The Unfaithful Shepherds of Today’s Reformed Christian Ministry
A Call to Repentance
“But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming,
and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.” (John 10:12)
by Stuart DiNenno
It is assumed from the outset that the Christian reader of this article has both enough discernment of the times and a sufficient knowledge of history to recognize the wretchedly low condition of Christianity today. Only those who are completely blind to reality can deny that both the institutions and influence of our religion have been on the decline and in retreat in Western nations for many, many years and that what were once Christian civilizations in Europe, along with their former colonies in North America and other parts of the world, have fallen away and become decidedly anti-Christian. Abominations that in former times could not even be mentioned above the volume of a whisper are now openly practiced and encouraged — even publicly praised. The general culture has almost entirely reverted back to the brutish degeneracy of ancient Rome, the putative church is fragmented into thousands of sects and independent churches teaching a multitude of conflicting doctrines, and the so-called Christians who comprise their congregations are increasingly being conformed in thought, word, and deed to the apostate zeitgeist.
The condition is easily recognized but the disease must be diagnosed and the cause of it identified. Otherwise, there can be no cure. The title of this article sets forth an accusation: the pastors and teachers of today’s so-called Reformed churches are unfaithful shepherds. The root cause of the disease that has brought both the churches and our civilization to their present deplorable condition is the infidelity of the modern-day ministry. Today’s ministers, and the recent generations of their predecessors, have miserably failed to uphold their responsibility to be watchmen over the flock. Just as the shepherd in the painting above, they have abandoned the sheep to the wolves.
The purpose of this article is not merely to find fault but also to correct the fault. It is a call to repentance directed at today’s professing Christian ministers. It may be charged against the writer that he has no authority to make such a call but such a charge is immaterial. The facts themselves and the arguments in which they are framed are sufficient to establish the truth of the matter and thereby reveal the need for repentance.
So an assertion has been made, but before we begin to prove the truth of it we must first establish a standard by which to make our judgment. To that end, we have to determine what is the primary duty of a Christian minister. What is the one responsibility so essential to ministry that if a minister fails to do it, then he cannot be considered faithful to his calling? If it can be shown that he is entirely or consistently failing in this one principal task, then it is valid to maintain that he is unfaithful. (While it is understood by the author that other servants of the church may be rightly called ministers, the reader should understand that for the purposes of this article, he is applying the word “minister” specifically to preachers, i.e., those who minister the Word of God).
We must recognize that those in the professional ministry have important duties other than preaching. However, we need not digress into examining the other functions of a minister as it should be accepted without controversy by all those who profess to adhere to the Reformed faith that preaching is the primary function of a professional Christian minister. One of the cardinal doctrines asserted by the Protestant Reformers is that of the centrality of preaching. The Christian minister is to be first and foremost a minister of truth, and, if he is not, then he is failing to do his duty regardless of how well he may perform any other services to the church. Therefore if we are going to judge whether the so-called Reformed ministers in America are faithfully discharging their duty at this point in history, whether in individual cases or collectively, then we must make that judgment according to the standard of their preaching. We need to be able to determine rightly whether a man is a faithful preacher of Christian doctrine.
Most would probably hold that a faithful preacher is one who fully, accurately, and plainly expounds biblical doctrine. That answer, however, is only half right, and, if the reader agreed with this definition, then he needs to come to an understanding of this fact: a Christian minister could, over the course of his career, preach the equivalent of the entirety of such magnificent theological works as Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the whole Bible, John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, the sixteen volumes of John Owen’s Complete Works, not deviate on any point of Christian doctrine expressed in the best Reformed confessions and catechisms, do all of his preaching in a skillful, cogent, and captivating way that edifies his hearers, and yet still be abjectly unfaithful to his calling.
At this point, some are likely scratching their heads and thinking: How can this be possible? How can one thoroughly and expertly expound upon Christian doctrine of the highest order for an entire lifetime and still not be a faithful preacher?
It is obvious that a minister can be unfaithful by preaching false doctrines and it is certain that many are being taught today throughout the various branches of professing Christendom. However, it is important to understand that a preacher can not only sin in what he proclaims but also in what he fails to proclaim. The veracity required to be a faithful preacher is very similar to that required by the courtroom oath with which the reader is likely familiar: “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?” One can fulfill the first clause of the oath by telling the truth, and he can fulfill the third clause by telling nothing but the truth, but if he is failing to fulfill the second clause by not telling the whole truth, then his account is incomplete, his story will be distorted, and he will have broken the oath. Similarly, a preacher can proclaim truth and even proclaim nothing but truth, yet not proclaim the whole truth. He can be unfaithful by failing to give his disciples the knowledge that is necessary for them to effectively apply their religion to all aspects of their lives and to the societies in which they live, and by neglecting to provide them the information they need to defend themselves and the church against those anti-Christs who are working to destroy both. He may appear to be faithful in his preaching because he is not proclaiming anything erroneous, but all the while he is a spectacular failure because of what is absent from his preaching.
The Bible describes itself as a sword. It is a weapon to be used against our enemies — the flesh, the devil, and the world — but like any weapon, it cannot be used effectively without an understanding of the opponent it is to be used against. Any competent military leader will tell you that even an enormous army with highly trained troops and the most excellent equipment cannot hope to defeat an enemy of whom they have no intelligence. If a leader does not know where the enemy is located, has no knowledge of his strategies, and cannot even properly identify him, then he has no possibility of being victorious over that enemy. All the careful training of his troops and the expense of his powerful weapons will have been wasted.
And herein lies the failure of today’s professional ministers. Although men who are both very knowledgeable about the Bible and are theologically accurate in their teaching are in short supply today, the greater problem among the modern-day ministry is that the knowledge and abilities they do possess are not being used to combat the evil doctrines and practices that have destroyed our civilization and are destroying the churches. Even the few that are properly educated and are teaching accurate theology have little knowledge of the enemies that have been deliberately undermining Christianity and Western civilization for multiple generations, and so they are like a blind man leading an army — wandering around in the dark with no idea of where the enemy is or what he is doing, let alone how to engage and overcome him.
As if this were not bad enough, not only do today’s church leaders lack knowledge of the enemy from their own intelligence corps, but the great majority of them are operating under the intelligence provided by the enemy. That is, their worldview and understanding of history is, to a large degree, not of a Christian origin, coming from within the church, but of an anti-Christian origin, coming from the apostate world. And so whatever knowledge they do have is mostly interpreted through the lens of ungodly presuppositions and therefore is distorted in such a way that it serves the enemy’s agenda.
Such ministers, of course, cannot teach others those truths of which they themselves have no knowledge, or are deceived about, and so the result is that the great majority of professing Christians today, even those relative few who are being taught orthodox theology, do not have a Christian worldview and do not understand the forces that have been working against them for many years, and so they are ill-equipped to defend themselves against the anti-Christs, much less are they able to militate for the furtherance of the kingdom of God in the world.
If the assertions above as to the benighted state of today’s professional ministry are doubted, then try asking Christian ministers to give an explanation of Cultural Marxism. Most cannot even begin to define it, though it is a philosophy and movement that has the explicit goal of overthrowing Christian morality, and has largely succeeded in doing so, having infiltrated the thinking of almost everyone in North America and Europe today to varying degrees. Inquire about Franz Boas, Antonio Gramsci, or Herbert Marcuse. Most likely, they will not have even heard these names before, yet, these wicked men have shaped the morality and worldview of modern Americans and Europeans far more than any Christian. Interrogate them about the French Revolution. It will be found that they know little about it, much less will they be able to tell an inquirer how its egalitarian spirit, and the forces behind it, are still shaping our world today. Likewise, they know nearly nothing about the origin, influence, and direction of all the Jewish-led philosophies, movements, and organizations that have destroyed and continue to destroy millions of individuals, families, and even entire nations and how the destruction is being accomplished via propaganda to children through public schools, universities, television, films, and other sources, and has been for generations. Not only will they be unable to inform you about any of it, but most likely they will dismiss it all, out of ignorance, as “conspiracy theories” and even find fault with the inquirer for asking them about this subject, because they lack the wisdom or courage to question, rather than uncritically accept, the anti-Christian worldview and narrative of history that is spoon-fed to them through the mainstream sources. All the aforementioned ideologies, and the campaigns to inculcate them, have destroyed the moral fabric of Western, formerly Christian, nations and largely subverted the churches as well but so-called Christian ministers are almost completely oblivious to them. They do not know and, in most cases, they do not want to know. Paul the apostle said that he was not ignorant of Satan’s devices (2 Corinthians 2:11). Today’s ministers are not only ignorant of them but willfully so. They are unfaithful watchmen who have failed to blow the trumpet in warning to the people “…if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand. (Ezekiel 33:6)
For the most part, the religious professionals in America have turned Christianity into an ineffectual and emasculated religion that is devoid of spiritual power and virile boldness — one that only desires to hide away from the world while evil takes dominion over the society beyond the four walls of its meeting places. In certain cases, it still retains some, or even much, of the form and profession of true Christianity. However, these are mostly just hollow vestiges of the robust faith of our forefathers, and it has, in reality, degenerated into a compartmentalized, inward-looking religion that only concerns itself with an intellectual comprehension of doctrine (to greater and lesser degrees across the various denominations), some aspects of personal piety, and the things practiced in the few hours of the church’s weekly assembly. As Christian writer Joe Boot put it, “Since the so-called Enlightenment, Christians have steadily surrendered the various organs of culture — education, law, arts, charity, medicine, government — almost entirely to the increasingly machiavellian humanistic state. We have progressively retreated into a pietistic bubble, concerned largely with eternal verities and keeping souls from hell, and we have faithlessly limited Christ’s jurisdiction to the institutional church. The result has been the marginalization of the Christian church and a change of religion in the public sphere.” What is called Christianity today is no longer a militant force for converting the people and transforming the culture. The modern-day churches have a truncated form of godliness that lacks the power to overcome the forces of Satan which are conquering the world. This is blatant infidelity. As 20th century theologian R. J. Rushdoony stated: “A piety which concerns itself only with man’s soul and leaves the world to the devil is a profane piety.” Not only does today’s profane form of Christianity fail to stand against the spirit of the age but it continually and increasingly conforms itself to that spirit.
This is no new phenomenon. “There is no new thing under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). It is ever the tendency of fallen men to reduce the worship of God to mere external forms and professions, rather than to demonstrate genuine obedience by applying the law of God to every facet of their own lives and working to conform their societies to biblical principles. The Bible testifies that this was the case repeatedly with the Israelites and historians have said the same about Christians during the Middle Ages: “They fulfilled all the external obligations of the faith and they would have been shocked if they had been told they were not good Christians. But they tended more and more to put their religion in a separate compartment where it would have little influence on their daily life.” (Strayer, Gatzke, and Harbison, The Course of Civilization, 1961). It is the duty of Christian ministers to heed the scriptural warnings against such hypocritical behavior and to learn from history the consequences of the same, in order that they be able to recognize and correct it. Instead today’s ministers participate in the hypocrisy by lamenting the tremendous amount of perversion, infidelity, and blasphemy that is being publicly manifested in Western nations today, recognizing the obvious wickedness but being blind to the fact that the reduction and compartmentalization of Christianity that they teach and exemplify is the very thing that has allowed it to proliferate.
It is of vital importance that Christian ministers in all eras gain a thorough knowledge of their present culture, understand the driving forces behind it, and stand against the destructive spirit of the age. As 19th century Christian writer J. C. Ryle said: “…it is a most important thing to understand the times in which we live, and to understand what those times require. Next to our Bibles and our own hearts, our Lord would have us study our own times.” Protestant reformer Martin Luther stated: “The duty of every believer in every age is to find out the spirit of the age and stand against it.” Another quote often attributed to Luther: “If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the Word of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Him. Where the battle rages there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle front besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.” The battle is raging today but the professional Christian soldiers have abandoned the fight and hidden themselves away behind stacks of theology books. As Presbyterian minister J. Gresham Machen said approximately 100 years ago, “Shut yourself up in an intellectual monastery, do not disturb yourself with the thoughts of unregenerate men, and of course you will find it easier to be a Christian, just as it is easier to be a good soldier in comfortable winter quarters than it is on the field of battle. You save your own soul — but the Lord’s enemies remain in possession of the field.” Perhaps some of them will save their own souls but the writer of this article believes it is more likely that if today’s Christian ministers continue in such disloyal behavior they will be condemned along with the unfaithful servant who likewise buried his talent in the earth rather than putting it to use to further the kingdom (Matthew 25:14-30).
The vast majority of Christian ministers are failing both to educate themselves as to the forces working to destroy Christianity and preaching against the same. What the motives are for their behavior differs from one individual to another. In some it may be cowardice: a fear of either losing their jobs or receiving the scorn of colleagues, friends and family members if they speak out and swim against the tide. In some it may be a desire for a form of profit: conforming to the infidelity of the times, or at least not resisting it, in order to gain money, receive prestige, or advance their positions. Others may be apathetic and lazy: just punching the time clock and collecting a paycheck while doing only enough to keep up the appearance of fulfilling their ministerial obligations. Still others may sincerely believe that they are properly fulfilling the duty of a Christian minister because they judge themselves by what the other ministers in their churches or denominations are preaching and practicing, failing to recognize that a form of infidelity has pervaded them all. It also ought not to be doubted that there are some in the professional ministry who intentionally are undermining true Christianity, being blind guides themselves and helping to lead others into a ditch. Whatever the case for each individual, what was said by a medieval writer about the Christian ministers in his day is largely true of Christian ministers today: “For there is no spirit of liberty or independence in them to lift up their voices against the powers of the world. No valor to protect the truth in time of danger. So long as they prosper in their own concerns, so long as they realize the objects of their ambition or avarice, they hold in small account the loss of the things of Jesus Christ” (John of Salisbury, The Policraticus, 1159 A.D.). What drives each man to do what he does, we need not know. It is enough to examine the unfaithful actions of the professional ministers collectively and render a judgment.
A question that surely reveals the infidelity of the modern-day Reformed ministry is this: If they are preaching genuine biblical Christianity, as they claim, then why are they never persecuted? We might expect them to be unmolested in a society that has already experienced a thoroughgoing revival of Christianity and a comprehensive reformation of the church, 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? Certainly not. The early Christian church was surrounded by a similarly degenerate pagan culture and it was bitterly persecuted. The Bible tells us “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). It testifies that John the Baptist was beheaded (Matthew 14:10), Stephen was stoned to death (Acts 7:59), James was slain with the sword (Acts 12:2), Paul received the “forty lashes minus one” five times from the Jews (2 Corinthians 11:24), Peter was imprisoned twice (Acts 5:18; Acts 12:4), beaten by the authorities at least once (Acts 5:40), and all the apostles suffered persecution of some sort. Likewise, the recorded history of the early post-apostolic church tells us that many Christian ministers were martyred for their faith, and there is no doubt that many more of them suffered lesser forms of persecution. The same happened during the Protestant Reformation when the Reformers stood against the apostate Romanist pseudo-church. 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 “Reformed” ministers in this generation is going to be added to Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, and it is doubtful that anyone reading this article can name even one so-called Reformed minister who has suffered any real persecution of any kind. The fact that such persecution is non-existent today is, in itself, damning evidence that today’s professional ministers are not preaching authentic Christianity but only an eviscerated counterfeit.
It is very important to understand this point: the reason that persecution never comes upon today’s churches is not because their ministers do not preach any truth. In fact, there are still more than a few churches where a great deal of truth is taught. The reason persecution never comes upon them is that they only teach what might be called comfortable truths. That is, they largely focus on matters of personal piety, corporate worship practice, and abstract theological doctrines. Of course, such things are good and necessary to be taught but the infidelity lies in the fact that the modern-day ministry, generally speaking, refuses to teach those things which cause offense to the unregenerate and they especially avoid preaching about anything which would bring them into conflict with the ungodly world outside of their church building safe space. They preach and practice a fantasy land religion that takes pains to be innocuous and allows them to pretend that all the degeneracy in the larger society is not going to overtake them. It is a cowardly strategy that requires continual retreat and compromise, and it will end in the loss of what little life such churches have left in them.
If it is true that a Christian minister is no better than the evil he fails to stand against, then it must be said that today’s ministers are, for the most part, woeful failures, as very few of them have forcefully taken a stand against the doctrines and the movements that are destroying the institutional church and Christian civilizations and have been doing so for many years.
How many of them speak out against all of the egalitarian lies in which we are told that everyone is equal regardless of race, gender, religion or sexual practice?
How many of them speak out against the feminism that has made many American women into pseudo-men, has largely destroyed motherhood and the family, and has resulted in infanticide on an enormous scale?
How many of them speak out against all of the sexual perversion and confusion that is running rampant through our society and into which American children are being indoctrinated and by which many of them will be destroyed?
How many of them speak out against all of the unjust warfare that our government has prosecuted over more than 100 years on behalf of the Jews and their “Israel”, the interests of mega-corporations, and the bankers, resulting in many millions of dead Americans and foreign non-belligerents with no end in sight?
How many of them speak out against 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?
How many of them speak out against our fraudulent money system and the usurious banking establishment?
