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Jelly-fish Christianity

March 8, 2013

In case you haven’t heard, the History channel is currently putting out a new series on the Bible. This series airs every Sunday for about 2 hours and will have 5 different parts to it.

This series seems to have quickly become a hit among popular Mega Church pastors all across evangelic America. And of course, it shouldn’t surprise us to much that there is a lot of excitement among many Christians due to 2 events that revolve around this series.

The first thing is the growing intolerance in our country against Christianity. We saw this with Louie Giglio being discouraged from praying at Obama’s inauguration, and more recently with Tim Tebow being “strongly encouraged” not to speak at a Church who took a Biblical orthodox view of Homosexuality and other religions. Therefore, it makes sense that Christians would get excited that 10 hours of national television would be promoting the Bible.

The second thing that causes a lot of excitement are the people who were involved with the making of this series. There was Rick Warren (Mega/Multi-site Church leader), Joel Osteen (Mega Church leader), and T. D. Jakes (Mega Church leader of the famous “Potters House”). These are well-known “pastors” among Christian America. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to go so far as saying that these people are famous to many Christians and so it is no surprise that they have drawn attention to this series.

So let me put the issue bluntly; the Jehovah Witness’ version of the bible is more historically accurate than the one that appears on the History Channel. While many people are getting very excited about this show, it does nothing but mislead people as to what the scriptures actually say and it gives a false view of Christianity.

To be fair, we can probably give a ‘little’ leeway because it would be hard to get all of the necessary points of the Biblical narrative into a meager 10 hours of television. There are a few obvious mistakes that are seen fairly quickly like not telling that Sodom was destroyed because of homosexuality, a whole lot of gaps in Abraham’s and Moses’ lives, and a butchering of many other details in an attempt to make it appealing and exciting.

A few missing details, however, is not the issue. The real problem is that everything that happens and all of the theology about God is being strained through these Mega Church leaders and their theology.

  • Rick Warren promotes a “Purpose-Driven” gospel that ends up doing damage to the true Gospel. This false gospel shows up clearly and early in this series. It twists salvation of Noah and his family, it distorts the promise made to Abraham and it distorts Abraham’s faith, and it goes on to distort the call of Moses and the salvation of Israel from slavery.
  • Joel Osteen promotes a “Prosperity” or “Health and Wealth” gospel that is also seen in this series…
  • T. D. Jakes promotes “Modalism” which is a different God than the Trinitarian God seen in scripture. This has been seen as a heresy since the 3rd century and yet is seen clearly in this new series (mainly in the New Testament). He also teaches the “Prosperity” gospel as well as the “Word of Faith” heresy…

So I have two concerns. The first is that this series doesn’t even come close to actually portraying the Bible; which is a huge problem because non-Christians think that it does. The second is that the theology that comes through is a theology that is directly contradicted by the clear and certain word of God. Not only are people getting a wrong view of the Bible but they are getting the wrong view of God.

But what does it matter? I mean, hopefully it will get people interested and maybe they will read their bibles and maybe they will go to Church. Won’t that make it worth it?

That was the question that was posed to me on my Facebook wall and one that I will try to address here.

First, this is a question about whether or not the end justifies the means. The means here is false teaching about scripture and about God (which is sin). The end is God bringing about salvation. Does the end justify the means? We see all throughout scripture how God uses sin or a bad situation to draw people to Himself and to gain Glory; but we never see that the means that God used being proclaimed as “good” or “worth it”. The fact that God is gracious enough to draw people in spite of sin never acts to support the sin.

