Don’t Join the Cult of the Backslider

by | Jul 20, 2011 | Blogs, Fire in My Bones

Many young adults today are abandoning biblical
faith or mixing it with other religions. How should we respond?

Since the Wild Goose
Festival was held in North Carolina’s mountains, you might be tempted to think
it was a typical bluegrass festival. Think again. The organizers of this event,
which attracted 1,500 people in late June, say their quasi-Christian conference
“is going to grow into the largest, best run, most dynamic religious happening
in the U.S.”

If a slick-haired TV
evangelist had made such a pompous statement we would have rolled our eyes and
laughed the guy off the stage. But the founder of Wild Goose, a peace activist
from Northern Ireland named Gareth Higgins, is convinced his movement will
capture the hearts of young Americans who are questioning their evangelical
faith and exploring other options.

“Heretical teaching rarely comes from the outside. Instead, it enters
the church in ways we would never expect: through a best-selling Christian
author, a wildly popular celebrity or right over the airwaves through a
Christian TV program. It might even walk down the church aisle and stand in the
pulpit!”

To
help them discover this new spiritual path, Higgins brought in an assortment of
authors, artists, musicians and activists, all from the far left side of the
Christian spectrum, to speak or perform June 23-26 at Wild Goose. They included
Jay Bakker, son of TV evangelist Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker; Frank Schaeffer,
son of evangelical authors Francis and Edith Schaeffer; and San Francisco
pastor Paul Fromberg, who described his 2005 marriage to another man and told
the crowd: “God is changing the church through the bodies of gay men.”

The appeal of Wild Goose is
tragic. Many young adults today are leaving the faith altogether or abandoning
its core tenets. They were raised by Christian parents, but they feel boxed in
by denominations or doctrines; others are turned off by right-wing politics;
others are rethinking abortion, homosexuality or even the need for marriage.
They want a kinder, gentler, softer Christianity that is acceptable to
secular  culture rather than one that
confronts and contradicts it.

The
organizers of the Wild Goose Festival, along with a host of similar voices, are
ready to lure an entire generation down a different path—one that mixes
Christianity with other religions, throws out biblical morality and celebrates
spiritual rebellion. I call it the Cult of the Backslider, and I believe it is
one of the greatest challenges we face today.

We
are deaf if we don’t hear the alarm bells ringing. The Wild Goose phenomenon is
only one indicator of that America’s faith is waning and that dark spiritual
forces are at work behind the scenes. As we respond to the crisis we must
understand the biblical definition of heresy. Here are five clear characteristics of heretics, according to New
Testament writers:

They deny the lordship of Christ.  The
apostle John wrote: “Every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God;
this is the spirit of the antichrist” (1 John 4:3,
NASB). Any teaching that minimizes the supremacy of Christ, or that elevates
other gods or religions, will lead to deception. (Many “post-Christians” today
encourage a blending of world religions; some might chant to Hare Krishna while
others mix Islam and Christianity.)

They are motivated by greed. Peter warned that heretics have hearts
“trained in greed” (2 Pet. 2:14) and that they operate like the false prophet Balaam, who performed his sorcery in order to get rich.
We’ve had our share of false prophets in the charismatic/Pentecostal movement,
and we’re only now beginning to reap the consequences as megachurches built
on greedy preachers begin to crumble.

They lead people into sexual immorality. The epistle of Jude (the only book of the
Bible dedicated exclusively to the topic of false prophets) warns of heretics
who “turn the grace of God into licentiousness” (v. 4)
and “defile the flesh” (v. 8) through immorality. Heresy almost always gives
people permission to engage in sexual sin. That’s why backsliders are eager to
believe it.

They encourage experimentation with paganism. Paul warned Timothy that in the
latter days Christians would fall away from the faith because of teachers
promoting “deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons” (see 1 Tim. 4:1).
Heretical teachings often lure people to engage in occultic practices.

They “sneak in” to the church without being
noticed.
Another common
trait of heresy is its ability to mask itself. Peter warned that false prophets
“will secretly introduce destructive heresies” (2 Pet. 2:1). Heretical teaching
rarely comes from the outside. Instead, it enters the church in ways we would
never expect: through a best-selling Christian author, a wildly popular
celebrity or right over the airwaves through a Christian TV program. It might
even walk down the church aisle and stand in the pulpit!

May God protect us from the Cult of the
Backslider. I’m praying that He will raise up young leaders who are filled with
compassion, empowered by the Holy Ghost and brave enough to point their
generation back to biblical truth.

J. Lee Grady is
contributing editor of Charisma. You
can follow him on Twitter at leegrady. His most recent book is 10 Lies Men Believe (Charisma House).

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