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What the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s General Assembly prayer gets wrong


Listen to the 10 min audio

Read the transcript:

PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF THE USA BRINGS IN PRAYER TO PRAISE AND VALIDATE NON-CHRISTIAN RELIGIONS

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, the denomination that you’re a part of, the Presbyterian Church in America, recently had their assembly in Atlanta, Georgia. The Presbyterian Church USA also conducted their general assembly. At the 222nd General Assembly in 2016, a Muslim was invited to invoke an Islamic prayer at the opening of that general assembly.

Well, that didn’t happen this year at the 223rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA — however, there was a prayer and everyone was asked to participate in reciting in this prayer: “We praise you for the gift of faith we have received in Jesus Christ. We praise you also for diverse faith among the peoples of the earth. You have bestowed your grace to Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhist, practitioners of traditional religions and others may celebrate your goodness, act upon your truth and demonstrate your righteousness. In wonder and awe, we praise you, great God.”

Matine Elise writes, “Reading this prayer carefully, one discovers that faith in Jesus Christ is just one of many diverse faiths on earth, all of which are good. God’s gift of grace is not linked uniquely to the work of Christ opening up salvation for all the world, but rather only one way of coming to God.”

DR. REEDER: Let’s take this prayer on from a Christian world and life view. At the core of any Christian world and life view is the Gospel claim that man is wrong with God because of his sin and that God has made a way for man to be right with Him and that way is His Son, Jesus, Who is the way, the truth and the life. And the Christian message is we want to communicate to you the love of God in Christ is that, through the death and resurrection of Christ, you can be right with God when Jesus Christ alone is your Savior because only Christ can save.
THE CHRISTIAN TRUTH CAN REPEL NON-BELIEVERS BECAUSE OF THESE THREE THINGS

Now, let me go ahead and acknowledge upfront that there are three things that causes the Gospel to be an offense to everyone who hears it unless the Holy Spirit is at work in their lives giving them eyes to see and ears to hear.

What are those three things? First is the declaration that we are sinners and we need a savior. Second is that you can’t save yourself, nor can your manmade religion save you. Third, Jesus alone can save you. You need a savior, your religion can’t save you and Christ exclusively is the only one Who can save you. That is, as Peter says, a stone of stumbling — a rock of offense — to any and all who hear that unless the Lord works in their life and then that rock of offense becomes the rock of their salvation.

What does this particular prayer say? Well, it starts off pretty good, actually. “We praise you for the gift of faith we have received in Jesus Christ.” So, first, the opening statement, this is really amazing how, in the space of two sentences, you can go from the heights of confessional orthodoxy that exalts the glory and grace of God to the depths of manmade deception and rebellion against God — you can do it in two connected sentences.

BREAKING DOWN THE STATEMENT — WHAT DOES IT GET RIGHT AND WRONG?

The first sentence, “We praise you,” is worship to God. For what? The gift of faith. That’s accurate. The Bible says, “For by grace are you saved. Through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,” so that’s correct. “Through the gift of faith, we have received,” — so faith isn’t something we work up but faith is something that God works in us that we receive from God the ability to believe

And then it says, “In Jesus Christ.” Therefore, what is the right object of saving faith that we receive from God? Jesus Christ. That’s a glorious statement. Then the next statement, “We also praise you,” — for what — “diverse faith among the peoples of the earth. So, among all of the nations, we want to praise you for the diverse faiths. And then a third sentence is given on what are these diverse faiths? Oh, these are the evidences of your grace — “You have bestowed grace that Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, practitioners of traditional religions may celebrate your goodness, act upon your truth and demonstrate your righteousness.” “So, in wonder and awe, we praise you, O great God.” That was on Page 113 of their program book that they all participated in.

THERE IS THE RIGHT TO RELIGION, BUT NOT ALL RELIGIONS ARE RIGHT

Now, let’s be very clear: do people have the right to believe whatever they want to believe? Absolutely. Does God, because of common grace, have elements of truth in many religions and “isms” out there? Absolutely. For instance, I can name all the main traditional religions that all affirm monogamous, heterosexual, covenantal marriage — at least up until now. Praise the Lord for that blessing of common grace. Though the religion is wrong in terms of how a man can be right with God, it does have some right things in it from which we can have conversations.

