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Refusing to love the truth
Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. (Jn. 17: 17)
The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thess. 2:9-12)
As we look into the concept of loving the truth, this passage is one of the best expression of the union of truth and love in our Christian walk, and in its description of the failure to do so, it explains a lot of what is happening both in liberal and conservative circles in Christianity.
The passage of 2 Thess. 2:9-12 is set in the context of the description of the last days with the coming of the antichrist or the man of lawlessness. In this particular passage, we can see that as the last days draw ever closer, such events as described here will take place. Before the coming of the antichrist, there will be an increase in false signs and wonders, with the intention of deceiving even the elect if possible (Mk. 13:22). Such and other forms of deception will multiply and will deceive those who are perishing. Of such people, it is described that they are deceived because they 'do not love the truth and be saved'. As such, God will judge them by sending a strong delusion to believe in what is false, and be further condemned because they love unrighteousness.
We can note that in this text, God is described as sending such people a strong delusion, thus we can see that deception and falsehood is a form of judgment sent by God to those who 'do not love the truth and be saved'. Contrary to effeminate 'christianity', God can and will judge people, and He also can and will judge people by giving them lies to believe in, which further their condemnation (Rom. 1:24, 28). God does in that sense 'deceive people', but such is judgment which brings further condemnation based upon the fact that they 'do not love the truth and be saved', not something that is undeserved.
We have been talking a lot about this phrase of people who 'do not love the truth and be saved'. However, what does this mean? A cursory look would show that such people are not saved, and they are not saved because they 'do not love the truth'. Loving the truth therefore is a condition for salvation.
Now, it must be stated that this in no sense detract from the truth that salvation is by faith alone. However, when a person is saved by faith alone, he/she has already been regenerated by the Holy Spirit (Jn. 3: 3) and thus is a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). Contrary to the 'free-grace' heretics like Zane Hodge et al, repentance is not a work because a person who will by faith alone receive the salvation offer of Christ will only do so if they have been regenerated in Christ, which will precipitate repentance from sin. Being saved by faith alone apart from repentance is like saying it is possible to be alive without breathing; an oxymoron indeed. When a person has been saved by faith alone, the person will love Christ and love the truth because that is the nature of the new person in Christ.
When talking about the phrase 'love the truth', we can note that there are two components to the phrase, namely 'love' and 'truth'. Since Christ is the truth (Jn. 14:6) and Christ is the Word (Jn. 1:1), loving Christ would mean loving the truth and loving the Scriptures, and vice versa. Therefore, anyone who says that they love Christ but do not love the Truth of God and the Scriptures is a liar. Similarly, anyone who says they love the truths and doctrines of the Christian faith but yet do not love Christ deceives himself and the truth is not in him.
As one looks upon the landscape of Christendom throughout history and throughout the world, various movements can be seen that manifest the idea of 'refusing to love the truth and be saved'. We will look at some of these movements (which may overlap), particularly those which are prevalent in such a time as this.
Charismatism (Second wavers, Word-faith movement, Prosperity 'gospel' movement) and Third Wavers (Signs and Wonders movement, Neo-Apostolicism)
Chief error: No concern over truth
The most prevalent movement in the world today which manifests an attitude of 'refusing to love the truth and be saved' are the Charismatics and the Third Wave charismatics. By Charismatics, I am referring to those who are consistent charismatics and thus focus more on experiences, not to those who are sympathetic to the experiential form of Christianity promoted in Charismatism per se or those who believe in the sign-gifts like the Pentecostals (the first wavers). Such Charismatics would include people like Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Joyce Meyer and Benny Hinn of the Word-faith movement, and people such as Creflo Dollar of the prosperity 'gospel' movement. Closer to home in Singapore, we have Kong Hee of City Harvest Church for the Word-faith and Joseph Prince of New Creation Church for the prosperity 'gospel' movement. By Third wave charismatics, I am referring to those who are in the Signs and Wonders movement found in such movements such as the 'Toronto Blessing', the 'Kansas City prophets' etc, and those who are in the New Apostolic Reformation, following the ideas of modern day apostles and prophets like C. Peter Wagner and Cindy Jacobs (not to mention Ed Silvoso) etc, regardless of whether they call themselves Charismatics or Third wavers. Third Wavers in Singapore would be people like 'Apostle' Lawrence Khong of FCBC (Faith Community Baptist Church), and 'Apostle' Naomi Dowdy of Trinity Christian Center.
Such people would constitute a large part of worldwide Christianity for sure, and that is something we should grieve over. They demean the Scripture and thus demean Jesus and the entire Godhead as they refuse to examine their beliefs and experiences according to Scripture, and in fact postulating a false dichotomy between the Spirit and the Word. Professing to be wise, they became fools indeed (Rom. 1:22), and as the annals of church history shows, will lead them to grow further and further into apostasy, as the Scriptures have said they would, as a judgment of God sending upon them a strong delusion because they refuse to love the truth and obey unrighteousness (2 Thess. 9:11).
Chief error: Denial of truth
The latest fad as found in the Emerging Church movement (ECM) is marked by a blatant hatred for truth claims, of which exclusive truth claims are the most hated of all. Now, this does not of course applies to everyone within the ECM, but to most of them who glorify ambiguity and ignorance; in other words post-foundational 'christianity'. Such people can easily be seen to refuse to love the truth, since how can you love the truth if you don't even agree that it exists in the first place? As expected, the movement is evolving further and further away from orthodoxy, now embracing open theism and inclusivism.
