Apostasy In The
How it is accelerating
and how it
relates to the return of Jesus.
Observations by Dr. David R.
This article is a highly abridged version of a chapter
from Dr. David Reaganís new book, Living for Christ in the
The Bible clearly prophesies that the Church
of the end times will be characterized by apostasy. Paul said
that the Antichrist will not be revealed until "the apostasy
comes first" (2 Thessalonians 2:3). Jesus prophesied that
"many will fall away" and "most peopleís love will
grow cold" (Matthew 24:10, 12).
In the book of Revelation, chapters 2 and
3, the Apostle John records seven letters of Jesus to seven churches
in the area of modern day Turkey. Among other things, these letters
present a panoramic prophetic survey of the Church in history.
The last of the churches mentioned, the one that represents the
Church of the end times, is the church at Laodicea. It is pictured
as a church that is neither hot (healing) nor cold (refreshing),
but rather is lukewarm or tepid (Revelation 3:15-16). In short,
it is a church that is apathetic. Jesus also pictures it as a
worldly church enamored with its wealth (Revelation 3:17). The
Lord is so dissatisfied with this church that He declares, "Because
you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out
of my mouth" (Revelation 3:16).
Clues from the Apostle Paul
Paul supplies us with some strong clues
as to why the end times Church will be weak, vacillating, and
full of apostasy. One of those clues can be found in 2 Timothy
4:3-4 which says that "the time will come when they [Christians]
will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears
tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance
to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth,
and will turn aside to myths."
Another clue is located in Paulís famous
prophecy about end time society, the one in 2 Timothy 3. After
describing in graphic detail how society will fall apart in the
end times, Paul adds that the basic reason will be due to people
"holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied
its power" (2 Timothy 3:5). There will be no lack of religion,
says Paul, but people will deny the true power that is able to
transform society for the good, producing peace, righteousness
What is that power? First and foremost it
is the power of the blood of Jesus. It is also the power that
comes from accepting the Bible as the infallible Word of God.
It is the power of believing in a Creator God with whom all things
are possible. And certainly it includes a belief in the power
of the Holy Spirit.
Today, these essential beliefs, which constitute
the power of Christianity, are being subjected to an unparalleled
assault from within the Church itself. The Bible says that in
the end times people will mock the promise of the Lordís return
(2 Peter 3:3-4). What is so shocking is that most of the mockery
is coming from within the Church!
The Root of Apostasy
How have we reached this crisis point in
the Church? It is rooted in the German School of Higher Criticism
which invaded this country big-time in the 1920's. According to
the "scientific approach" of this school of skeptics,
the Bible is not the revealed Word of God. Rather, it is Manís
search for God, and therefore it is filled with myth, legend and
Today this viewpoint dominates the seminaries
of America. The Bible is studied not to be believed and obeyed
but to be analyzed, dissected, and criticized. The result is that
the Scriptures have lost their authority.
John Spong, Episcopal Bishop of New Jersey,
has written books in which he denies the virgin birth, denies
the miracles of Jesus, denies the resurrection, denies the Second
Coming, and argues that Paul and Timothy were homosexual lovers.
Bishop Spong has become so enamored with other religions that
he has announced he will no longer witness to those caught up
in the spiritual darkness of pagan faiths!1
Similar apostate thoughts were mouthed by
Norman Vincent Peale in 1984 on the Phil Donahue program. Peale
announced, "Itís not necessary to be born-again. You have
your way to God; I have mine. I found eternal peace in a Shinto
shrine . . . Iíve been to Shinto shrines, and God is everywhere."
Phil Donahue was so shocked that he actually
came to the defense of Christianity. "But youíre a Christian
minister," he retorted, "and youíre suppose to tell
me that Christ is the way and the truth and the life, arenít you?"
