Wednesday, May 21, 2014
Antichrist and The New America
“καὶ νῦν ἀντίχριστοι πολλοὶ γεγόνασιν.” Even now, many antichrists have arisen. When many Christians or even most Christians hear the word antichrist, they think of an end-times arch-enemy of God that will arise and deceive millions into battling quite literally against the armies of God and of heaven. And there is a literal “Antichrist” who will emerge to do that very thing according to biblical prophecy. But the words of John are far more troublesome and far more relevant to the on-going, daily, Christian living and battle for truth that we all must face day in and day out in the new America.
“In an atmosphere of rising interest in a merging of Christianity with the higher forms of paganism to the detriment of the former, there was, therefore, a pressing need for the presentation of adequate Christian antidotes to combat the danger.” John was writing so that his audience would know that they have eternal life. (1 Jn. 5:13) What is interesting is that so much of John’s letter deals with what is apparently an early form of Gnosticism. It still seems best to conclude that John is combating proto-Gnosticism, an embryonic Docetism or Cerinthianism that has already divided Christians. Hence, it seems reasonable to conclude that John’s joy and the key to knowing that one’s faith is genuine in John’s letter is a lifestyle that is characterized by the absence of immoral behavior and heretical belief. Pagan thought has been a constant threat to Christian thought since Christ ushered in His system some 2,000 years ago.
John identifies the competing pagan beliefs with the same substance that will define the man of sin that is to come, the future Antichrist. The Antichrist is the embodiment of all that opposes Christ. He is a dangerous and deceitful individual. He represents the pinnacle of rebellion and unbelief in the human situation. It is significant then, that John identifies the pagan heresy with which he is dealing with the Antichrist.
Apparently there was a group of individuals that were part of the visible Christian community that had set out on their own. They did this to show that they were not truly part of the Christian community of John’s address. (1 Jn. 2:18) What is interesting is the use of the passive verb “shown.” This is the Greek word phaneroō and it means to disclose to show. However, the passive voice of the verb indicates that it was not necessarily the purpose of the schismatic group in leaving to show that they were not of the group. This points up to providence. The separation that occurred over the false beliefs and moral code of that group occurred by an act of divine providence. Now, it could have been the reaction of the local body or it could have simply been a splitting off of the group. It is not easy to analyze the exact details.
John’s letter appears to have the aim of reassuring the Christian community that the split was the right thing for the body and that they are the genuine group standing firm in the faith of Christ. In so doing, John seems to imply that the alternative version of the Christian group is led by antichrists. In other words, those who are rejecting the basic beliefs of the Christian group and those who reject the basic moral code of true biblical Christianity are to be identified as antichrists. This is a very sober and serious charge.
John then says something quite fascinating: But you have an anointing from the Holy One and you all know. Textual variant aside, John’s statement is quite interesting. First, the implications are that the genuine Christian knows the truth and because he/she knows the truth, he/she can spot what is not true, namely, error, and especially heresy. Second, this seems to rule out what has grown to be a mostly rationalistic faith in modern western culture in terms of Christian adherents. In other words, Christians do not know the truth on simply naturalistic, rational grounds. The method is more than understanding how to reason properly, even though it certainly includes a right use of reason. Reason does not seem to be enough in this case. John is pointing to something that is transcendent and supernatural. John is pointing to an ontological difference in the Christian. There is something about the being of a Christian that is quite different from that of an unbeliever. The notion of being anointed or having an anointing from the Holy One indicates that John sees the believer as marked off by God for God’s purpose.
John goes on to say that this anointing abides within us and because of this fact we have no need for anyone to teach us. This anointing teaches us all things, that is to say, all things necessary for truth. Two things that this fact impacts: apologetics and Church discipline. You see, modern Christian thought in the west has long abandoned the Biblical faith of the first-century Church. That faith is the basis of true knowledge. Conversely, in modern Christian thought, faith is the end of a rational process by which evidence and arguments are weighed, subjected to human scrutiny, placed under the light of pagan reasoning and at the end, if the criteria is satisfied, wham-o, one decides to become a Christian. But this is far from the thinking revealed by the authors of Scripture.
