There is a terrible heresy that is eroding the foundations of almost all the denominations in North America in this second decade of the twenty-first century. It is not really a new heresy, but the same old heresy from the past dressed up in new clothes. The architects of this new heresy have learned from past failures. Frontal attacks usually end in defeat as the US learned in World war I. A better tactic is to attack the flanks. That is what this Neo-liberalism does. It is more subtle. It is more insidious. It is even more dangerous. It is a new form of legalism. All heresies are one or another form of legalism. And this new heresy is the subtlest of them all because it does not appear superficially to be opposed to the gospel, but it is.
There are only two messages in all the world—the gospel and legalism. That statement is not readily apparent to most people, but it is true. Legalism says, “Do this and you shall live.” (A variation on that statement might be, “Do this or you will die.” That amounts to the same thing). The gospel says, “Live by faith in Christ and do this.” Legalism and the gospel are opposites. That is why legalism in its many forms has been the most virulent enemy of the Cross throughout Christian history.
Someone might respond, “Marxism is not legalism!” Oh, but it is. The most legalistic country in the history of the world was the Soviet Union. That nation had more laws than any other nation ever. Soviet law was based on the principle that a crime was anything that the State said was a crime. It was not based on natural law or Biblical law. Thus, Christianity was considered an enemy of the State and was outlawed. Good citizens of the USSR must not worship Christ. That is legalism. (That sounds very similar to what is happening in the civil arena in the US today, does it not?)
Someone else might say, “Yes, but this SSA (same-sex attraction) is not legalism.” Well, yes it is. It is legalism because it denies the fundamental truths of Scriptural soteriology—regeneration, repentance, sanctification, etc. it establishes a different paradigm for salvation—a new law of how a person is to be considered a Christian. Yet, it is a hopeless paradigm. It is a legalism that calls good evil and evil good. Like every legalistic system, it offers salvation only on the basis of continued faithfulness. Thus, Greg Johnson’s message is not about the saving grace of the gospel. Rather, his message is a legalistic framework of how diligent he is to not give into the unremitting temptations to homosexual lust which are his personal demons. There is the legalism. He must do what God’s grace cannot do. God has not made him straight, according to him, so he must depend on his own faithfulness. That is legalism.
What about the Black Lives Matter movement? Is that legalism? Of course it is. Here is what the BLM says to us: “You are a racist because you are white. The only thing you can do is to repent of your racism every day for the rest of your life. You will always be white and you will always be a racist. You have benefitted from white privilege and you are an oppressor of the oppressed.” Such statements are not only racist in themselves, but they are also legalistic. In that system, there is no possibility of redemption or forgiveness this side of eternity. The only thing a white person can do is to continue to repent every day for the rest of his life. That is classic legalism.
When I wrote Historic Christianity and the Federal Vision, I was intrigued by J. Gresham Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism. I found that he used the same arguments against liberalism that were essential for the dismantling of the FV heresy. Then, it dawned on me that the real problem with liberalism is that it is just legalism at heart. Refusing to submit to God’s plan of salvation, they devise one of their own making. As Paul wrote about the Jews: “For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God” (Romans 10:2). Legalism goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve made the conscious choice to disobey God, they chose to try to become like God and be their own saviors. That is legalism.
So, how is this new strand of liberalism that incorporates social justice, Critical Race Theory, same-sex attraction, the Federal Vision, and hyper grace any worse than what has gone before us? To be sure there are many similarities between liberalism, Neo-orthodoxy and this Neo-liberalism. We see the same strands in the denial of Scriptural soteriology to a greater or lesser degree in all of them. That is the one thing that has stood out about all of them to me. They are connected by what they deny. For instance, the hyper-grace movement emphasizes an undefined, indefinable view of grace which undermines the sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit. That will lead to other soteriological errors. SSA denies both regeneration and sanctification which results in an unscriptural view of repentance and a legalistic view of salvation. The Federal Vision is contrary to the Scripture on every part of soteriology (as I document in my book) which is why that movement will capitulate on other heresies sooner than later.
Now this Critical Race Theory is not really new. When I was in my second year at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, MS, one of my professor’s, Guy Oliver, used a textbook by Orlando Costas, The Church and Its Mission: A Shattering Critique from the Third World, in a world mission class. It was Liberation Theology and it was being taught in a conservative reformed seminary by a PCUS professor. I disputed the subject in class and discussed it with him in private on several occasions.. I predicted that Oliver would claim that a Christian can be a Marxist. In less than two weeks, those very words came out of his mouth. I protested to everyone I could—faculty members, the President, the chairman of the Board of Trustees. I wrote a letter to Dr. G. Aiken Taylor, editor of The Presbyterian Journal, under whom I had worked the previous summer. Finally, Guy Oliver took a position at another seminary in about 1979. Few students, faculty members, or board members seemed very concerned about Oliver teaching Liberation Theology at RTS in 1975 and beyond, so it is not very surprising that few pastors or church members are concerned about the Critical Race Theory/Black Lives Matter invasion of the church today. It is not surprising, but it is very sad.