Peale replied, "Christ is one of the
ways. God is everywhere."2
Look again at Pealeís incredible statement:
"Itís not necessary to be born-again." What did Jesus
say? "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born-again,
he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). Who are we
Schullerís Apostate Gospel
Pealeís leading disciple, Robert Schuller,
has outdone his teacher with the development of his "gospel
of possibility thinking." In his book, Self Esteem:
The New Reformation, Schuller states that the leaders
of the Reformation Movement made a mistake in centering their
theology around God instead of Man!3
Schuller teaches that the essence of Manís
problem is low self-esteem.4 The Bible teaches it is
pride. Schuller says that when Jesus referred in John 7:38 to
"rivers of living water" flowing out of believers, He
was speaking of self-esteem.5 The very next verse says
He was speaking of the Holy Spirit. Schuller argues that sin is
anything that robs us of our "divine dignity" (our "divine
dignity"?).6 The Bible says sin is rebellion against
The Response of Christendom
Schullerís book calling for a "new
reformation" caused a firestorm of controversy. The Evangelical
magazine, Christianity Today, invited readers
to give their opinions of the book, and many people wrote in to
denounce it. One writer referred to Schuller as "a modern-day
apostle of humanism."7
The letters continued to pour in for weeks,
and they were so critical that Dr. Schuller decided to respond
to them. In a long letter published in the October 5, 1984 issue
of Christianity Today, he made an incredible
comment that has haunted him to this day:8
I donít think anything has been done
in the name of Christ and under the banner of Christianity
that has proven more destructive to human personality and,
hence, counterproductive to the evangelism enterprise than
the often crude, uncouth, and unchristian strategy of attempting
to make people aware of their lost and sinful condition.
As a writer for Time put it
in an article in 1985, "For Schuller, an acknowledgment of
self-worth, more than a confession of sinfulness, is the path
Further Evidence of Schullerís Apostasy
In an appearance on the Phil Donahue show
in 1980, Schuller tried, incredibly, to portray Jesus as an egotist!
Hereís what he said:10
The Cross sanctifies the ego trip. Thatís
very significant. In other words, Jesus had an ego. He said,
"I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men to me."
Wow! What an ego trip He was on!
What blatant blasphemy ó to accuse the One
who was the very essence of humility of being an egotist!
Schuller gave a speech at the headquarters
of the Unity Church in Lees Summit, Missouri and shared with their
pastors his church growth principles. This is a cult that denies
the deity of Jesus and which teaches reincarnation! He also dedicated
a new Unity Temple in Warren, Michigan, in spite of warnings from
a local Baptist pastor not to do so because of the errors of this
In a recent speech honoring an Islamic spiritual
leader named Alfred Mohammed, Schuller said that if he were to
come back in 100 years and find his descendants to be Muslims,
it wouldnít bother him!12
An Apostate Seminar
Another modern day apostate is Robert Funk,
a New Testament scholar at the University of Montana. He is the
founder of the notorious Jesus Seminar which began operating in
1985. The avowed purpose of the Seminar was "to renew the
quest for the historical Jesus."13 The Seminar
conducted this quest in a very unusual way. Meeting twice a year
for six years, the group voted on each of the sayings of Jesus
recorded in the Gospels. They voted by dropping colored beads
in a box. A black bead meant Jesus definitely did not make the
statement in question. A gray bead meant He did not say it, but
it might have represented His thinking. A pink bead meant He probably
said something like this, but not in the words recorded. A red
bead meant He definitely made the statement.14
As you can see, the very approach expressed
contempt for the veracity of the Gospel accounts. What a spectacle
this must have been to the Lord as He watched these so-called
scholars vote on passages from His Word. "Professing to be
wise, they became fools" (Romans 1:22).
The final product of the Seminar, published
in 1993, was a blasphemy of Godís Word. It was titled, The
Five Gospels.15 The title comes from
the fact that the Seminar decided to grant the apocryphal Gospel
of Thomas equal standing with the four traditional Gospels.
Only fifteen sayings of Jesus made it into
The Five Gospels in red! In Matthewís account of
the Lordís Prayer, the only words that made it in red were, "Our
Father." Only one saying in the entire book of Mark was colored
red. It is the statement of Jesus in Mark 12:17 where He told
His disciples to "Render unto Caesar the things that are
Caesarís, and to God the things that are Godís." Likewise,
only one statement from the Gospel of John qualified for the red
coloring: "A prophet has no honor in his own country"
The chilling thing to keep in mind is that
the men who produced this spiritual pornography are professors
at seminaries across America. They are the ones who are training
the current generation of pastors and teachers.
Apostasy in the Denominations
The apostasy is not confined to the seminaries.
It is pervasive. It can be found in all denominations. Consider
the following examples.
In 1997, on the eve of Lent, the Right Reverend
Alan Smithson, the Bishop of Jarrow (Anglican Church in England),
held a press conference in London. He announced that it was traditional
for Christians to give up something during the forty days of Lent.
He then dramatically announced that he had decided to give up
Bible reading! He went on to explain that he was going to devote
his time during Lent to reading the Koran, because he felt like
the Muslim scriptures would make him "more understanding,
more compassionate, and more fully human."16
R. Kirby Godsey, president of Mercer University,
a school heavily supported by the Georgia Baptist Convention,
"denies the infallibility of the Bible, the unique power
and authority of God, the validity of the Gospelís account of
the life and teachings of Jesus, the efficacy of Christís atonement,
and the uniqueness of Christ as the only Savior."17
In 1997 the General Board of Global Ministries
of the United Methodist Church sponsored a meeting in Kansas City
that attracted 4,000 participants from all over the world. Called,
"Global Gathering III," the conference featured a parade
of speakers who attacked the fundamentals of the Christian faith.
One speaker declared that the crucifixion of Jesus reveals an
"abusive Heavenly Father who is not fit for Christian worship."
The speaker urged instead that the Church revere all the worldís
children as little messiahs equal to Jesus.18
Apostasy in Local Churches
The spreading cancer of apostasy in the
Church is not confined to theologians and church conferences.
It can be found at the grass roots level, in local churches.
Consider, for example, The Episcopal New
Church Center in Walkersville, Maryland. This church hired a public
relations firm to develop a print and television advertising campaign.
One of the first ads in this campaign carried a banner headline
that read, "To Hell With Church!" It showed a man thinking,
"If I want to feel guilty, Iíll eat some cheese fries."
Another ad in the series showed a painting of Christ nailed on
the Cross. Scrawled over the painting were the words, "Of
course people with pierced body parts are welcome in our church."19
The Maryland church really went wacky when
it moved to producing TV ads. They hired a fellow known for the
kinky cartoons he produces for Saturday Night Live.
His first ad for the church opened with a father and son tossing
a baseball to each other in the front yard.
"Guess what, Timmy?" the father
asks. "Tomorrow your mother and I are going to take you to
church." The father continues, "Not only will you be
able to learn about the wages of sin and eternal damnation, but
you can play fun games like ĎBible Sword Drillí and sing inspirational
songs like ĎKumbayaí and ĎIíve Got Joy, Joy, Joy Down in My Heart.í"
Dejected by this prospect, little Timmy
walks into the middle of the road and holds up his hands in surrender
as a semi-truck blows its horn and bears down on him.20
Not only apostate, but sick.
The big move at the grass roots level these
days is interfaith worship services. Iím not talking about inter-denominational
ó rather, the emphasis is on inter-faith. Christians are inviting
Muslims, Jews, Hindus, American Indian practitioners of "native
religion," and others to join in worshiping "the one
true god, regardless of the name you may give to him or her."
Pope John Paul II got caught up in this
inter-faith fad in 1986 when he invited the leaders of the worldís
religions to come to Assisi, Italy to join him in praying for
world peace.21 One hundred sixty representatives came,
including the Dali Lama (who considers himself to be a god). Each
representative prayed to his own god at the Popeís request! Did
the Pope believe their gods were real? Or did he believe that
they were all praying to the same god, but under different names?
Englishman William Booth (1829 - 1912),
who founded the Salvation Army, was a man with a great zeal for
the Lord and a passion for lost souls. He was also a man of vision.
On the eve of the 20th Century when Christendom was
caught up in euphoria about how the Church would soon take the
world for Christ, Booth predicted that the Gospel would not fare
well in the new century. Specifically, he prophesied that by the
end of the 20th Century, much of the Church would be
Christianity without Christ
Forgiveness without repentance
Salvation without regeneration
Heaven without Hell
Thatís exactly where we are today. Because
of it, as we begin the 21st Century, Christians are
faced with unparalleled challenges from the decay of society and
the apostatizing of the Church. Increasingly, many are going to
give up hope. Some will express this hopelessness by withdrawing
from society and assuming a siege mentality. Others will throw
in the towel and adopt the attitude, "If you canít lick them,
Considering the magnitude of the challenge,
is there any hope for triumphant Christian living? And if so,
how then shall we live?
