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


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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.

2 hours ago

Sessions hits Jones over finding impeachment case ‘compelling’ — ‘Merely repeating the partisan attacks of Congressman Adam Schiff’

Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is not happy with Senator Doug Jones (D-AL).

Sessions sent out a forceful response to Yellowhammer News’ reporting on Friday morning that Jones found the evidence against President Donald Trump in the impeachment trial “compelling.”

“Senator Doug Jones’ recent video appears to indicate that he is planning to vote to remove Donald Trump from the office of President of the United States. He is merely repeating the partisan attacks of Congressman Adam Schiff,” began Sessions.

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Sessions said he feels Jones is “not even attempting” to represent the people of Alabama.

Presumably, this is a reference to Jones’ openness to impeaching Trump, who sports around a 60% approval rating among the people of Alabama. It is also good political hay for Sessions to make in a Republican primary where Trump’s approval rating hovers around 90%.

“The Democrats do not allege any crime, nor do the vague charges in the articles of impeachment rise to a level that would justify the removal of our duly-elected President,” added Sessions.

Sessions this week was the subject of a much speculated-about Trump tweet that showed a poll from 2019 that had Sessions leading the field of contenders in the Republican primary.

To conclude his statement on impeachment, Sessions said, “The entire matter is being revealed as a political hit job, paid for by the taxpayers.”

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

3 hours ago

Tuberville: ‘Trump has done more for the rights of the unborn than any other President’

After President Donald J. Trump on Friday became the first sitting president in history to address the March for Life in Washington, D.C., former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville praised Trump’s staunch pro-life stance.

Tuberville is a candidate in Alabama’s 2020 Republican primary for the U.S. Senate.

Trump’s speech can be viewed below:

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Tuberville said in a statement to Yellowhammer News, “President Trump attending the March For Life Rally is a victory for all in the Pro-Life movement.”

“President Trump has done more for the rights of the unborn than any other President,” he concluded. “I’ll continue to fight for the unborn with President Trump when elected to the Senate. It’s simple: life begins at conception!”

Friday’s March for Life occurred two days after the 47th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision.

RELATED: Tuberville ‘all for’ abortion ban — ‘You’ve got to take your hat off to not just Alabama but other states’ on effort to overturn Roe v. Wade

One of the other featured speakers at the 2020 March for Life has a major Alabama tie.

David Platt, formerly the pastor of the Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama, was highlighted on the March for Life’s website as a keynote speaker. Platt made national news last year when Trump showed up to his current church in Virginia; the pastor then movingly prayed over the president on stage.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 hours ago

Bama, Auburn combine for three of four SEC players in 2020 State Farm All-Star Football Challenge

The 22nd annual State Farm All-Star Football Challenge will return to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and air on ESPN2 at 8:00 p.m. CT on January 31.

The exclusive skills competition will feature 24 of college football’s brightest stars divided into six teams based on their college conference. The conferences represented are the ACC, the Big Ten, the Big 12, the Pac-12, the SEC and four of the best players outside of the Power Five that will be called the “Wild Card” team.

Of the four players on the SEC team, the University of Alabama had two, Auburn had one and Vanderbilt had the fourth and final player.

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Team SEC as follows:

Nick Coe, DE, Auburn
Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
Terrell Lewis, LB, Alabama
Riley Neal, QB, Vanderbilt

Each player will individually participate in a timed event, and the competition will then finish with a full team event. All events will be timed and have individual winners, which will be compiled into a cumulative score to determine the winning team. For example, the quarterbacks from each team will compete against each other to win their competition. Ultimately, however, their time will be added to the times of the other competitors on their conference designated team to have a final team score.

Individual events will include the State Farm QB Accuracy Competition, the Mercedes-Benz Obstacle Course, the Rocket Mortgage Strength Challenge and the Hands Competition. To conclude the program, the players will compete as teams in the State Farm Team Competition.

Alumni of the State Farm All-Star Football Challenge include 81 first-round NFL Draft picks, including 38 Pro Bowlers, such as Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes, Jalen Ramsey, Dalvin Cook, Derwin James, Landon Collins, Von Miller, Vernon Davis, Joe Flacco, Dez Bryant, Donovan McNabb, Reggie Wayne and Edgerrin James.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 hours ago

Alabama finishes decade with record low unemployment rate, sets more economic milestones

Alabama Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington on Friday announced that the state maintained its record low unemployment rate last month, ending 2019 with a preliminary, seasonally adjusted December unemployment rate of 2.7%, unchanged from November, and far below December 2018’s rate of 3.8%.