Chief error: Love truth for its benefits only
This is one of the primary errors of New Evangelicalism, and the most prevalent in Singapore. The truths and doctrines of the Christian faith are prized only because of their value in 'doing ministry' and 'living a Christian life', whatever those two phrases are supposed to mean. Therefore, we have bible studies conducted on topics such as how to live a Christian life in the midst of trouble, learning from Jeremiah on how to live the Christian life despite facing obstacles and depression (Latest Bible study by Eagles Communications correct as of 22 Sept 2007). Nevermind the original meaning of the texts and the passages; what they desire is how we can find lessons to learn that would help ME in my condition.
Such is the mindset that is sadly prevalent within much of what calls itself Evangelicalism. The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren is popular because 'it works', and the issue of whether it glorifies God in massacring Scripture in the book, or whether the Gospel is properly presented, is not important at all in the sight of 'Evangelicals'. The Seeker-Sensitive enterprise by Bill Hybels of Willow Creek is similarly promoted regardless of its spiritual merit, because ... again 'it works'. Women are allowed to be elders in church because ... without doing so, the church may not have enough office bearers serving; i.e. 'it works'. In other words, the biblical truths are revealed for MY benefits, such that MY life works.
Another part of such utilitarianism is seen even in being orthodox in theology. Being orthodox in theology does not make a person or movement immune from utilitarianism. I have seen for myself churches whereby the pastor preaches the Word of God because of its benefits in so doing. Passages are expounded verses by verse, precept by precept, because they build up the people of God. Now, of course, such is a good and noble goal. However, if you proclaim the Word of God because of its good and spiritual benefits alone, you are still doing it only because 'it works', just doing it in a different and God-ordained way. Instead of doing it for the glory of God ALONE, such preaching does not honor God either. Embracing the 5 points of Calvinism, or being totally orthodox in all aspects of your theology, does not help you as long as you do so because 'it works' and not for the glory of God alone.
Utilitarianism in all its forms, even using the biblical and God-ordained methods, is a form of 'refusing to love the truth', and therefore is not pleasing to God. As can be seen in the annals of church history, Neo-Evangelicalism has been degenerating throughout the history of its existence, from its formation in the 1950s/60s to the present age. The words of God in 2 Thess. 2:10 still holds true for those who refuse to love God for God's own sake. To put it simply, if a person or people in the movement CANNOT love God and His truth even if there would be no temporal benefit on this earth to it, and no eternal benefit either (ie even if you would still go to hell despite it), but to love God and His truth because He is worthy of it based on the fact that He is God and that alone, then they are 'refusing to love the truth', and thus subjected to His judgment upon His own discretion.
Chief error: Love truth for its intellectual correctness
Within conservative Christianity and especially Reformed Christianity, there is a rich historical heritage and the abundance of clear biblical truths and principles which were uncovered and preached by great men of God who were used powerfully in various movements such as the Protestant Reformation, the first Great Awakening etc. Nevertheless, there are problems even within those who have and enjoy such great spiritual blessings.
The biblical passage that is most appropriate for such churches is that found in the message to the Church in Ephesus as seen in Rev. 2:1-7.
“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.
“‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’ (Rev. 2:1-7)
From here, we can see that Jesus is grieved over a church that is orthodox in all aspects, even exercising church discipline against heretics and separating from them, and YET losing their first love for Him. What's the point therefore in priding yourself on how orthodox you are, or how biblical you are especially in being separate from heretics, when you have lost your first love for Christ? Is God pleased with being right as much as He desires that we love Him? Those who profess love for Christ by holding fast to the doctrines of Scripture and applying them, and yet not truly loving Him, is a hypocrite and is one of those who 'refuse to love the truth', and thus will bring upon them the judgment of God. Didn't the apostasy of the denominations during the modernist/ fundamentalist conflict and earlier in the downgrade controversy taught us something, that the people of God who are willing to tolerate men who taught true doctrines but yet do not truly believe in them themselves would ultimately cause the destruction of the churches? Granted, heretics soon arose who should be excommunicated, but isn't it true that before this even came to pass, that the people lost their love for the truth? Otherwise, how can heretics even enter into the congregation and arose to positions of authority in churches where the people earnestly love Christ and His truth?
Chief error: Don't have a love for anything except to be right about the 'truth'
The last movement that I would like to take note here is a minority movement of the fundamentalists who twisted the original fundamentalist movement and became very judgmental of any person who disagree with them regarding anything, no matter how trivial the subject may be. It is to this that the New Evangelical movement may be reacting to, among others, upon which it swung to the other extreme of ecumenism and non-confrontationalism. Such people clearly are not interested in the truth, as they are not obedient to the commands of Christ with regards to such issues. Their state itself is a form of judgment upon them, being a 'refusal to love the truth' in not obeying it in their interaction with others.
From the analysis of all these various movements, we can see the various manifestations of such an attitude of 'refusing to love the truth', of which both Conservatives and Charismatics, Fundamentalists and New Evangelicals are guilty of. May we therefore as Christians called by God learn how to truly love the truth of God; to treasure the truth of God in our beliefs and actions, and to give all glory to God alone in all that we do.