Secondly, what is getting these people interested? It isn’t the true scriptures that is drawing them, but a false, “shiny”, “exciting” version that doesn’t reflect the real scriptures which will probably lead those people to discouragement or disillusionment. Maybe they will go to Church then… Again, what attracted them in the first place? A thrilling, “entertaining” view of Christianity. What kind of Church will they most likely seek out? One that provides a big show on Sunday morning. Unfortunately, America is filled with Churches with big stages and large bands and even bigger stage props. These Churches are more worried about fulfilling the “felt-needs” of the congregation than proclaiming the need for Repentance and the Forgiveness of sins found in Christ alone. The likelihood of these people being confronted with the true Gospel is probably pretty slim…

The point is this; what we think about Scripture and God is extremely important. God has revealed Himself in a specific way and we don’t have the right to make things up about Him. We are called to be discerning and to hold on to true Doctrine. When something comes along like this series on the History channel, we don’t go soft simply because a lot of people are excited about it and think that it “isn’t so bad”. We stand up for Truth and we call people believe in Christ.

The title “Jelly-fish Christianity” is J.C. Ryle’s. He talks about a Christianity that has no backbone and is “tossed to and fro” because it has no real beliefs to hold on to. I think that we can see that much of the Evangelic Church is in that same position now because of how readily they accept, promote, and allow something as false as this series on the History Channel.

Here are J.C. Ryle’s thoughts on “Jelly-fish Christianity“…

The consequences of this widespread dislike to distinct biblical doctrine are very serious. Whether we like it or not, it is an epidemic which is doing great harm, and especially among young people. It creates, fosters, and keeps up an immense amount of instability in religion. It produces what I must venture to call, if I may coin the phrase, a ‘jelly-fish’ Christianity in the land–that is, a Christianity without bone, or muscle, or power.

A jelly-fish, as everyone who has been much by the seaside knows, is a pretty and graceful object when it floats in the sea, contracting and expanding like a little delicate transparent umbrella. Yet the same jelly-fish, when cast on the shore, is a mere helpless lump, without capacity for movement, self-defense, or self-preservation.

Alas! it is a vivid type of much of the religion of this day, of which the leading principle is, ‘No dogma, no distinct beliefs, no doctrine.’ We have hundreds of ministers who seem not to have a single bone in their body of divinity! They have no definite opinions; they are so afraid of ‘extreme views,’ that they have no views at all. We have thousands of sermons preached every year, which are without an edge or a point or a corner–they are as smooth as marble balls, awakening no sinner, and edifying no saint!

We have legions of young men annually turned out from our universities, armed with a few scraps of second-hand philosophy, who think it a mark of cleverness and intellect to have no decided opinions about anything in religion–and to be utterly unable to make up their minds as to what is Christian truth. Their only creed, is a kind of ‘nothingism.’ They are sure and positive about nothing!

And last, and worst of all, we have myriads of respectable church-going people, who have no distinct and definite views about any point in theology. They cannot discern things that differ, any more than color-blind people can distinguish colors. They think . . . everybody is right–and nobody is wrong, everything is true–and nothing is false, all sermons are good–and none are bad, every clergyman is sound–and no clergyman unsound.

They are ‘tossed to and fro, like children, by every wind of doctrine;’ often carried away by some new excitement and sensational movement; ever ready for new things, because they have no firm grasp on the old; and utterly unable to ‘render a reason of the hope that is in them.’

All this, and much more, is the result of that effeminate dread of distinct doctrine which has been so strongly developed, and has laid such hold on many pastors in these days.

I turn from the picture I have exhibited with a sorrowful heart. I grant it is a gloomy one; but I am afraid it is only too accurate and true. Let us not deceive ourselves. Distinct and definitive doctrine is at a premium just now. Instability and unsettled notions are the natural result, and meet us in every direction.

Cleverness and earnestness are the favorite idols of the age!

What a man says matters nothing–however strange and heterogeneous are the opinions he expresses! If he is only brilliant and ‘earnest’–he cannot be wrong! Never was it so important for believers to hold sound systematic views of truth, and for ministers to ‘enunciate doctrine’ very clearly and distinctly in their teaching.

Are you “sure and positive about nothing” or do you hold to ” faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3)?

If you want to know what the bible says, may I suggest reading it over watching the History Channel… If you do watch it, remember to use discernment and to evaluate it to see at what points it agrees with scripture and at what points it differs…

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