A BIBLICAL CRITIQUE OF BISHOP MICHAEL CURRY’S SERMON ON ‘LOVE’
Many have commented that Bishop Michael Curry’s exuberant sermon was such a powerful message and it should get people to reading the bible. Still others that even if it wasn’t spot on we should take the Philippians 1:18 attitude “What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached.” – But that is the key question – was Christ preached? Was the love of Christ preached?
1) Firstly if it had been it would have been the first time that the preaching of Christ met with worldwide commendation! Everyone loved it – from the atheist Ed Miliband, to the LGBT activist Vicky Beeching. Liberal and Evangelical alike sang its praises. It was such a post-modern meaningless sermon that anyone could take any meaning they liked. Listen to what Jesus says: “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets!” (Luke 6:26)
2) It was hypocritical. Bishop Curry was at a wedding that upheld the traditional Cranmer prayer book (and biblical) view of marriage as being between a man and a woman – and which expressly said so. Yet he does not believe that – and has been active in getting the reference to procreation and to man and woman removed from the prayer book in his church.
Incidentally his province is meant to be under the discipline of the whole Anglican Church, yet the Archbishop of Canterbury not only invited him but also enthusiastically endorsed him. Biblical Evangelicals within the Church of England have been well and truly shafted! It is important to grasp that Liberals like Curry use words in different ways – we need to ask what does he mean by Jesus, love and the cross. We may be hearing one thing when he is saying another.
3) It was unbiblical – The sermon cited 1 John 4:8 out of context. I know that he did not have time to do all of this, but there is no way that the little he did say is reflective of the letter he took it from. Just to mention a few things.
a) Sin – John sets the whole of the Cross-against the background of sin. Bishop Curry did not mention sin once. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1:8).
b) The Atonement – John tells us that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. That forgiveness for sins comes from that. Jesus is the atoning sacrifice (the propitiation, turning aside the just wrath of God against sin) for our sins, and not only ours but the sin of the whole world” (2:2). “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (3:16). “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (4:10). When Curry spoke of the cross, it spoke of it as sacrificial, as exemplary, not as THE atoning sacrifice. We too can be sacrificial and it is that sacrificial love that is redemptive and changes the world. Can you see what he is doing? He is turning the cross from being THE redemptive work, to it being an example of redemptive love that we can all show. He is teaching us that we can save ourselves and indeed save the world by just having the kind of love that Christ had and following his example. That is not the Gospel. It is the antithesis of the Gospel.
c) Obedience – Obedience was left out of the marriage vows. It was also left out of the sermon. Which given that it was a sermon about love and love is defined as obedience in his text is a big miss! “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.” (2:3). “But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.” (2:5). But the Bishop said nothing about obeying the commands of God. Imagine if he had said this – “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments” (5:3). Do you think for a moment he would have had such a positive response?
d) Loving the World was commended, not condemned “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (2:15) “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.” (3:1). Bishop Curry made no distinction at all between Jesus and the world. So the world loved his message. If he had preached Christ, the world would have hated it. As it is the world loved his message, because it pushed all their buttons.
e) Beware False Teachers – Many antichrists have come (2:18) “Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil” (3:7-8). “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world!” (1Jn 4:1)
False teaching, false spirits, the devil being at work. Again none of that was mentioned. The whole concept of evil and the devils work was not part of the picture at all. But our battle is not against flesh and blood. Nor against Donald Trump. It is against sin, self and Satan.
f) There is a great division between those who know God and those who don’t. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. (4:8). Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God (5:1). If you don’t know Jesus you are not born of God. And if you are not born of the God who is love, you cannot love in the way that John is speaking about.
Imagine if Bishop Curry had said to the young couple – “it’s great to see your love, but there is a greater love, and you really need to know that love. You need to know the God who is love. You need to trust and accept his atoning work of sacrifice. You need to show your love by obeying his commands (including being faithful to each other). You need to watch out for the evil in your own heart, and that from the devil. Always look to Christ “ But he didn’t (even though the Cranmer’s Anglican liturgy recognizes all those things); and he couldn’t because he does not believe that. He disobeys Gods word, denies his atoning sacrifice and does not teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
So what does the fact that so many good Christians and pastors accepted this as a ‘gospel sermon’ tell us?
It teaches us that the world has had a far deeper impact on our general thinking than we realize. We just seem to accept its premises.
It teaches us that we should not use the world’s methodology. I know that there are some who think that just because Jesus is mentioned and the bible quoted, this is a great thing, and even if he was not especially orthodox, we can use this as a kind of marketing tool. Whilst I agree that we should use every opportunity we can get – we should not justify or accept false teaching, just because it can be turned for good. It is very dangerous to say to our people that a sermon which gave a false view of the cross, a wrong view of salvation and was preached by a man who denies the Bible as the word of God, is somehow to be celebrated as something that points people to Jesus.
It teaches us that we need to be on our guard. The false teachers that Peter mentions were not people who were open in their heresy. They “secretly introduce destructive heresies”. Paul warned the Ephesian elders “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears” (Acts 20:29-31).
The devil is subtle. Most churches gradually decline – they don’t usually make one big jump. We need to walk the straight line – never deviating one iota from the Word of God – whether to legalism on the one hand, or liberalism on the other.
We should not be surprised. Remember what Jesus said: “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?(Matthew 7:15-16).
The lesson of the churches in Revelation is that even faithful churches with hard working people can be deceived.
“And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges;
I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.
But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.
So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth!” [Rev 2:12-16]
A teacher who calls sexual immorality ‘love’ is following the teaching of Balaam, not Christ!
I would appeal to my fellow evangelicals, especially those who are in church leadership. Don’t be deceived. I know I can be deceived – I have been in the past and I pray that the Lord would deliver me from that in the future. And don’t let the flock which God has entrusted you with be deceived. Stick to the Word, discern the spirits, and be bold and courageous in standing up against those who come either as roaring lions or as angels of light – and preach to us another Gospel and a different Jesus.
Finally – I don’t believe that 2 billion people heard the Gospel in this sermon. The only people who heard the Gospel in it were Christians who already know the Gospel. Instead of rejoicing in the crumbs we get from heretics, we should be seeking to learn more of Christ ourselves and get out there and tell the world about the real Jesus – one person at a time!
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches!