Apostasy can be defined as the departure from the truth that one professed to have. It does not mean that they actually ever possessed the truth. Apostates do not actually possess the truth. Rather, it is a departure from a truth they professed to have because of an affiliation with a particular church. Consider them to be frauds in Christianity. Apostasy has been going on for a long time. With the Emerging Church movement it is infecting Bible and other independent churches. But it came into the main line denominations many years ago. In terms of sheer numbers the main lines have demonstrated that the apostasy is huge.
How does this happen?
One typical example of the apostasy occurring is the infiltration of the liberals into the hierarchy of the Presbyterian Church USA. Upon hiring a new minister into the denomination they were required to affirm their belief in the Westminster Confession of Faith. The Rev Milo F. Jamison, a premillennial dispensationalist had grown to not hold to it and was thrown out of the denomination in 1933 for daring to believe the Bible as it was written instead of following a creed or confession alone. He questioned a fellow Princeton grad applying for a ministerial pulpit position. Jamison knew that the man did not believe in the Confession either or any other creed. He was a liberal. Jamison asked him: “How could you tell the examining committee that you believe in the Westminster Confession when you really don’t?” The man answered: “I kept my fingers crossed during the exam.” So the liberal lied to get into the denomination. Once the liberals got in they took others in along with them and began to populate the hierarchy of the denomination. They wanted the church’s money and power as well as its prestige. Soon they gained control and dominated the Presbyterians and caused schisms. So where did the denomination go wrong? (1)
Presbyterianism and other denominations put earthly, man-centered pursuits in place of the entire “Whole Council of God.” They believed creeds, confessions, loved power, property, and money instead of the pure sweet milk of the Word alone. They prided themselves on their educations especially the secular schools they attended. The liberals easily entered and caused dissention with the fundamentalists once they gained power. They captured Princeton Seminary in 1929 and Union Theological Seminary at least forty years earlier. The Episcopal Church had gone liberal a generation earlier than Princeton’s departure from orthodoxy. They fell even before Union. To be sure there are many new Presbyterian churches that have left the old denomination and started fresh with proper doctrine.
The New Testament clearly predicts in two NT passages that there would be an apostasy in the latter days.
The first is found in 2nd Thessalonians.
II Thes 2:1-3 Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,
The second passage is: I Ti 4:1
I Ti 4:1 But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons,
The prophetic word says that there will be a falling away in the last days.
This is a vivid description of the Laodicean Church from Revelation chapter three.
Three NT passages describe the character of the apostasy.
I Tim 4:1-3 But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth.
The source of the apostasy is demons, for apostates have essentially given in to seducing spirits and are preaching a system of doctrine, which is a doctrine of demons. Furthermore, they speak lies through hypocrisy, and their conscious’ have stopped working.
The second passage is found in II Timothy.
II Ti 3:5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.
In verses 1-4 there is a description of the general character of the world in the last days, and it can hardly be denied that these elements are true in this present day. Verse five centers on the religious front, where the last days will be characterized by men having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof. Apostate ministers, retaining the clerical garb and church titles, have a form of godliness. But they deny the power thereof, for they have denied the true power of godliness. They claim to trust in God but are actually trusting in worldly methodologies.
The third passage is found in II Peter 2:1-22
2Pe 2:1-22 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter; and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds), then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority. Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble when they revile angelic majesties, whereas angels who are greater in might and power do not bring a reviling judgment against them before the Lord. But these, like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed, reviling where they have no knowledge, will in the destruction of those creatures also be destroyed, suffering wrong as the wages of doing wrong They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you, having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children; forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; but he received a rebuke for his own transgression, for a mute donkey, speaking with a voice of a man, restrained the madness of the prophet. These are springs without water and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved. For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved. For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, “A DOG RETURNS TO ITS OWN VOMIT,” and, “A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.”
Reading through the passage, we don’t see Peter displaying any attitude of love or tolerance toward the apostates. The Bible and particularly the Lord Jesus do not display any toleration toward apostasy and both castigate it very severely, as these verses clearly show.
