The summer theology wars have heated up again. Every year about this time all the major Protestant denominations hold their general conventions and debate issues from the infallibility and inerrancy of the Bible, to the role of women in ministry, and various issues related to homosexuality. In all of these areas, and other fundamental issues of church doctrine and polity, the lemming-like rush from truth to compromise is staggering. For example, the Episcopal Church’s stand against homosexual practice has been eroding with stunning speed ever since the appointment of an openly practicing homosexual as a bishop, but it appears that the watershed has now been reached. In an insightful article titled “Who leads, Church or Culture?” Daniel Burke gets to the real heart of the spiritual downgrade.
As the Episcopal Church lifted a de facto ban on gay and lesbian bishops and appears headed toward adapting rites for same-sex unions, one question has repeatedly surfaced in the debates: Does the church take its cues from the culture, or does it stand against culture? Episcopal bishops who gathered this month for the denomination’s General Convention acknowledged the tension in the first sentence of a resolution they approved that allows flexibility in devising blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples.
“The changing circumstances in the United States and in other nations,” in legalizing gay marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships, “call forth a renewed pastoral response from this Church,” the resolution reads. Bishops overwhelmingly voted to give themselves — particularly those who work in states where same-sex couples are legally recognized — the freedom to “provide a generous pastoral response” to gays and lesbians. Also, the church voted to lift a three-year moratorium on consecrating gay and lesbian bishops.
Culture rather than the Word of God is now the decisive factor in moral issues. Once this standard is embraced the dam has broken. When the changing fads of culture rather than the immutable Word of God have the final word there is no foundation. When the authority of the Word is usurped, there is no real authority left. The Bible calls this falling away “apostasy.”
The New Testament is clear that spiritual deception and apostasy (falling away from the faith) will be one of the defining characteristics of the last days: 1 Timothy 4:1-3; 2 Timothy 3:1-13; 2 Peter 2:1-22; 3:3-6; and Jude 1-25. First Timothy 4:1 says, “But the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons.” Apostasy manifests itself both in doctrine and in practice. The two always go hand in hand. Doctrinal compromise eventually leads to moral compromise.
After the graphic description in 2 Timothy 3:1-5, we are told to expect apostasy to get worse as the church age progresses. The general progression will be in a downward direction. “But evil men and imposters will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13). In other words, as this extended period of time known as the last days unfolds these perilous times of apostasy will become more frequent and intense as the return of Christ nears. The brief book of Jude, which is placed just before Revelation, describes that terrible apostasy and false teaching that will infiltrate the church and prevail in the days before the events of Revelation are unfolded. The surging apostasy, spiritual deception and confusion we are witnessing today is a another sign of the end times and is setting the stage for the final, ultimate falling away that will be a precursor for the day of the Lord and the appearance of the Antichrist (2 Thessalonians 2:2-3).