Sunday, January 02, 2011

The True Woman Manifesto: Mixing up Law and Gospel

Woodcut of the Augsburg Confession, Article VI...Image via WikipediaThe True Woman Manifesto is a short document making the circuit in the pop-Christian media. The document comes out of the True Woman conferences and is sponsored by Revive Our Hearts ministries of Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

In order for Confessional Lutherans and others to understand the foundations of the True Woman Manifesto we need to know what these groups teach about the Means of Grace and what worship means to them.

All churches and groups that claim the name Christian also claim to follow the Bible.  But what is it, exactly, that they confess?

Lutherans confess these truths in the Meaning of the Third Article:
the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith; in which Christian Church He forgives daily and richly all sins to me and all believers...
This is the heart and essence of Confessional Lutheran worship. God the Holy Spirit is the one who gathers us together around His Gifts of Word and Sacrament through which He says He gives us grace, forgiveness, teaches and sanctifies us.

If the teachers behind the True Woman Manifesto deny the power of God to save and forgive through the Means of Grace--the Word and the Sacraments He has given in His Word-- what do they put in their place?

The groups strongly deny the Scripture's teaching on the Sacraments. DeMoss, in a transcription of a radio program, said:
Baptism by water does not save you. It’s merely an outward, external symbol, an expression of an internal reality. It’s an expression of a transformation that has taken place in our hearts. (Emphasis Original)
Have you been baptized? It will not save you, but it’s an expression of obedience, an expression of identifying to the world, to anyone who watches, and a reminder to yourself, of what Christ has done in your heart. (Mark of the Covenant: Series: Lessons from the Life of Joshua (Part 8): Before We Conquer Tuesday, April 28 2009)
In another transcription DeMoss spoke of the Lord's Supper in this way:
As we see this meal unfolding, Jesus is the One who serves. He breaks the bread. And He speaks of how it pictures His body that is going to be given for the salvation of the world. And He distributes the bread to the disciples. He distributes the wine, the juice; and He says, "This is a picture of My blood which is going to be shed for you." And He distributes it to His disciples. (The Coming Wedding: Series: The Heart of Hospitality Tuesday, December 10 2002)

 Another leader associated with this movement is James MacDonald pastor at Harvest Bible Chapel. His church's statement on Baptism and Communion says:
Baptism and communion are the two ordinances required in the church. We believe that Christian baptism by immersion in water is a public identification with Jesus Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. Although baptism is not required for salvation, it is commanded of all believers and is for believers only (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 2:38, 41; Acts 18:8). Scripture shows that a person was baptized after personally receiving forgiveness of sin through accepting Jesus Christ. The waters of baptism are a symbol of our death, burial, and resurrection to newness of life that happens when we become new creations in Christ (Colossians 2:12; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 6:1-4).

Communion is the commemoration by believers of Christ's death, and a reminder—through the bread and the juice—of the Savior's broken body and shed blood. Communion is to be a time of confession of our sin and should be preceded by careful self-examination according to Acts 4:13; Romans 6:3-6; 1 Corinthians 11:20-29
 For both DeMoss and MacDonald Baptism and the Lord's Supper are outward symbols, reminders. They are comfortable with changing the words spoken by Christ to fit their views. And they are comfortable in changing the elements of the Supper to fit their own views.

In essence the teachers behind the True Woman Manifesto replace the promises of God's Word in Baptism and the Lord's Supper with an emphasis on their own works. They are only outward symbols to be done by Christians to show God and the world that they are sincere. Grace is removed, the focus is on the works of man.

MacDonald's church says the following about worship:
The chief purpose of mankind is to glorify God by loving Him with the entire heart, soul, mind, and might (Deuteronomy 6:5; Isaiah 43:7; Matthew 22:37). All believing men, women, and children are to glorify God and thus fulfill the purpose of their existence. Worship glorifies God through adoration (Psalm 95:6), praise (Psalm 99:5), prayer (Daniel 6:10-11), thanksgiving (Nehemiah 12:46), and a complete yielding to Him (Romans 12:1). Worship declares His worth, pays Him homage, and celebrates Him in a life of devotion. We seek to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth (Exodus 15:1-21; 2 Samuel 6:14-16; Psalm 5:7; John 4:23-24; Revelation 4:11; 5:12). 
 Notice the focus? Who is serving whom? The Divine Service of the Church gathering around the Word and Sacrament to be fed and nourished by God is replaced by the loud, sincere, pretty works, words, and music made by people in an effort to please God.

While we might want to praise the supporters of the True Woman Manifesto for making an effort to increase godliness, in fact, all they are doing is placing more burdens of the Law upon people. And this they do while denying the Means of Grace through which the Holy Spirit enlightens and sanctifies the Church on earth.

Lutherans can not take part with or sign the True Woman Manifesto because of the false teaching of its promoters, and because the document itself claims to be a "personal and corporate declaration of belief" while it promotes legalism and other false doctrine.

The document contains a Title, a preamble, a statement of five main beliefs, a listing of thirteen affirmations, and a list of fifteen intentions for the signers to follow and promote. These parts are interspersed with end note numbers where they have gathered the Bible passages they believe support their confession.

In the third statement of belief is the only one of the five to speak of how the individual is redeemed. In that third statement the act of repentance is placed along side faith in Christ in an ambiguous way that allows work of repenting to be a cause of salvation.

The statement says:
We believe that sin has separated every human being from God and made us incapable of reflecting His image as we were created to do. Our only hope for restoration and salvation is found in repenting of our sin and trusting in Christ who lived a sinless life, died in our place, and was raised from the dead. 
Yes, this could be understood correctly. That is: God calls us through His Law to repent and through His means of Grace He "calls, gathers, and enlightens us" giving us faith, forgiveness, and eternal life. But that is reading this text with Lutheran eyes.

But this document will not be understood this way by most. For most of those denominations under the name Christian want to look at the quality of a person's repentance. They view this quality as just as important as faith--sometimes even more so. Salvation becomes contingent on how really sorry an individual is; how really sincere a person is; how really devoted a person is, and how much a person's love for God motivates his or her repentance. These qualities of repentance become the focus of the struggle for salvation rather than the grace of God in Christ. It is a focus on human works.

The groups sponsoring this movement to renewal deny the very means through which God grants His grace. They focus on a list of things individual Christian women are to do to make themselves conform to their view of what biblical womanhood should be. While denying the Means of Grace they direct women to become better by doing better under both the Law of God and their own traditions.

But a person cannot save himself/herself by God by the Law, nor can a person become a better Christian by simply observing the Law. Salvation is only through faith in Christ's work for us. And that salvation is given to us through the Word and Sacrament and nowhere else.

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