Multiple other economic records were again set last month, in addition to the record low unemployment rate holding steady.

In a statement, Governor Kay Ivey said, “I’m so proud to be able to close out this decade with record-breaking economic measures.”

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December’s unemployment rate, which ranked fifth-lowest in the nation, represented 2,204,740 employed people, a new record high, representing an increase of 83,971 from December 2018. Additionally, 61,458 people were counted as unemployed, another new record and a drop of 22,051 from last year. Moreover, the civilian labor force grew by 61,920 over the year to a new record high of 2,266,198.

“All year long, we’ve had good news to share, and to be able to end the year, and the decade, on such a positive note is wonderful,” the governor concluded. “Earlier this year, Alabama had never reported an unemployment rate lower than 3.0%, and now we’ve had one for the last three months! Nearly 84,000 more people have jobs now than last year. I’m excited about the path that Alabama is on, and the positive impacts this news has on our people.”

Wage and salary employment grew over the year by 46,300. Yearly gains were seen in the professional and business services sector (+15,000), the leisure and hospitality sector (+7,800) and the government sector (+6,100), among others. Over the month, gains were seen in the trade, transportation and utilities sector (+4,000), the construction sector (+700) and the professional and business services sector (+200).

“For the eleventh month in a row, our job growth has met or surpassed the nation’s,” Washington stated. “We’ve gained over 46,000 jobs since last December, and we continue to see employers posting job ads.”

Additionally, Alabama’s job growth rate for December was 2.2%. It significantly surpassed the national job growth rate of 1.4%, marking the 11th month that Alabama’s job growth rate matched or exceeded the national rate in 2019.

“Average weekly wages showed significant growth this month, registering at an all-time high,” Washington added. “Additionally, we saw many sectors and subsectors reach all-time wage highs, including manufacturing, with a monthly wage increase of $25.57, and financial activities, with a monthly wage increase of $50.78.”

Total private average weekly wages measured $875.44 in December, representing a monthly increase of $15.14.

Counties with the lowest unemployment rates last month were: Shelby County at 1.8%; Marshall, Madison and Cullman Counties at 2.1%; and Tuscaloosa, St. Clair, Morgan, Limestone, Lee and Elmore Counties at 2.2%.

Counties with the highest unemployment rates were: Wilcox County at 6.8%, Clarke County at 5.5% and Greene and Lowndes Counties at 4.8%.

Major cities with the lowest unemployment rates were: Vestavia Hills at 1.4%, Homewood at 1.6% and Hoover and Northport at 1.7%.

Major cities with the highest unemployment rates were: Prichard at 5.0%, Selma at 4.9% and Bessemer at 3.7%.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 hours ago

What does Trump’s tweet say about his position on the U.S. Senate race in Alabama?

After remaining silent on the GOP primary in 2020 U.S. Senate race for the state of Alabama, the President of the United States has checked in via Twitter.

But what does it mean?

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The answer to this question all depends on how you lean in the race.

Do you support former Attorney General Jeff Sessions?

Trump is happy he is leading!

Do you support former Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville?

Trump is happy that Tuberville is close to Sessions (he did tweet a poll put out by a pro-Tuberville group)!

Do you support U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope)?

Trump is bringing attention to the race to get people to pay attention to all of the ads on television and radio by the Byrne campaign.

Do you support former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore?

Hey, at least Trump didn’t say he wanted Moore out of the race again.

Do you support State Representative Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs)?

Hey look, Arnold Mooney is included!

Do you support Stanley Adair?

Hi, Stanley!

Before anyone gets too excited, Trump was tweeting about a bunch of races, so maybe it means nothing.

Also, let’s remember that Trump was 0-2 in 2017. He backed then- Senator Luther Strange (R-AL) for reelection to the seat he was appointed to and he then begrudgingly backed Roy Moore. Obviously, the existence of U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) shows he was not successful in either endeavor.

Because of this, President Donald Trump should just sit this one out.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN.