragmentary, or diluted manner, or through second-hand sources like catechisms which were made for instructing those already brought to repentance.
Despite such faithless men and their lesser means, God may use some of them to occasionally bring a few to faith here and there. However, church elders and congregants who tolerate such weak and defective preaching, rather than working to correct it, must share in the blame for its unfaithfulness and cannot expect the blessing of God necessary to make it broadly efficacious, and thus there may be little or no harvest of souls and no fruit of the Spirit manifested in a congregation, despite the fact that much truth is being disseminated by various methods.
If you have read this far, Michael, you may be thinking to yourself that my description of a false gospel does not apply to the ministers in your denomination. Your claim might be that they do preach evangelistic messages that contain the elements which Luther, Tyndale, Pink, Lloyd-Jones and others say needs to be included in such messages. I can tell you that there was not any such preaching occurring when I was there, and I have not found it in any of the recordings requested from the churches in that denomination. However, you ought to consider the fact that whether it is in preaching, profession, or practice, any sort of blatant infidelity that is tolerated in a church (such as all the compromises, conformity, and cowardice of the “Reformed” described in this letter) is likely to remove God’s blessing from that church and be the cause of fruitless preaching, even if evangelistic sermons are properly preached with all the necessary elements included. We must never forget that Christian truth is a spiritual thing wholly dependent on the action of God for its potency, and so even in cases where the doctrinal content is sound and complete, efforts to bring others to a knowledge of it by men who have demonstrated that they are habitually faithless, cowardly, and hypocritical are likely to be in vain, because the power of God is not likely to be working through them.
Another condition that has produced a largely unregenerate church is the lack of discipline for all the infidelity already delineated in this letter but, instead, a toleration of it. As I said before, there exists a very large market for a comfortable, cost-free, halfway Christianity, and many who will readily overlook and excuse whatever inconsistencies such a compromised religion will invariably present. A counterfeit Christianity that hides away from the world, conforms to the world’s concepts of right and wrong, and fails to take a public stand against evil is quite appealing to many who desire to have Christianity without any cost. This is what the masses desire and there are plenty of men willing to provide it — who are themselves deceived into believing that it is genuine Christianity — and so it thrives and becomes a self-perpetuating organism that multiplies enormously. Of course, it is not Christianity at all but if it is the only thing being marketed as such in your nation, and it seems to be saying all the right doctrinal things, then it becomes very difficult to discern that it is a counterfeit. Again, the Reformed claim to institute church discipline faithfully but this is the emasculated religion they practice and who among them is going to correct the ministers who exemplify and teach it? No one, but of course they gladly would discipline anyone bold enough to speak against this abomination they pretend to be Christianity, and so the malignancy metastasizes exponentially like the cancer that it is, being entirely unchecked in the putative Reformed churches.
Please tell me what it means to be a “Reformed Christian” today, Michael? As far as I can tell, it means no more than giving lip service to the doctrines contained in some centuries-old church statements (which is called faithfully adhering to sound doctrine), showing up once per week at a gathering of others who do the same (which is called uniting in the fellowship of the saints), and refraining from the most obvious and scandalous public sins (which is called living a godly life). It most certainly does not require anything that would ever cause its adherents to suffer persecution, or to bear the reproach of the world, or to make sacrifices, or even to bring minor disruption to their prosperous and comfortable lives. Call it what you like but I say that a religion which never costs you anything will, in the end, be worth exactly what you paid for it.
I have already shown John Calvin making the assertion that the church, at various times in history, has apostatized to the point that there is no public manifestation of it, and I believe this is where we are today in America. I am convinced that today’s “Reformed” churches are every bit as dead as the churches in Europe were prior to the Reformation, in spite of all the lip service they give to accurate theological doctrine. Notwithstanding the doctrinal differences between the various sects of American Christianity, it is, in reality, all the same compartmentalized religion that only wants to hide away from the world and which acquiesces more and more to the zeitgeist with the passage of time. I know it is difficult to accept that all of denominational Christianity could be apostate but I believe the evidence is undeniable. Arthur Pink said about the ostensible believers sometime in the first half of the 20th century: “Thousands acknowledge they are sinners, who have never mourned over the fact.” I say that many thousands in our time are professing orthodox theology who have never been changed by it. Pink also maintained in the 1940’s that there was not much left to do with Protestantism but “to pronounce sentence of death upon the whole apostate system,” and it certainly has not improved since that time. The human capacity for self-deception seems to be limitless but those who are willing to objectively seek the fruit of this religion can see that there is none. It is a pseudo-Christianity for timorous conformists who give lip service to truth (in some cases even a great deal of it), but who do not have any real convictions. In short, it is a fraud, and I believe it is even blasphemous to identify it with the name of Jesus Christ.
That being said, I do believe that there are more than a few true Christians wandering in the darkness of American churchianity, just as there must have been in the Romanist churches prior to the Protestant Reformation. When God raises up genuine Christian churches again, then the difference will be starkly obvious to those true Christians. I have no doubt that such churches will be persecuted, and that the persecution will be led by the same men leading the false churches of what identify themselves the Evangelical and Reformed denominations.
But I am puzzled as to why you have not already recognized the dead state of denominational Christendom, Michael. I have not written this to you because I believe you are incapable of seeing these things for yourself. On the contrary, I consider you to be one of the more discerning among the professional ministers and this is why I am singling you out. Of course, this is not much of a compliment seeing the state of the Christian ministry in America today, but I find it difficult to believe that you are blind to the truths contained in this letter.