True knowledge comes through faith in Christ. And this faith comes through the work of the Holy Spirit, the one with Whom all Christians have been anointed. True saving knowledge does not come at the end of some rationalistic process contrary to what so many modern western thinkers assert. God makes Christians. Only God makes Christians. You do not make yourself a Christian. You cannot make yourself “born again.” The power of the gospel is the tool God uses to radically change the human person. This is the anointing that John is talking about. For this reason, Jesus could say things like the elect cannot be deceived, and all that the Father gives to me will come to me. Otherwise, these statements make no sense.
Finally, John’s statement has real implications for a Church that has lost its way. Just because a person says he/she is a Christian, this does not make them one. There have always been pseudo-Christians in the visible Christian community from the beginning. They are what John called antichrists. They do not have the anointing and therefore, they do not know the truth. They entered the community through a rational process of examining their own person needs, looking at arguments, examining evidence, sensing a need to be religious and wham-o, they sign the card. They have no more interest in Jesus than the devil himself does. What they are interested in is their own sense of belonging of being righteous, of being moral, and maybe of community. But their beliefs and conduct betray their profession of faith.
For some time now we have had seeker-sensitive, emergent, and now the restless-reformed coming along and rejecting the many of the basic teachings of Biblical Christianity while at the same time claiming to embrace it. But just as John said they went out from us so that it would be shown that they were not really of us, we can say the same thing about these folks. For example, there are numerous professing Christians that deny the virgin birth, the resurrection, the deity of Christ, that the Bible is the word of God, etc. As an example of the confusion, take Ellen Painter Dollar’s statement, “There is nothing false about believing that the God of all things can be encountered in sacred story, and in mundane human experience, and in the strange visions of the mystics.” Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/ellenpainterdollar/2014/05/we-know-god-through-scripture-and-so-much-more/#ixzz32OPJbc7R
God can be found everywhere and in nearly everyone these days (except for political conservatives of course). Modern Christians, mostly of the younger generation, in their early to mid-twenties have figured out that the rest of us are and were for nearly 2,000 years, mistaken about Jesus. Abortion is seen as a blessing. Gay sex is viewed as love. Sports celebrities that pray are mocked while grown men who want to act like women are praised. And these things are moving into the Church because the Church has continued to buy into the modern, naturalistic, rational, decision-making model of regeneration. That model demands that the Church remain connected to the culture, that she remain relevant.
You see, Biblical apologetics demands that we begin with God, that Scripture be our sole authority. Christian doctrine can only be known by those who have been anointed by God. True knowledge is only discovered by those with God’s special grace, His special anointing. But this teaching requires a radically different message than the one the Church has been preaching. Because the Church has adopted a naturalistic approach to conversion, she has also bought into the necessity to be relevant. This approach requires that we make good arguments, that God be a means to an end, that people feel like they are gaining something, and that they feel like it was their choice, remaining in control of course. We have to make sure our music is attractive, that our message is relevant, that Christianity is viewed with respect, academically and otherwise. And this is all based off the notion that being a Christian is making a rational decision and nothing more.
John’s message to his audience was profoundly different from the modern message of modern Christians. God did not accept people just as they were but instead, He radically transformed their entire person before bringing them into communion with Himself and His Church. There was no such thing as believing whatever one wished and conducting oneself however one pleased all the while receiving the blessing of the Church. The days of socially acceptable Christianity are fading into the past. The modern Church, in an attempt to remain relevant has become so much like the world, there is no noticeable different between the two. Look around and tell me what is different about the visible Church and the culture in which she is found? The thinking, beliefs, and practices of the Church mirror those of the world. The same John that warned us about the many antichrists that have gone out into the world also commanded us not to love the world or anything in the world. We cannot love the world and love God both at the same time. Modern Christianity has all but destroyed this basic Christian distinction. Christians need to circle their wagons, lean on each other like never before, and take a bold and loving stand for the truth of the Christian gospel as if lives depend on it because, as John MacArthur says, they do.