Mr. Kalsbeek is a teacher in Covenant Christian High School and a member of Hope Protestant Reformed Church, Walker, Michigan.

And of the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do: the heads of them were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their commandment.

I Chronicles 12:32


Why Christianity Must Change or Die!


With that as his title, retired Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong writes:

I am increasingly unimpressed with what people call “orthodox” Christianity…. I am convinced that the future of the Christian faith rests not on reasserting those words of antiquity, but on our ability to refashion the symbols by which Christianity is to be understood in our time.

I think the time has come for the Church to invite its people into a frightening journey into the mystery of God and to stop proclaiming that somehow the truth of God is still bound by either our literal scriptures or our literal creeds.1

Regrettably Bishop Spong is no longer on the fringe of “Christian” thinking in Western society. He and many others who have their roots in the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century have rejected the precious truth that the Lord has privileged the West to proclaim. Instead they present a Chameleon-Christianity: A Christianity that sometimes presents herself to the world as the bride of Christ, but more and more reveals her true colors as the enemy of Christ.

Of course, this has not happened overnight. Step by unrelenting step these denominations have gone deeper and deeper into the abyss of apostasy, to the point that today man’s “wisdom” has replaced almost entirely both Scripture and the creeds. Solomon informs Issachar that she should learn from their example. He writes:

I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down. Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction.

Prov. 24:30-32

Thus as children of Issachar we are enjoined by Solomon to “consider well” and “receive instruction” from the sluggard’s garden as represented by the chameleon-like church of our day.


What Can Be Seen in the Garden


“Considering well” the mainline Protestant denominations of our day reveals that which looks less and less like the bride of Christ and more and more like the scarlet whore of Babylon (Rev. 17). Examples abound.

Much of Western Christianity is turning “green.” She is caving in to accusers who charge her with being anti-environment. It is alleged that since Scripture places man over the creation, the church is guilty of excusing, if not promoting, the destruction of the planet.

…some scholars contend that the seeds of the West’s exploitation of nature can be found in the Judeo-Christian tradition itself … cultural historian Lynn White, Jr. made the case that the Bible gives humans license to exploit nature because it sets man above nature. Genesis holds that man was made in God’s image and that man named the animals, White wrote, establishing dominance over them. This covenant between God and man implies that the world was made expressly for the benefit of human beings: Because humans consider themselves superior to natural processes, they are willing to exploit the earth’s resources to satisfy every whim.2

In response to charges like this, many churches are joining the ranks of those who celebrate Earth Day worship services and preach

1.John Shelby Spong, Why Christianity Must Change or Die (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1998), 19-20.

2.Betsy Carpenter, “The Greening of the Church.” U.S. News & World Report Nov. 27, 1989: 66-67.

environmental protection from their pulpits.

Also, much of Western Christianity, previously strongly opposed to it, has been changing color on the abortion issue. A typical example is reported in the August 2002 AFA Journal as follows:

During its annual meeting, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the nation’s largest Presbyterian denomination, OK’d a woman’s right to abort her child.

The PCUSA said abortion was acceptable as long as an unborn child is not “viable,” meaning that it could not survive outside the mother’s womb, even with medical help. Even after that, however, delegates said a woman could still abort her child after what it calls “prayer and pastoral consultation.”

The decision, passed by an overwhelming 394-112 margin, took place at the PCUSA’s annual General Assembly, held in Columbus, Ohio.

…delegates also voted to retain payment for late-term abortions in the denomination’s medical benefits plan.

Neither has the sexual revolution that has conquered the West left Protestant Christianity untouched. Notice how rapidly mainline Protestantism is surrendering to the homosexual agenda. They justify it by following the lead of Bishop Spong, who says that the truth of God is no longer bound by the Scriptures. As reported in the AFA Journal:

Those promoting what is called “gay” theology … actively reinterpret Scripture so that, instead of condemning homosexuality as sin, the Bible is said to approve of it.

The “gay theology” … has not stayed within the walls of purely homosexual religious entities, however. Instead, it has been sown with evangelistic fervor into mainstream Protestant denominations which had already been struggling for decades to come to terms with the vociferous liberal elements within.3

Is it any wonder, then, that practicing homosexuals, and even transsexuals, are being accepted not only as members, but also as ministers in good standing in some of these churches?

Even worse, Chameleon-Christianity has begun to celebrate the dissolution of marriage, that most intimate relationship which pictures the bond between Christ and His church. While God says “that he hateth putting away” (Mal. 2:16), that which calls itself church will institute ceremonies to administer what God hates.4


How the sluggard’s garden came to be that way


Many more examples of disarray in the garden of Chameleon-Christianity could be presented, but we must move on to the how: How did it come to look that way? Dr. Ken Ham, in an article titled “Eisegesis: A Genesis Virus,” explains it this way:

WORLD ALERT: A deadly virus is sweeping through the church members worldwide. Investigators have found that the reason this virus is fairly specific to church attendees is that it has found safe harbor in many seminaries and Bible colleges. In these institutions, the virus is transmitted to students who eventually pass it on to the unsuspecting church members (especially if they become pastors)…. The virus has been called “The Eisegesis Virus,” and has been found responsible for the “death” of many church members.

This report summarizes the nature of this “virus” that does not affect a person’s physical body, but infects their thinking in such a way that people are no longer able to consistently determine absolute truth. I consider this virus to be one of the most dangerous in the world today….

Now I am not referring to a biological virus… but to what I could call a “spiritual virus”—a way of thinking that has taken over the minds of many church leaders and most church members. This has caused them to incorrectly interpret God’s Holy Word. This often results in doubt about, or even unbelief in, Biblical doctrines….

…Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary defines “eisegesis” as: “an interpretation, esp. of Scripture, that expresses the interpreter’s own ideas, bias, or the like, rather than the meaning of the text.”

Thus when someone reads something into Scripture—this would be an example of eisegesis. For instance, nowhere does the Bible ever speak of billions of years. In

Genesis 1,

the word day (yom) in context, as used for the six Days of Creation (with a number and the phrase evening and morning), means these days are approximately 24-hour periods—ordinary days.

However, probably the majority of church leaders insist these days could represent billions of years—this is “eisegesis,” as the billions of years is a belief from outside of Scripture that is read into Scripture (resulting in the clear word of Scripture being interpreted on the basis of these outside ideas)….

Many church members (and particularly their children and subsequent generations) recognize that if the Bible has to be reinterpreted on the basis of the “world’s” teachings, then the Bible is not absolute truth. When they are taught to use eisegesis in Genesis, they begin to consistently apply this same interpretation method to the rest of the Bible. Ultimately, they stop taking the Bible seriously, and within a generation or two, people begin to reject the Christian faith and stop attending church. Thus we see the “death” of many church members.5

If Ham is correct, it should not be surprising that Chameleon-Christianity keeps changing color.Removing herself from the unchanging environment of Scripture, she leaves herself open to “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart,” which in God’s evaluation is “only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). Chameleon-Christianity is left with “relative truth,” which changes as the imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart changes.


Results for the Sluggard’s Garden


Is it any wonder that mainline Christianity is in disarray? Bishop Spong says Christianity must change or die, but the truth is that Christianity is dying because it is changing!

First of all, this is true numerically. Some news article titles tell the grim story: “Fewer Americans in Church: Lack of Relevance Cited,” and “Hollow Halls in Europe’s Churches.” The contents of the articles are even grimmer:

In Britain and France, less than 10 percent of the population attends church as often as once a month. In Scandinavia, the handsome high-steepled churches that mark every city and village attract less than 3 percent of the people.6

…About 40 percent of Americans and 20 percent of Canadians say they go to church regularly—and probably at least half of them are telling the truth.7

The above-mentioned articles also present some of the most common reasons people are deserting their churches. They include: “hypocrisy,” “non-compelling messages from the pulpit,” and the complaint that “Churches offer musical productions and food, but they are not answering the questions.” Questions, by the way, which can only be answered meaningfully by Scripture and the creeds.

Second, Christianity is dying theologically. It seems that all the cardinal doctrines of Scripture, for which faithful saints of the past have given their lives, are being rejected as old-fashioned. When the church stops proclaiming that “the truth of God is still bound by either our literal scriptures or our creeds,” as Bishop Spong says it should, there is no foundation upon which the church can stand. Little wonder then, that in our day Chameleon-Christianity is espousing “openness of God theology”: A theology that on the one hand states that God “…in almighty power, created all that is and is sovereign over all…” and on the other hand can say,

…God has chosen not to control every detail that happens in our lives. Moreover, God has flexible strategies. Though the divine nature does not change, God reacts to contingencies, even adjusting his plans if necessary, to take into account the decisions of his free creatures.8

Any rational person can see the glaring contradiction of those statements of “openness theology,” yet they are accepted because liberal Christianity is no longer bound by Scripture and the creeds. Instead she is left to her own corrupt, changing imaginations.