Peter also tells us what the mark of an apostate is. What they teach are called destructive denials.
The teachings of the apostates are indeed destructive heresies. The content entails denying even the Master that bought them. In other words, the content of apostate teaching involves the denial of the Person (the Master) and work (bought them) of the Lord Jesus. Other NT passages provide more specific aspects of this denial. First, a denial of the Trinity is dealt with in 1 John 2:22-23.
1 Jo 2:22-23 Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist that denieth the Father and the Son. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: [(but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also].
1st John 4:2-3 comments on a denial of the Incarnation:
1 Jo 4:1-2 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:
The same is true of II John 1:7
2Jo 1:7 For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist
Third the denial of the Second Coming of the Messiah is the concern of II Peter 3:3-4
2Pe 3:3-4 Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as [they were] from the beginning of the creation.
So the teachings of apostasy involve the destructive denials of the Person and work of the Messiah, especially with regard to His place in the Trinity, His deity, His incarnation as the God-Man by means of the Virgin Birth, and the fact that He is coming again physically. Basic to all these denials, of course is the denial of the God breathed origin of the Scriptures themselves.
ONCE THE SCRIPTURES ARE CAST ASIDE AS NON-AUTHORITATIVE ALL DOCTRINES DESIGNED TO PROTECT CEASE TO BE EFFECTIVE.
At the heart of theological liberalism is an attack on the authority of the Bible. A central attack is to question the traditional authorship and historicity of the Pentateuch and other parts of Scripture. The result is to question or openly deny Old Testament prophecy and the dating of the writing of Old Testament books. Two examples of this are:
Julius A. Bewer, Union Theological Seminary Professor: “The dates and figures found in the first five books of the Bible turn out to be altogether unreliable” (Bewer, The Literature of the Old Testament, 1940)
A more recent illustration of liberalism comes from the pen of John Shelby Spong, a bishop in the Episcopal Church in America. “Am I suggesting that these stories of the virgin birth are not literally true? The answer is a simple and direct “Yes.” Of course these narratives are not literally true. Stars do not wander, angels do not sing, virgins do not give birth, magi do not travel to a distant land to present gifts to a baby, and shepherds do not go in search of a newborn savior. … To talk of a Father God who has a divine-human son by a virgin woman is a mythology that our generation would never have created, and obviously, could not use. To speak of a Father God so enraged by human evil that he requires propitiation for our sins that we cannot pay and thus demands the death of the divine-human son, as a guilt offering is a ludicrous idea to our century. The sacrificial concept that focuses on the saving blood of Jesus that somehow washes me clean, so popular in Evangelical and Fundamentalist circles, is by and large repugnant to us today” (John Spong, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism: A Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of Scripture, Harper, 1991, pp. 215,234).
Liberalism in theology is similar to liberalism in politics. Both want to secularize their respective societies to the Humanist tenets. They put their faith in evolution, historical relativism, progress through science, the benevolent state, and getting other’s money. To do this they must quiet the Bible fundamentalist with his revealed truth. They refuse to believe the miracles and their truth regardless of the evidence for them. Once the liberal has infiltrated the upper echelons of fundamental seminaries they can spew their poison to future generations of pastors and cause fights within the denominations. The doubt their baseless theories and criticism of the Scriptures ignites is enough to cause splits and finally the strong political force of the denominations bleeds into the political arena. People begin to believe the error that comes from the “authorities.”
The denominations lost their battles because they did not know how to fight and win. They should have left the denominations en mass immediately instead of fighting! Some did to be sure but not enough did and many stayed in because “this is where they have always been.” They were more wedded to denominationalism than Christ and His Word. Further they did not want the fight. They just wanted it to stop because it confused them. We all know that God is not the author of confusion (I Cor 14: 33). We must separate from them. The Lord has commanded it.
Daniel E. Woodhead Ph.D.
(1) North, Gary. Crossed Fingers How the Liberals Captured the Presbyterian Church 1996, Institute for Christian Economics, Tyler, TX pg 19Share on Facebook