Note: I happened to see this article soon after finishing Deceived by a counterfeit "Jesus" and was intrigued by its likeness to the message of The Shack -- and to the writings of many others involved in the emerging church. While Mr. Timmons title is correct --Jesus is the Way -- his views of our God, His Word, His Church, and His Way are totally wrong!
Though false representatives of Christianity have, through the ages, distorted its image, the word "Christianity" actually refers to the Biblical beliefs and practices of God's faithful people -- the "born again" believers scattered throughout the world. These Christians have put their faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior, Lord, Shepherd and Life. They love His Word, seek His will, "walk" by His Spirit, confess any sin, and put "no confidence in the flesh." Philippians 3:3
My responses to Mr. Timmons are indented and italicized.
"I've spent so much time and energy unlearning a lot of my theological premises I received at graduate seminary while a student and professor. It's been a fresh look at Jesus and His message of the good news of the Kingdom. He only mentions “church” twice, yet we are all about building and uplifting the church. His message was not the church, but all about the Kingdom."
Response: How many times does the Bible have to repeat a message before we consider it true? One time should be enough! Check these two statements by Jesus: Matthew 18:17 and Matthew 16:18. Both validate the existence of churches as well as the universal Church.
The word church is mentioned 700 times in the rest of the New Testament.
What does Tim Timmons mean by the Kingdom? Does he agree with Brian McLaren's description of the Kingdom of God?
"In this journey now we are working with the 7 primary cultures of the world—Buddhist, Hindu, Moslem, Jewish, Animist, Christian and Atheist/Agnostic. We don't present Christianity to them, but Jesus. We teach them to follow the teachings and principles of Jesus as the early disciples did. It took a while for the disciples to become believers.""
Response: When Jesus called his disciples, they believed to the best of their human understanding. Many "left all and followed" Him, though they still had much to learn. Remember, they didn't receive the full enabling power of the Holy Spirit until Pentecost. (See Acts 2:1-4)
"However, it's important to note that being a believer is not enough—the demons believe, false prophets/teachers of Matthew 7 are believers and we are believers. So, what's the difference? Jesus says, 'Only those who do the will of my Father will enter the Kingdom.' So 'hear my words and practice them'...."'
Response: To know His will, we must read His Word. "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples..." (John 8:31) Jesus knew that most people would reject His teaching -- even when they thought they believed in Him.
"Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man." John 2:23-25
In chapter after chapter, Jesus quoted the Old Testament. He knew He would fulfill the Levitical laws concerning blood sacrifices through the cross, yet he obviously considered the moral law timeless and valid. In other words, He drew a clear line between good and evil, right and wrong -- a fact the emerging church generally ignores.
"We are working with the Tibetan youth in northern India. What is so amazing is that these young Buddhists are followers of Jesus. It's just like hanging out with the early disciples while Jesus is out for the evening.
Response: I doubt that! How would Timmons know? He wasn't there.
"The first 8 of these young men, going through a mentoring process centered around the teachings and principles of Jesus, have been awarded the title of "Ambassadors to the Poor in the Spirit of Jesus of Nazareth" by the head of the Tibetan government.
Response: Tibet is under the authority of China's rulers in Beijing. These Communists despise true Christians and persecute those who share the true Gospel of Jesus. [See When Iron Gates Yield]
"All of the work in the House of Peace (mentoring house) is done under the supervision of the Tibetan authorities. Each young person is chosen by government officials to enter the House of Peace. It is mind-blowing! We are seeing the same results with the other cultures. Jesus trumps everything else. Not Christianity, but Jesus. My concern is that we must stick to the teachings and principles of Jesus without depending upon a set of beliefs or a theological system that man has built around Jesus. I believe Jesus never was a Christian and doesn’t want to be.
Of course Jesus was not a Christian! He was Christ, the Messiah, whom the Christians followed! They were joined to Him by faith -- through the cross. And, by His grace, they obeyed His Word.
According to the Scriptures, "...the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch." (Acts 11:26) His disciples -- who spread the gospel far and wide in those early decades -- were known by His name. Many were persecuted for bearing that name! I wonder if Timmons include the "offensive" cross when he refers to the "teachings and principles of Jesus." [See They were called "Christians"]
"The problem I sense with making
Christianity the answer or making the ultimate goal for a person to
become a Christian is the following:
"We are using and promoting terms (Christian and Christianity) that are NOT even used by Jesus or any writer in the New Testament. Worse, we have transformed these terms into sacred goals for not only our lives, but the entire world. By doing this we set it up for people to hate Christians and Christianity, even lumping it altogether with the West....
Is Timmons intentionally lying, or did he simply forget to check the facts? In addition to Acts 11:26, the word "Christian" is used in these passages:
"If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God..." 1 Peter 4:14-16
"Then Agrippa said to Paul, 'You almost persuade me to become a Christian.” And Paul said, 'I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains.” Acts 26:28-29
Response: The word "Christian" was not invented by Western culture. The actual teachings of Jesus, which came from the Middle East (not the West) have joined millions of people around the world into one family in Christ. The Gospel supersedes culture! "Do not be conformed to this world" (Romans 12:2), said Jesus. And before His crucifixion, He prayed,
"I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth." John 17:14-17
"Many people use the term “Christianity”
and mean by it a personal relationship with Jesus. However, words must
be chosen well in order to communicate most clearly. So, consider these
"FIRST—Making Western Cultural Christianity the primary way to God implies all other cultural religions are wrong and Western Cultural Christianity is right. It tells people that to be a Follower of Jesus, one must also undergo a cultural transformation to Western Christian culture. It’s as if Western Christian culture and Western Cultural Christians own Jesus. This is not scriptural; Jesus is not exclusive, but all-inclusive.
Response: Other religions do not lead to the Biblical Savior! God's Word still stand: "You shall have no other gods..." Their illusion of eternal rewards is usually based on works rather than faith.
"SECOND—Making Christianity the primary way to God implies and requires that Christians must convert the world to Western Cultural Christianity.....
Response: That's absurd! What about Chinese and Korean evangelists? Are these faithful Christians trying to convert Asian Buddhist and atheists to Western culture?
Unlike changing cultures, Biblical truth remains the same everywhere. Wherever we travel and meet fellow Christians -- East or West -- we can delight in belonging to the same wonderful family in Christ.
"THIRD—Making Western Cultural Christianity the primary way to God brings with it a narrow view of God.... It’s a negation of God’s full creation of every culture, nation and tribe and thereby diminishing the cultural richness of the Creator-God.
Response: Christians are not free to expand their view of God beyond what He has revealed in His Word. Many New Agers are reimagining a God that fits their desires, "but to the wicked God says:
“What right have you to declare My statutes, or take My covenant in your mouth,
Seeing you hate instruction and cast My words behind you?...
You thought that I was altogether like you; but I will rebuke you..." Psalm 50:16, 21
His rebuke included exiling His wayward people, when they chose to worship the "other gods" of their pagan neighbors.
The Christian way is narrow -- but not because it's Western. It's narrow because the true God and His ways clash with human nature. Unlike the "God" of The Shack, our holy Lord doesn't just go along with the popular ways of this unholy world.
"Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it." Matthew 7:13-14
"FOURTH—Christianity is another religious system on par with the religions of the world....
"...acting as if it is the only way to God or the right way to God stirs up negative reactions and attitudes from the non-Christian world, criticism from the media and persecution of the Christian “missionaries” and their activities around the world."
The Biblical cross is the only way -- not the primary way -- to establish that personal relationship with the Biblical God! Only on the basis of His redemption can unholy people enter the presence of a holy God.
"...by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." Acts 4:10-12
FIFTH—Making Christianity the primary way to God rejects the life and teachings of Jesus. Jesus is for the entire world. Jesus never urged anyone to become a part of a Christian culture or to join a Synagogue or Church. His only concern seems to be the person’s heart of faith...."
Faith in what? An object of our own imagination?
"Jesus made it a habit of reaching out to people from all kinds of religious and cultural backgrounds."
And so should we! But reaching out with His love doesn't mean conforming to their beliefs!
"PERSONAL TRANSFORMATION is what is normally called 'conversion' and because of a misunderstanding of what this is, the modern missionary movement has attempted to 'convert' the natives throughout the world. ... No missionary, no matter how effective, has the power to produce genuine, spiritual transformation."
Millions of "natives" from the world cultures were indeed converted -- by the Holy Spirit.
"...as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." John 1:12-13