Our fathers fought against Neo-orthodoxy. Karl Barth, the architect of Neo-orthodoxy, found that the faith of old liberalism was completely shattered with the outbreak of World War I and the horrific devastation all across Europe. Liberalism had taught that a utopian world was about to descend on mankind before the war. The Industrial Revolution had brought great advances to society and liberalism was convinced those changes portended corresponding advances for all the world. The slogan in those days was, “Every day in every way, I am getting better and better.” World War I ended those false hopes. In the aftermath, Barth was left to devise a theology which would help in such a crisis. Thus, his system became known as a theology of crisis. For Barth, the Bible is not the Word of God, but may become such when God speaks to the heart through some crisis. Of course, other events apart from the Scripture can also become God’s Word to an individual. The Soviet Union was just beginning at the time Barth was developing his theology. Barth was sympathetic to Marxism, but became dismayed with the Bolshevik Revolution’s inhumanity. That is always the problem with Marxism. It looks better when it is propagated through slogans than it does when it is implemented in governments. The illusory promises of Marxism never match the reality, especially when the so-called defenders of the oppressed become the most vicious oppressors the world has ever seen. Marxists are all for free speech except when those they oppress try to speak out against their tyranny. When that happens, they quickly silence their critics, take away all their rights, and punish them in the most severe manner possible. There has never been a Marxist nation which did otherwise. Barthianism, therefore, has always seemed to spawn off Marxism in its trail. In the old PCUS, there was that Marxist supporter, Angela Davis, who aroused so much concern by conservatives in the early 1970’s. She was not alone. So, it is not surprising that with the rise of this Neo-liberalism there is a return to that old heresy of Marxism. Oh, the excuses that are being made by proponents of Critical Race Theory for their support of systems that are rooted in Marxism. Those proponents of CRT might be duped on the dangers of Marxism, but Marx knew very well that the best way to propagate Marxism was to use people that he called “useful idiots.” Count me out of that group.
Someone might ask, “But doesn’t the Bible teach that there are people who are oppressed and those who oppress them?” Absolutely. But the answers that CRT, BLM, and social justice give to the oppressed in our day is just the opposite of what the Bible teaches. First, the Scripture does not identify one group as primarily responsible for that oppression. In other words, the Bible does not identify class warfare as the source of this oppression. The problem is not a white against black problem. In fact, history proves that all races have been enslaved before and all races have had slaves. Of course, Marxism does not like history. Second, the Scripture never sounds the war cry, “Workers of the world unite!” with a clenched fist as Marxism does. It does not encourage the proletariat (worker class) to cast off the bourgeoisie (middle or privileged class). Marxism only knows two classes—rich and poor. That is why some rich people like Marxism. Third, the Scripture teaches that God will be the avenger of the oppressed. Fourth, Scripture does not hold forth an illusory utopian dream for this earth which neo-orthodoxy and Marxism do.
So, how is this Neo-liberalism worse than Neo-orthodoxy we ask once again? First, it is worse because it is less honest than Neo-orthodoxy. Neo-orthodoxy was subtle enough and many people were duped by it, but this Progressive Neo-liberalism purposely hides what it believes. That is a tactic of the devil. As a young Christian, I read Thomas Brooks’ Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices. Brooks said that one of the devil’s chief tactics is to reveal the bait and hide the hook. He did that with Eve, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good from evil” (Genesis 3:4, 5). These new progressives, these Neo-liberals, pretend to be evangelicals, but they are really just deceivers. No one can serve two masters. They are serving Marxism and liberalism while pretending to be conservatives. Yet, every time they try to say “Shibboleth” it comes out as “Sibboleth” for those who are listening. Please do not be fooled by these Neo-liberals. Their message will ruin your souls. It is not the message of the gospel. It is legalism.
Second, Neo-orthodoxy was foremost of all a development of doctrines contrary to historic Christianity. It began by attacking the orthodoxy of the church and devising a supposed new orthodoxy. Building on that rotten foundation, it developed rotten fruit. The bad theology led to bad practice. This Neo-liberalism has started at the other end. It pretends to still hold to the evangelical doctrines of Scripture, but it has incorporated the bad practice of Marxism and other heresies. It will be slower, therefore, in officially throwing away Scriptural doctrines, but it will simply ignore them. As Jesus said, “he will be devoted to one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24). If these social justice warriors, CRT and BLM proponents loved the gospel they would never have become attracted to those heresies. The fact that their wandering eyes have lusted after such heresies is all the proof you need that they are not faithful men of God. Please do not make excuses for them. There can be no fellowship between Marx and Christ any more than between Christ and Belial (2 Corinthians 6:15). Marxism has a long history of opposition to Christianity. That opposition to Christ is already being proclaimed in this country by our Neo-Marxists. And they are being aided and abetted by the Neo-liberal ministers in Protestant denominations. The message of Marx is legalism—tyrannical legalism. The message of Christ is the gospel. The message of Marx leads to despotic subjugation. The message of Christ alone leads to true freedom. There is no union between Marx and Christ. I advise you to escape from these Neo-liberal ministers. Flee to the gospel.
Dewey Roberts, Pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Destin, FL
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