Family Radio
Ponderings on one September 11th morning

    Romans 16:17 Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them.
I had the opportunity within the past few weeks to take a road trip down to southern California and back again.  My presence was required for a family situation that had come up, I spent a few days there and then sped back north.

I love road trips, sure it can be painful to the parts that you sit on for hours on end, but there you have it.  I have time to reflect, to pray, to catch up on unheard CDs, to look at God's creation, and to listen to Christian FM radio.

Christian FM seems to be in vogue right now.  I was able to catch music, commentaries and sermons almost all of the way south, and then back north again when I took a different route.  Much of the music I heard was different than the top-40 format that we have locally, very nice.

On the second evening of driving south, as I was approaching my destination, I heard a snippet of Biblical teaching that had me dropping my jaw and then whooping with laughter.  I dearly wanted to listen to the gentleman's reasoning, and his Scriptural support, but unfortunately the station faded out in the high desert evening.

I spent several days down on the edge of the Mojave wondering just what this commentator meant when he said that atonement did not come on the cross, salvation came before the foundation of the universe.  Hmmm.

So, I listened carefully on the return trip and, sure enough, I found the station again.  It actually turns out to be a whole movement which was founded by Harold Camping in 1959.  He predicts that the rapture will occur on May 21, 2011, the end of the world is October 21 of the same year.  The movement is simply called Family Radio Inc. and has over fifty radio stations all across the U.S.  Many are located in California.

This movement hearkens out of Oakland.  They have an interesting take on the Bible, its interpretation, and the age that we are in.  If you are curious you can find more information at: Family Radio

This is reminiscent of Ted Armstrong's Worldwide Church of God in which he rejected Jesus as God and formed one of the largest cults in America.  Camping claims that there are levels of meaning for each verse in the Bible and that his hermeneutic uncovers this meaning.  Thus his take on atonement.  Thus his claim about the rapture and the end of the world in spite of clear Scripture that says "no one will know the day or the hour".

Isn't it interesting that we, as people, still fall for a hidden knowledge claim for our faith?  ("Just listen to me, I have the hidden knowledge that will get you into heaven")  In Camping's case that hidden knowledge is his hermeneutic, his method of interpreting the Bible.

We run into this in other venues, too.  For instance, many home church advocates claim that theirs is the only true faith and that all church goers are uniformly lost.  That all churches are merely social clubs in which the participants get a flawed version of the gospel . . let's call it gospel lite.

On the opposite end of the spectrum we have seen a church growth movement that willingly expels anyone who disagrees with them.  How many times have we heard, "I used to go to church, but . ." only to receive yet another version of love your neighbor gone horribly wrong.  Many have been lifelong leaders in their church.  Many did not understand the mechanics of church growth and stepped into the minefield unaware . . thinking that they were part of the solution.

There is something seductive and exclusive about having all the control in a church . . as if the narrow gate were meant only for them and no other Christians.  There is something seductive and exclusive about setting up other Christians as the straw men, or the bogey men, in an argument so that you can easily knock them down.  As leaders this us vs. them attitude makes it easier to keep your congregation from wandering off to more fertile fields . . where maybe they will be fed a more complete Biblical message.  Us vs. them turns us inward, keeps our neighbors at a manageable level . . our neighbors are then who we deem them to be.

This flies in the face of clear Biblical teaching.  Think about it, our neighbors should be everyone else.  In our day and age the good Samaritan might be better understood as the good Islamic extremist (someone we love to hate - Luke 10).  And having reviewed considerable 9/11 news footage this morning I understand that this can be a stretch for all of us.  We are called upon to be good neighbors, just as an Islamic extremist can be a good neighbor.  Not because we will receive extra crowns in heaven but because it is merely our responsibility to do God's will.  And nothing can be more fundamental to His will than to love Him, and to love your neighbor.

Wow, the rabbit trails that I take.  Back to Family Radio and Mr. Camping.

It is extremely difficult to walk according to God's will if your understanding of Him is flawed.  And I believe that Family Radio, specifically the program called Open Forum, teaches a flawed version of the gospel.  I would associate this, at least on some levels, to the heresies that Paul speaks about in Galatians 1.  As a side note, most heresies are a direct attack on the person and works of Jesus.

So what is a Christian to do?  How do we protect ourselves from being suckered into this kind of false teaching?  Let me toss some guidelines out here, in no particular order, let's call them Mark's Rules of Thumb lest we turn them into yet another false doctrine.
  • Know Your Bible
    • A friend of mine used to tell me, "if you stand for nothing you will fall for anything".  And while that is true, you have to know what you stand for.  So, regular Bible reading becomes an essential ingredient for safeguarding your faith.

  • Study Your Bible
    • Find a study group that teaches the whole counsel of God and participate regularly.

  • Know Your Primary Doctrine
    • I split the Bible up into primary and secondary doctrine, this is a personal affectation.  Primary doctrine is to die for, literally.  Secondary doctrine is fun and healthy to argue but in the final analysis is just Bible knowledge.  An example of primary doctrine, "I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6).  An example of secondary doctrine; "For God has not destined us for wrath" (where this is seen as an indication that Christians will not face tribulation - 1 Thessalonians 5:9).

  • Always question hidden knowledge
    • If you have to go through someone else to know what the Bible says, it is suspect.
    • This does not preclude talking to someone more knowledgeable than yourself to help clear up some confusion.

  • If your church/group has special exceptions to Love God/Love Your Neighbor, it is suspect
    • When Jesus said, "upon these two depend the whole Law and Prophets", He pretty much meant it.  So when you run into a group that says something like, "Oh, all those churches over there are lost" then suspect them.  Especially if their reasoning has nothing to do with Biblical teaching but instead is based upon the perceived quality of the teaching.
    • This is that us vs. them attitude that I spoke of earlier.  Granted that we are to be in the world, not of the world.  But we have been given no special dispensation to tear other Christians down.
    • However, I would counsel you to walk away from any group actively engaged in false teaching.  This is a fine line to tread, be careful about snap judgments.

  • Suspect any church or group that tells you that theirs is the only correct faith, or correct way of being church
    • These groups mostly die on the vine when they attempt to go overseas or confront a different culture
    • God provides many cultural paths to Biblical knowledge and worship of Him, our way of being church is not the only correct one

  • If the church/group attempts to bust up a family, it is suspect.
    • This is a variation on the theme of us vs. them.  A particularly nasty one.

  • Don't be afraid to walk away.
    • No single church or group has an inside track on Biblical teaching,
    • There are many fine teachers out there, as there are many fine churches and home groups.

  • Go where you are fed.
    • Go where the Holy Spirit is actively present
    • Go where the Word of God is proclaimed and lived and taught
    • Go where lives are changed
    • Go where people are nurtured
I pray that this will be helpful to some.  As always, I am open to your questions and comments.

Have a great 9/11 day today, remember to pray for family, friends and nation.

Have a glorious and fed Lord's Day tomorrow!  Praise Him yet again for His presence!