(Note: Dr. Reagan proceeds to respond
to these questions in his new book by presenting ten chapters
of down-to-earth guidelines for living as a victorious overcomer
in these end times.)
1. John Shelby Spong, Rescuing
the Bible from Fundamentalism: A Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of
Scripture (San Francisco, California: Harper, 1992). Another
revealing book by Bishop Spong is Why Christianity Must Change
or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers in Exile (San Francisco,
California: Harper, 1999). A good summary of Bishop Spongís views
can be found on the Internet in his "Call for a New Reformation,"
2. Dave Hunt, "Revival or
Apostasy," The Berean Call, October 1997, p. 2.
3. Robert Schuller, Self Esteem:
The New Reformation, (Waco, Texas: Word Books, 1982), p. 39.
An insightful review of Schullerís writings can be found in an
article by Joseph P. Gudel entitled "A New Reformation?"
It was published in Passport Magazine, January-February
1988. It is available on the Internet at
There are other excellent summaries of Schullerís thought that
can be found on the Internet. One is an article by David W. Cloud
entitled "Evangelicals and Modernist Robert Schuller"
Another good analysis is entitled,
"The God of the Bible Versus the God of Multi-level Marketing:
Positive Thinking," (http://www.users.fast.net/~gospeltruth/positive.htm).
4. Ibid., p.19.
5. Ibid. p. 80.
6. Ibid. p. 14.
7. Hugh Cantelon, "More on
Schuller," (letter to the editor), Christianity Today,
October 19, 1984, p. 11.
8. Robert Schuller, "Dr. Schuller
Comments," (letter to the editor), Christianity Today,
October 5, 1984, pp. 12-13.
9. Richard Stengel, "Apostle
of Sunny Thoughts," Time, March 18, 1985, p. 70.
10. The Phil Donahue Show,
transcript 08120, August 12, 1980, p. 10.
11. Rick Miesel, p. 5. Schullerís
support of the Unity Church is also documented in an article by
Dave Hunt published in the CIB Bulletin, January 1988.
In a letter to the author, dated January 24, 2000, Dave Hunt states
that he has a tape recording of the speech that Schuller delivered
to the Unity pastors about church growth principles.
12. Dave Hunt, "Whatís Happening
to the Faith?" The Berean Call, May 1998, p. 1.
13. "The Jesus Seminar: The
Search for Authenticity,"
14. In April 1996, Time featured
the Jesus Seminar on its cover under the title "The Search
for Jesus." The cover article presented a comprehensive survey
of the seminarís organization, methodology, and conclusions. See
David Van Biema, "The Gospel Truth? ó The iconoclastic and
provocative Jesus Seminar argues that not much of the New Testament
can be trusted. If so, what are Christians to believe?" Time,
April 8, 1996.
15. Robert W. Funk and Roy W. Hoover,
The Five Gospels (San Francisco, California: Harper, reprint
edition, 1997). A good review of this book can be found in an
article by D. A. Carson entitled "Five Gospels, No Christ."
The article appeared in Christianity Today, April 25, 1994,
16. "Bishop gives up Bible
for Lent" unsigned article, Daily Mail, London, England,
February 14, 1997, p. 31.
17. Dave Hunt, "Whatís Happening
to the Faith?" The Berean Call, May 1998, p. 1. Dr.
Godseyís views can be found in the book, When We Talk About
God, Letís Be Honest, (Macon, Georgia: Smyth & Helwys
Publishing Co., 1996). The Georgia Baptist Convention adopted
a resolution of censure in November 1996 in which it asked the
trustees of Mercer University to consider whether Dr. Godsey should
be continued as president of the institution. The trustees voted
to affirm his presidency.
18. Mark Tooley, "Church Gathering
Features Radical Speakers," AFA Journal, June 1997,
19. John Kirkpatrick, "Ads
fish for churchgoers with irreverent approach," Dallas
Morning News, April 18, 1998, p. 1F.
20. Ibid., p. 11F.
21. Richard N. Ostling, "A
Summit for Peace in Assisi," Time, November 10, 1986,
22. Joseph Revell, "The Salvation
Army Revisited," Report from the Wall, (an Internet
daily devotional message sent from [email protected]), December 18,
1998, p. 2.