An article by Andrew Strom.
What is Humanism? It is all around us. It is the dominant spiritual creed of much of Western society today. It is rampant in the media, education, medicine – everywhere. And sadly it has infiltrated the church in a huge way in recent years. In Humanistic thinking, MAN is the center of all things rather than God. Everything revolves around making MAN happy.
To talk about “SIN” makes people feel unhappy and guilty – therefore it is ‘wrong’ to be so “judgemental” as to preach strongly against sin.
Humanism is very tolerant. “They are not hurting anybody,” it says. “Let them do what they like.” In fact ‘TOLERANCE’ and the ‘HAPPINESS OF MAN’ are the great mantras of Humanism.
So in what ways has this insidious philosophy invaded the church? Well, whenever you hear an evangelist sounding like a television commercial, then you are witnessing the invasion of Humanism. You will hear them say things like, “God wants to give YOU an exciting life. God wants to bless YOU. God wants to take away all your hurts and give you a happy life.” –
Now of course there is truth in this. But what has happened here is that the EMPHASIS has shifted from “salvation from sin and judgement” to ‘God wants to make you happy and blessed.’ The focus is no longer on the fact that our sins offend a holy God, and that the CROSS is our only remedy. Rather, the message becomes more of a ‘toothpaste commercial’ – using Jesus as a means to have a happy and successful lifestyle. He becomes simply a means to our own selfish ends. It becomes all about “What can I get out of it?” As the advertising industry has learned, there is a lot of money and success to be found in “eliminating the negative” and stressing only the positive and happy things. And a lot of preachers today seem to simply go along with this Humanistic tide – preaching mainly “blessings and grace” and forgetting about conviction of sin and ‘taking up the cross’. – For we wouldn’t want to “offend” anybody, would we?
But this is not what Jesus or the apostles were like. They preached ‘sin, righteousness and judgement’ in a very direct and piercing way. Often it is quite clear that their hearers were greatly offended – just as with the prophets of old. They preached real Repentance, ‘counting the cost’ and the loss of all things. But in many churches today that kind of talk would get you “never invited back”. And thus they become ripe for deception.
God is not primarily concerned with man’s happiness. He is more concerned with our HOLINESS. But for many preachers, “Grace and Blessings” have become the recipes for success. And many are now treading that wide and seductive path. Quite a few of them have even learned how to raise their voice in such a way that you THINK they are preaching powerfully and challengingly. But when you actually examine what they are saying, it is usually more of the ‘blessings and excitement’ formula – simply ratcheted up a notch. And sadly, the church that feeds on such a “sugar and junk-food” diet will very quickly become utterly ‘fat’ and lukewarm.
The apostle Paul wrote: “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their OWN DESIRES, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their ITCHING EARS want to hear” (2 Tim 4:3, NIV). I have to say, there has never been a time in history that more blatantly fulfils this Scripture than today. We have literally PILES of “entertaining” teachers. We have never-ending conferences. We have every man and his dog on the “gravy train”, tickling the Christians’ ears and getting very well paid to do it. If you took away the ability to ‘tickle ears’, half the preachers (and prophets!) in America would be out of business overnight. They would have nothing left to say.
They spend almost their WHOLE TIME preaching “agreeable” and exciting things to gullible Christians who will happily pay the registration fee, AND put money in the offering, AND put money in the ‘second offering’ AND THEN buy the set of tapes for some exorbitant fee. “Itching ears”? -We have them by the boat-load today. Sadly, the old saying comes to remembrance: “Amusing ourselves to death.” And thus, Humanism comes to dominate the church.
So what is God going to do about this state of affairs? -Just what He has always done. He is going to find some hidden “nobodies” somewhere and He is going to put them at the back-side of the desert for just the right number of years, and He is going to train them up to be a company of ‘John-the-Baptists’ for such a time as this. And at the right moment they will come forth out of nowhere, speaking a piercing and uncompromising word: “Repent!”
Such were the Finney’s and Wesley’s and Whitefields of centuries past. The history of Revival is the history of God’s prophets coming forth at His divinely appointed time.
An incisive quote from A.W. Tozer which I have always loved: “God has always had his specialists whose chief concern has been the moral breakdown, the decline in the spiritual health of the nation or the church. Such men were Elijah, Malachi and others of their kind who appeared at critical moments in history to reprove, rebuke and exhort in the name of God and righteousness…. Such a man was likely to be drastic, radical, possibly at times violent, and the curious crowd that gathered to watch him work soon branded him as extreme, fanatical, negative. And in a sense they were right. He was single-minded, severe, fearless, and these were the qualities the circumstances demanded. He shocked some, frightened others and alienated not a few, but he knew who had called him and what he was sent to do. His ministry was geared to the emergency, and that fact marked him out as different, a man apart.” (From Tozer’s foreword to Ravenhill’s ‘Why Revival Tarries’).
Humanism is in many ways the “unseen enemy” that is taking over the church today. It is a ‘gospel of selfishness’ that is infiltrating by subtlety and cunning. And the people love to have it so. They love men who can make them laugh, and avoid those who will make them weep. The dominant spiritual philosophy of the West is slowly becoming just as dominant in the church.
Can men and women be found who will dare to “lift up a standard” against this ultra-POPULAR delusion – and preach the truth? Are there preachers who will dare to offend men if necessary, but their God never? The moment must come when such prophets will be found again. I pray that it is soon, because we are truly in an “emergency” today – as bad or worse than many that have gone before.
Let the John-the-Baptists arise!
May God bless you all.
Kindest regards in Christ,