Another reason why the sluggard’s garden looks the way it does is that the good plants have been tossed out or have been uprooted and left to die. There is a growing intolerance for those who are not inclined to adopt the chameleon agenda. Following is just one example of how pressure is applied to non-conformists:

The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) convened its annual National Black Religious Summit on Sexuality in the nation’s capital in July. Once again, socially conservative black churches were chided for adhering to traditional Christian teachings against abortion, homosexuality and nonmarital sex.

“Claim your dream… don’t let anything get in the way!” exclaimed RCRC Chairwoman Imagene Bigham Stewart….9

Some “Instruction” from the Sluggard’s Garden for Issachar


Spong is wrong! Issachar must cling ever so tightly to the Scriptures and creeds. Otherwise she with Chameleon-Christianity will be “…tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive…” (Eph. 4:14). For some, that may mean being labeled “intolerant,” for others it may result in their being removed from the church, and for others it may necessitate leaving the church of their family and friends.

But where should one go? Some are listening to false prophet Harold Camping (see his book, 1994), who tells true Christians not to go to church. Rather he advises them to “…drop their church memberships, leave their congregations, and just listen to the radio.”10 The Holy Scriptures lead modern-day Issachar in a different direction: “the wilderness (Rev. 12:14).” Rev. Herman Hoeksema explains the meaning of this wilderness-refuge for God’s people as follows:

The church as such is a separate institution in the world. She has her own king. And as an institution the church does not recognize any other ruler…. From this it follows that the church has its own laws…. The church as an institute is a separate institution. She has her own King, her own laws, her own life. She does not mingle in politics as such…. She lives in separation. Even as the children of Israel in the desert lived in separation… so also the church of the New Testament is in the wilderness with regard to the world and its power and its life…. The church as an institution is separate from the life of the world. She has received a God-prepared place in the wilderness.11

Within the instituted, true church there is safety and comfort for faithful Issachar. This is not world-flight, as some would allege. Rather, this is the life of the antithesis. Within the instituted church the Lord is pleased to preserve His truth. By means of the instituted church God’s people are nourished! Out of the instituted church Chameleon-Christianity is admonished.

Also, Issachar should “consider well” that Chameleon-Christianity did not change color overnight. Where she is today is the culmination of many “small” departures from the truth over many generations.

Because her members have corrupt, sinful natures, Issachar is always susceptible to similar departures. Thus she must be “reformed and always reforming.” She must self-evaluate: Does she have some skeletons in her closet that will come to haunt her and her future generations? For example, does she claim a sovereign, predestinating God and at the same time teach that God offers salvation to all? Does she claim a sovereign, predestinating God and at the same time argue for a conditional covenant? Or can she simply accept these as “paradoxes”? And if she can, is not “openness of God theology” just a little more of the same?

And what about the practical implications of her doctrine? Consider just one example: Can Issachar accept as “good” even one of the dramatic productions of Hollywood, and at the same time maintain the biblical truth of natural man’s total depravity? And if she can, how long will it be before Issachar’s children see the inconsistency and decide that the natural man is not totally depraved after all?

Indeed, much can be learned from Chameleon-Christianity’s garden!

Sons of Issachar, let us grow in our understanding of the times and live!

1.John Shelby Spong, Why Christianity Must Change or Die (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1998), 19-20.

2.Betsy Carpenter, “The Greening of the Church.” U.S. News & World Report Nov. 27, 1989: 66-67.

3.Tim Wilkins, “The Gospel of Disgrace: ‘Gay’ Theology Comes to Church,” AFA Journal August, 2002:10.

4.Marvin Olasky, The Washington Times, June 9, 2001:10.

5.Ken Ham, “Eisegesis: A Genesis Virus,” Creation June-August, 2002:16-17.

6.T.R. Reid, “Hollow Halls in Europe’s Churches,” The Washington Post May 6, 2001.

7.John O’Sullivan, “Is Europe Losing Its Faith?” Insight August 26, 2002:27.

8.Christopher A. Hall and John Sanders, “Your Next Move? Openness Theology,” Christianity Today May 21, 2001:40.

9.Mark Tooley, “A ‘Sex God’ in the Most Traditional of Senses,” Insight September 30, 2002:46.

10.Gene Edward Veith, “Camping Out,” World April 20, 2002:14.

11.Herman Hoeksema, Behold He Cometh (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 1969), 444-445.