However, do we praise God for those religions as evidences of His grace? The answer is no. How can I praise God for a manmade religion that deceives people into false assurance that they can be right with God apart from the atoning work of Christ on the cross? I cannot praise God for that and I will not call religions as a gift of grace — on the contrary, they’re counterfeits to the work of grace.

Will they, by God’s common grace, have elements of truth? Absolutely. But are they, of essence, a statement of God’s grace? No, on the contrary, they are manmade religions and they all tell you not the grace that you need but all tell you what men and women can do to earn salvation. Therefore, I don’t see those as something to celebrate in worship but I see those as something to deal with in evangelism and apologetics — that is, the defense of the Gospel.

Therefore, we don’t celebrate God’s goodness by the presence of false religions. I am not ashamed of the Gospel for it — only it — is the power of God unto salvation. For everyone who believes — for the Jew and to the Gentile — for, in it, that Gospel, the righteousness of God is revealed. It’s not revealed in other religions. It is revealed in Christ.

THIS PRAYER BROUGHT NO OPPOSITION?

Now, the amazing thing, Tom, is that this was written, it was vetted and it was included in the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America and this very statement that we just went through stands in opposition to the confession that they say that they believe, the Westminster Confession of Faith — it stands in opposition to it.

As Mr. Elise says, are we making too big of deal of this? First, your leadership put this prayer that celebrates the deceptiveness of the religions of the world by the wording of the prayer and giving praise to God for manmade religions as statements of God’s goodness and righteousness while they lead people with a false assurance of life and they lead people into the pit of hell apart from the saving work of Jesus Christ.

God’s only Son gave His life on the cross and rose from the dead so there is only one way and that is the Christ Who provided that atoning death. And the biggest decision you’re ever going to make in your life is will you stumble over Christ as the rock of salvation or will He become the rock of your salvation?

It is also amazing that no one brought a protest to that prayer. No one who was there, called upon to participate in it, raised a protest in it. And, by the way, that astounds me that there was no protest because I do know some solid pastors that love Jesus and are faithful to His Word within that denomination and some churches but what I long for is a great movement of the Gospel of grace throughout our nation and in the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America as well.

STAND UP FOR CHRIST AND HIS ATONEMENT TO SHARE THAT SALVATION WITH OTHERS

Whenever we see such statements that eviscerate the claim of Christ — that “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man can come to the Father but through me,” — and celebrate manmade religions designed to rebel against God’s grace, designed to deceive men and women from grace and to celebrate those in the context of a worship service is utterly astounding.

It breaks my heart — grieves my heart — because of the false assurance it gives to men and women standing on the edge of eternity. Would you hear me tell you there is the big decision that you will make: either Jesus was a liar, He was a fool, He was insane or He was the Lord. And, if He’s the Lord, then you got to hear what He says: “No man can come to the father but through me.”

Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.

This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin, editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News, who has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and whose work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.

1 hour ago

Christmas with Can’t Miss Alabama has spectacular entertainment with ZooLight Safari and Galaxy of Lights

It’s that time of year to eat, drink and be merry.

ZooLight Safari

Christmas magic is at the 25th annual ZooLight Safari with seasonal songs and holiday classics. Celebrate with writing letters to Santa, crafts, ornament decorating, train and carousel rides and holiday games. Join in the fun Dec. 14-23 and Dec. 26-31 from 5-9 p.m. Admission is $10 and ride tickets are $3.50. Parking is free.

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Learn more at https://www.birminghamzoo.com/.

Holiday Spectacular 2018

Enjoy holiday songs at the Red Mountain Theatre Company (RMTC) through Sunday, Dec. 16. Conservatory students will perform at the Holiday Spectacular with local artists to warm your heart and set the stage for a magical season. Showtimes are Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. Free parking is available on the street in front of the theater and the Park Rite deck, or on the corner of Fourth Avenue North and 19th Street. Paid parking is available in front of the building on 19th Street.

The RMTC is at 301 19th St. N. in Birmingham.

Tickets are available at RMTC.

Christmas at the Falls

It is a wonderful time of the year at Noccalula Falls. Regular park activities are closed to accommodate nightly Christmas entertainment through Sunday, Dec. 30. Festive holiday lights with a visit from Santa will create a magical adventure for all. Admission is $15 and children 3 and under are free. The venue is at 1500 Noccalula Road, Gadsden, 35904.

Call 256-549-4663 or visit www.noccalulafallspark.com.

Galaxy of Lights

Drive through Galaxy of Lights at the Huntsville Botanical Garden through Monday, Dec. 31. The light display and other traditional holiday scenes will be enjoyable from the comfort of your car. Admission is $25 for up to 10 people. Information about vans, buses and discounts are found here.

For details, go to Driving Night FAQ.

The venue is the Huntsville Botanical Garden at 4747 Bob Wallace Ave.

Just Josh – A Chili Country Christmas

Grammy-award nominee Josh Goforth will be in concert at the annual Chili Country Christmas at the We Piddle Around Theater in Brundidge Dec. 14-15. Goforth is a traditional musician and one of the finest fiddle, banjo and guitar players in the country. Audiences will stomp and clap to his fiddle with stories of his grandpa and life in Appalachia. He has performed at the Grand Ole Opry, Carnegie Hall, throughout Europe and Japan and every state except Hawaii. Tickets are $20, which include the pre-show and chili supper.

Doors open at 6:20 p.m.

For tickets or more information, call 334-685-5524 or 334-670-6302.

Santa’s Underground Workshop at Rickwood Caverns

Santa’s Underground Workshop is underway through Sunday, Dec. 23 from 2-8 p.m. at Rickwood Caverns State Park. Visitors can experience the magic of the season, by viewing over 30,000 colored lights and holiday ornaments, as they walk 175 feet down into the cave. “We had a wonderful time last year with our first Santa’s Underground Workshop,” said Rickwood Caverns State Park Manager Amanda White. “We’re looking forward to sharing the amazing cave with our friends who are regular visitors, as well as those who may have never been here before. Admission is $10 per person, ages 4 and older. Groups of 20 or more can get tickets for $8 each.

For more information visit: https://www.alapark.com.

Lawson State Community Choir in concert

The Lawson State Community College (LSCC) Quartet Christmas Concert is Sunday, Dec. 16 at 4 p.m. at the Birmingham Public Library downtown in the East Grand Reading Room. The performers include the LSCC Quartet, comprised of Kayla King, Heavyn Leigh Whiteside, Javaris Williams, and Jemanuel Pullom. The choir will perform popular Christmas songs and carols, such as “Winter Wonderland,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “Silent Night.” LSCC is led by Dr. Jillian Johnson.

For more details, call 205-226-3746 or visit www.bplonline.org.

2018 Governor’s Mansion Christmas in Montgomery

The Alabama Governor’s Mansion holiday tour is Monday, Dec. 17 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Visitors will view the holiday décor, listen to live choir performances and have access to Alabama-made goods in the gift shop.

Call 334-242-7100 to inquire about free tickets.

Enjoy an evening with ‘Dancing with the Stars’

“Dancing with the Stars: Live!” returns to Birmingham Tuesday, Dec. 18 featuring Bobby Bones.  Enjoy everything from ballroom to jazz to modern to hip-hop dance styles. The show starts at 8 p.m. at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex.

Tickets are available through Ticketmaster.

Alabama Shakespeare Festival

The Alabama Shakespeare Festival presents “The Sound of Music” through Sunday, Dec. 30 as a part of its 2018-19 season. The production tells the beloved story of Maria, a young and spirited nun-turned-governess, and the Von Trapp family. The 1965 film adaption starring Julie Andrews won Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Other adaptions have won Tony and Grammy awards.

For tickets, click here.

Ice Skating

Ice skating at Railroad Park continues through Sunday, Jan. 6. The 50-by-80-foot rink will open seven days a week, Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.. Ticket prices include skate rental, tax and unlimited time on the ice. Children 12 and under are $10, adults are $12 and groups of 20 or more skate for $9 per person. Tickets are available online or at the rink. Tickets are valid for the entire day. Although skates are included in the ticket price, individuals are welcome to bring their own skates. The rink will be closed Christmas Day.

Visit www.railroadpark.org/iceskating for season passes.

For details, email info@railroadpark.org or call 205-521-9933.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 hours ago

On this day in Alabama history: Alabama admitted to the Union

December 14, 1819

Alabama became the 22nd state on Dec. 14, 1819, the only state added to the United States that year. The young United States acquired the British claims to all lands east of the Mississippi River, including present-day Alabama, as part of the treaty that ended the American Revolution. Alabama was originally part of the Mississippi Territory, which up until then was claimed by the colony of Georgia. Under pressure from white Southerners to see two slave states emerge, Congress created the Alabama Territory out of the eastern half of the Mississippi Territory on March 3, 1817. William Wyatt Bibb was named governor. The population grew rapidly, which led to petitions for statehood, which was granted two years later.

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Read More at Encyclopedia of Alabama.

For more on Alabama’s Bicentennial, visit Alabama 200.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 hours ago

Ivey’s inaugural events to promote children’s literacy

In keeping with the theme “Keep Alabama Growing,” Governor Kay Ivey’s inaugural committee on Friday announced plans to promote children’s literacy throughout the January 2019 inaugural festivities.

“Investing in the next generation is critical to our ability to keep Alabama growing,” Ivey said in a press release. “As we prepare for four more years of growing opportunities for Alabamians, I can’t think of a better place to begin than with our children’s literacy, ensuring they get a strong start.”

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As part of this effort, the governor’s inaugural committee will be hosting book drives at the Gulf Coast Inaugural Celebration on January 12 and the Inaugural Gala in Montgomery on January 14. The books collected will be donated to the Alabama Literacy Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to improving literacy in communities across the state.

Tickets to the Gulf Coast Inaugural Celebration are available to the general public here. The $25 ticket price will be waived for attendees who bring four children’s books to the celebration.

The Inaugural Gala in Montgomery is invitation only.

More details will be announced in the coming weeks and posted here.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 hours ago

Ohio-based Gregory Industries set to invest $4.21 million in Decatur steel plant

Ohio-based galvanized steel company Gregory Industries plans to make a $4.21 million capital investment in a Decatur steel plant, according to Decatur Daily.

The investment will consist of the purchasing of 100,000 square feet of the Willo Products building and 13 adjacent acres at the site for a galvanized steel tubing plant.

Gregory Industries recently purchased Mid-Ohio Tubing. Once the Morgan County plant undergoes renovations and begins operations, it will carry the name Mid-Ohio Tubing.

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Company officials hope to have the plant open by June. The plan is to hire 20 employees at an average annual wage of $47,000 and add four more employees by the end of the third year.

According to Mike Rothacher, the Gregory vice president of corporate services, the company will hire a plant manager, maintenance workers, machine operators and general laborers.

The Industrial Development Board of Decatur approved $172,400 in state, city and Morgan County tax abatements for the company.

Morgan County Economic Development Association president and CEO Jeremy Nails connected with Gregory officials after Nucor found out the Ohio company was looking to expand by venturing into the south.

“We rely on existing industries to put us in contact with companies that they deal with,” Nails said. “We don’t have a lot of available buildings so we were fortunate that this building was available. It’s a win-win for Gregory and Willo.”

The Gregory plant will produce galvanized steel tubing that will be used in material called G-street metal framing. The plant will feature a tubing mill and a roll-forming mill.

Kyle Morris also contributes daily to Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @RealKyleMorris.

4 hours ago

Alabama House Speaker McCutcheon hospitalized with heart issue, expects to be released following treatment

Alabama Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) announced on Friday that he has been hospitalized with a heart issue but expects to be released following treatment over the weekend.

“Deb and I appreciate the prayers of healing that so many have made on my behalf, and I am well on the road to recovery,” McCutcheon said in a press release.

“Tests indicated that I had a blocked blood vessel in my heart, which resulted in the fatigue and shortness of breath that I felt, and the issue will be treated with simple medication,” he explained.

While returning home from the legislative orientation session at the Alabama State House on Thursday, the speaker suffered mild chest pains and shortness of breath and was driven to an emergency room for examination.

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McCutcheon outlined that he first assumed he was suffering from a case of bronchitis, but an EKG indicated a heart issue, which blood tests later confirmed.

His physician recommended a heart catheterization, and those results showed a blood vessel that had closed but did not require a stent and could be treated with medication.

During his recovery, the speaker said he will continue working on House committee assignments and other legislative issues in preparation for the upcoming organizational and regular sessions of the Alabama Legislature. The organizational session begins on January 8.

During the 2014 legislative session, McCutcheon underwent heart bypass surgery and returned to work before the session ended.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn