Apostasy In The Church
How it is accelerating and how it
relates to the return of Jesus.
Observations by Dr. David R. Reagan
(Note: This article is a highly
abridged version of a chapter from Dr. David Reagan’s
new book, Living for Christ in the End Times.)
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 people’s love will grow cold" (Matthew
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 Paul’s 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 and justice.
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 Lord’s return (2 Peter 3:3-4). What is so shocking
is that most of the mockery is coming from within the
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 Man’s search for God, and therefore it
is filled with myth, legend and superstition.
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,
"It’s not necessary to be born-again. You have
your way to God; I have mine. I found eternal peace
in a Shinto shrine . . . I’ve been to Shinto shrines,
and God is everywhere."
Phil Donahue was so shocked that he actually came to
the defense of Christianity. "But you’re a Christian
minister," he retorted, "and you’re suppose
to tell me that Christ is the way and the truth and
the life, aren’t you?"
Peale replied, "Christ is one of the ways. God
Look again at Peale’s incredible statement: "It’s
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 to believe?
Schuller’s Apostate Gospel
Peale’s 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 Man’s 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
The Response of Christendom
Schuller’s 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
I don’t 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 to
Further Evidence of Schuller’s Apostasy
In an appearance on the Phil Donahue show in 1980,
Schuller tried, incredibly, to portray Jesus as an egotist!
Here’s what he said:10
The Cross sanctifies the ego trip. That’s 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 — 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 cult.11
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 wouldn’t 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 God’s 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 Matthew’s account of
the Lord’s 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 Caesar’s,
and to God the things that are God’s." Likewise,
only one statement from the Gospel of John qualified
for the red coloring: "A prophet has no honor in
his own country" (John 4:44).
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 Gospel’s
account of the life and teachings of Jesus, the efficacy
of Christ’s 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 world’s 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,
I’ll 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
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 ‘Bible Sword Drill’
and sing inspirational songs like ‘Kumbaya’ and ‘I’ve
Got Joy, Joy, Joy Down in My Heart.’"
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. I’m not talking about inter-denominational
— 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 world’s
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 Pope’s 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 preaching:22
Christianity without Christ
Forgiveness without repentance
Salvation without regeneration
Heaven without Hell
That’s 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 can’t lick them, join
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 Spong’s 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 Schuller’s 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 Schuller’s thought
that can be found on the Internet. One is an article
by David W. Cloud entitled "Evangelicals and Modernist
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.
10. The Phil Donahue Show, transcript
08120, August 12, 1980, p. 10.
11. Rick Miesel, p. 5. Schuller’s 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, "What’s Happening
to the Faith?" The Berean Call, May 1998,
13. "The Jesus Seminar: The Search
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 seminar’s organization,
methodology, and conclusions. See David Van Biema, "The
Gospel Truth? — 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, pp. 30-33.
16. "Bishop gives up Bible for
Lent" unsigned article, Daily Mail, London,
England, February 14, 1997, p. 31.
17. Dave Hunt, "What’s Happening
to the Faith?" The Berean Call, May 1998,
p. 1. Dr. Godsey’s views can be found in the book, When
We Talk About God, Let’s 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, p.19.
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, pp. 78-79.
22. Joseph Revell, "The Salvation
Army Revisited," Report from the Wall, (an
Internet daily devotional message sent from email@example.com),
December 18, 1998, p. 2.