Maybe you have made the mistake, Michael, of believing that the churches have peace today because Americans and their government believe in religious toleration. However, this only seems to be the case because the authentic biblical religion does not exist in our land. Genuine Christianity is completely intolerant of the wicked, and the wicked are completely intolerant of genuine Christianity. The reason that we have no conflict between the ungodly and the churches today is because the latter are themselves ungodly. A counterfeit Christianity that emasculates itself by hiding away from the world, by conforming to the world’s concepts of right and wrong, and by failing to take a public stand against evil, will always be tolerated because not only is it no threat to the Anti-Christs but it actually serves their purposes by satisfying the people’s thirst for religion with an innocuous and pacifying one. The only reason that we appear to have religious toleration in America today is because this kind of pseudo-Christianity is the only representation of Christianity that exists here at the present time.
You see me as being uncharitable in calling today’s churches fake; however, maybe the truth is not that I am being uncharitable but that you are looking at them through rose-colored glasses and unwilling to accept that they are what their works show them to be. I say that their “veneer of orthodoxy” is just that — only a veneer, and that there is no living substance to their religion. Please reveal to me the evidence for believing otherwise, Michael. I also say that this is not the exception among today’s Reformed churches, but the rule. If am wrong, then please tell me of what Reformed denomination it can be said that the men manifest the antithesis of what you called “enormous spiritual weakness hiding under a veneer of orthodoxy,” and display the opposite of what you say is “a very weak or non-existent opposition to egalitarian leftism.” And if you cannot name one, then what is your basis for disagreement with me?
Perhaps it is just the magnitude of the infidelity that has thrown you off. I think that if you were to see such behavior among a small pocket of professing Christians you would not have a problem identifying it as hypocrisy. But to believe that all the current ecclesiastical organizations have been swallowed up by a counterfeit Christianity is an enormous and bitter pill to swallow.
Maybe you have become confused by the fact that what is being identified as the Church today is divided among a multitude of sects. It is easy to fall into the trap of making relative judgments by comparing one denomination to another to determine which is more faithful, when the reality is that none of them are any good. It is like having been secluded in a forest all your life that consists of many different species of trees, but all of them have always been diseased and stunted. If you had never been outside of that forest and never seen a healthy tree, then you would not see them as the sickly organisms that they really are. Not only so, but you might judge the least sickly of them to be healthy, just because you have no trustworthy standard by which to measure health. I know that you are educated enough that you should be able to step outside of the blighted forest of modern American “Christianity” and make judgments according to better objective standards, but are you actually doing so, Michael? If you did, would any of today’s so-called Reformed churches be able to measure up anywhere close to the churches of the Reformation era, if we were to judge by anything beyond mere intellectual assent to theological concepts?
The counterfeit Christianity that we have today is very different from what we had under Romanism. Satan is playing a new game with a new deck of cards. Instead of containing his whoredoms under one popish umbrella, he has spread them over a multitude of sects, and so cast a wider net of deception.
If one desires a religion of enthusiasm that does not require him to be studious, the devil provides it. If a religion of intellectual rigor without emotional displays appeals to him, the devil gives it; if a “high church” religion with a great deal of ceremony and formality is appealing to him, the devil dispenses it; and if a “low church” religion of bare-bones simplicity is to his taste, the devil supplies it. Moreover, Satan has given everyone the gift of religious toleration so that they all have the freedom to pick from hundreds of other shades and variations of religion. He does this while convincing his disciples that all of it is Christianity and that they can have any flavor of it they desire, along with peace, safety, comfort, and prosperity. No wonder they are never discontented with it!
But whatever form of “Christianity” one favors, it is all the same fraud under the superficial differences. It has no life-changing power, and it produces nothing except pusillanimous worldlings who honor God with their lips but have no genuine piety. Thus they possess no holy hatred of evil, much less the convictions to oppose the wicked actively, and they spend their lives trying to hide away from the world all while conforming to it more and more with the process of time. The counterfeit is a many-headed hydra, but it all shares the same corrupt and worldly spirit. It is a religion that, especially in its Reformed variants, appears to possess “a form of godliness” but is always “denying the power thereof” (2 Timothy 3:5) with its works.
So there it is, Michael, I have made my case. What are you going to do with it? Are you going to try to find some chinks in the armor — some flaws that you can poke through here and there? Are you going to try to dig up some very rare exceptions in an attempt to prove that what I say is happening really is not happening (or vice versa)? Are you going to point to some bogus examples of Christian action such as the “pro-life” movement and claim that a faithful stand against evil is being taken by today’s churches because of them? You can try these things, if you like, but you cannot honestly deny the bulk of my words. There is no doubt in my mind that it applies to the overwhelming majority of what is called Christianity today in America, including the self-proclaimed Reformed churches, regardless of whether it does or does not apply in a 100% absolute sense.
Please try to consider my words without any bias, Michael. Be careful that you do not allow yourself to fall into the trap of rejecting truth out of a desire to obtain or retain a paying position in the denominational churches. “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it” (Upton Sinclair). No doubt you will take offense at the suggestion that you might compromise for the sake of a job, but I do not know any man who has not at times feared losing his ability to make a living. I know there have been times when I have sinned as a result of that fear, and there is no doubt that many men in the professional ministry are shrinking back from preaching certain difficult truths out of a fear of giving offense and thereby jeopardizing their jobs.
I have only this left to say to you, Michael: If you are a true Christian, then you need to wake up to the aforementioned realities and stop condemning those who come to you with the truth. And if in your street preaching you are indeed declaring a message that convicts of sin and calls people to repentance, that is a commendable (and very rare) thing. But you need to recognize that the source of America’s degeneracy is the utter failure of its churches, and that is where messages of repentance must first be directed.