How many of them speak out against 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? The reality is that most of the professional ministry is almost entirely ignorant of these things, being not only uninformed about them during their college and seminary courses, but also even largely indoctrinated into them.
We need to understand that preaching accurate biblical doctrine, while certainly a commendable attribute, is not the only test of a faithful Christian minister. A man may not be teaching any doctrines that could be called heretical, but if he is manifesting timidity, cowardice, and an obvious faint-hearted tendency to avoid opposing evil in an age that has a crying need for him to do so, then he is a heretic. Actions speak louder than words, and inaction often speaks the loudest. The orthodoxy of Christian ministers must be judged not only by the doctrines they proclaim but also by the virtuous, principled, manly behavior (or lack of it) they exemplify and whether they will boldly stand against evil or fearfully shrink back from it.
Now if any man believes this to be new doctrine, that is, he claims that orthodoxy was not judged in such a way by the historic Reformed Church and that the author of this article is only setting his own standards, then let him reference the act of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, from August 3, 1648, entitled “Censuring Ministers for Their Silence and Not Speaking to the Corruptions of the Time” in which, as is obvious from the title, the general assembly of the Church of Scotland directed that every church in their realm was to be intolerant of those ministers who did not speak against the evils taking place in the society around them. According to this act, those who would not do so were to be disciplined for their unfaithful ministry and even excommunicated if they persisted in the same behavior. Keep in mind that this is a document produced at the time of the Westminster Assembly by the churches that most fully adhered to it, and this general assembly would have included many of the same men who drafted the Westminster Standards. Furthermore, in the same act the ministers who authored it referred to two other church documents from earlier periods of the Reformation which supported their position. This is not an innovation; it was and remains the established Reformed position.
It was stated earlier in this article that “the root cause of the disease that has brought both the churches and our civilization to their present deplorable condition is the infidelity of the modern-day ministry.” While this is true, could it be the case that there is something even more fundamentally wrong? Could it be that the root is bad because the soil in which it has grown is rotten? This is, in fact, the case. The Bible tell us that the quality of the leaders over God’s people is a reflection of the fidelity of the people from whom they spring and over whom they rule. When the people are faithful God blesses them by appointing faithful men over them. When they are unfaithful their leaders become a curse and one of the means by which God punishes them. Notice how the faithfulness of Israel’s king was conditioned on the faithfulness of the people: “Now therefore behold the king whom ye have chosen, and whom ye have desired! and, behold, the LORD hath set a king over you. If ye will fear the LORD, and serve him, and obey his voice, and not rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then shall both ye and also the king that reigneth over you continue following the LORD your God” (1 Samuel 12:13-14). This is as much true of religious leaders as it is of political leaders. In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians the cause of unfaithful religious leaders is explicitly stated. They are what the people want: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
As Reformed church elder Mark Chambers stated: “God’s rule is always from the bottom up. Faithless enemies as leaders of God’s people are His punishment for their faithlessness. The problem is in the mirror. The pulpit is a symptom, not the first cause. Since the people are the reason the leaders are there it must be the people who are responsible for their removal. When God’s people see their own condition and repent they will purge the pulpit of the ignorant, the deceiver, the infidel. We the people are the cause of the rebel in the pulpit and we the people will be the cause of their removal.”
It has been said that a religion which never costs you anything will, in the end, be worth exactly what you paid for it. This being so, then what will be the end of the overwhelming majority of today’s professing Christian ministers and their supporters who not only suffer no persecution but rarely bear even minor inconveniences or discomforts for their so-called faith because they preach and practice a reduced form of Christianity that never brings them into conflict with the world? It will be nothing good unless repentance is forthcoming. Infidelity brings God’s curse on individuals and nations but the cure is a simple one, regardless of how the curse is manifested: “If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:13-14). “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8)
The modern-day Christian ministry is almost entirely failing to warn the flock about the dangers around them. They are unfaithful shepherds who have abandoned the sheep to the wolves. They delude themselves and their followers into believing that they are being faithful to their calling because they teach biblical truths, while they simultaneously fail to expose and stand against the onslaught of the ungodly. Because of them not only has the general culture been lost to the anti-Christs but even their own churches have largely succumbed to the same. If we are going to be faithful to God we must call to repentance those who are failing in such a way and if they refuse to reform themselves, then they either must be excommunicated by their churches or the faithful must abandon those churches which show themselves to be apostate by failing to take action against them.