Monday, October 4, 2010

My Online "Discussion" With Hillsong's Executive Pastor (Part 6)

OK, time for more dialogue today from my online discussion with Joel A'Bell who is the executive pastor at Hillsong Church in Sydney. But before I do I should tie up one lose end left over from an earlier post in this series. In Part 4 of this series I asked a question that I failed to answer in Part 5. I apologize for this oversight although I think the answer was pretty obvious from just a casual glance at the text from John 4. It would seem that playing fast and loose with the Word of God is becoming a very disturbing trend and theme in the Hillsong culture. The video excerpt used as a companion to Joel A'Bell's message is taken from a Jesus film which recounts Jesus' encounter with the woman at the well as found in John chapter 4. If you watch the video it is pretty much a word for word re-enactment of the Biblical text . . . except that they spliced out a part! Which part? You guessed it - the part where Jesus exposes the woman's adulterous practices. I will not point the finger directly at Joel A'Bell in this instance as he may well be unaware of the final video product (as it was done at a church that he was visiting). But this disturbing trend serves as a timely reminder that we are called to submit to the Scripture. The Scripture is never to be subservient to the agenda of the guy in the sheep-suit.

Anyway, let's pick up my conversation from where Joel responded to my comments regarding his request for a salvation prayer formula (read here if you want your memory refreshed). Before I post Joel's comments I would also like to give Pastor Joel A'Bell the credit for his willingness to respond to me - thank you very much Pastor Joel for extending me this courtesy. This is what Joel had to say:

Cameron, I agree with your list so I don't understand what the problem is. It should be noted that you couldn't merely say it was the next verse in Gal 1 which was my whole point. You had to study many Scripture to come up with your summary. I proclaim the same gospel you speak of but you say I don't. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God's grace in all it's truth. Sometimes you have an hour to explain the gospel, other times, only minutes. What matters most is not specific words but people being saved by God's amazing grace.

If there is one thing that drives me nuts it is postmodernism. When you express something that is the polar opposite of what you are trying to refute and the postmodernist seems to think that the two opposing factions are saying the same thing "in different ways". The difficulty here is that instead of contending for his view Joel seems to be trying to blur the lines of distinction by assering that he agrees with me and preaches the same message. I wrote again:

Joel, if you agree with me on the Gospel then please bring me an audio file of a faithful Gospel presentation coming out of Hillsong. I have heard many sermons by Brian Houston and Hillsong conference guests over the years and I am yet to hear a Gospel presentation that is faithful to what I outlined (which you say you agree with). So send me the link or audio file and I will gladly stand corrected. But even if someone gets it right sometimes, that still does not excuse perverting the gospel on other occasions. For example, a failure to talk about sin and repentance is perverting the Gospel.

Joseph De Araujo (who appeared earlier in this series) chimed back into the conversation and said:

Cameron, I'm not sure what your expectation of the 'text book' altar call is. My view is that if someone is convicted by the spirit, comes forward and 'chooses Jesus' then he/she is then closer to salvation and is then also open to all education about the gospel in full. They can accept Jesus and assure their salvation and then choose to be baptised in water. I don't see how it's preaching a different gospel. Printing & publishing the gospel is one thing, that must be correct in full, but giving an altar call for people who want to have a relationship with Christ without giving the full salvation message?

Back to the altar call/salvation prayer formula again. It would seem that is the key they see in regenerating a lost individual who is "dead in sin" (Ephesians 2:1). Joel then got back into the ring to further defend himself:

I agree with gospel points (even though it was missing some) above and yet you continue to accuse. Just listen to any appeal for salvation that I give, which is most weekends. The gospel is preached in Hillsong Church and the thousands of new and longstanding Christians are testimony to that. If you are daring to question the validity of the salvation of thousands of people who came to Christ through the ministry of Hillsong then it is very clear what your intensions are.

Could someone please explain to me why it is that so many Hillsong defenders (as well as Rick Warren defenders and Rob Bell defenders etc. etc.) seem to think that they can prove that they preach the Gospel rightly by saying that they do. I thought we substantiate claims in the real world. I wrote again to Joel:

Joel, all I asked you for last time was to bring forward one audio file of a sound biblical presentation of the gospel that has been preached at Hillsong. It is a sincere question and I will be sincerely happy if you can show one to me. It shouldn't be difficult considering the many thousands of souls that get saved at Hillsong church.

More to come . . .

Go On To Part 7
Go Back To Part 5
Go Back To Part 1


Anonymous said...

I just thought I'll comment on this.

So sad to see blogs like this and 100s of people commenting on them again and again.

Your theology is wrong and my theology is correct. Your way of doing... it doesn't incorporate such and such points however, mine does. Do you know that Bible is such book that any one can pick up verses from it and try and prove and contradict someone else's teaching. You tell me, according to your opinion and intellectual thinking who is the correct preacher and I can come up with 100s of verses from the Bible and themes from the Bible contradicting him/her. Crazy. Isn't it. Total waste of time. This is one such blog. There are 100s like them on the net. It is like one of those book against Christianity that I read while I was in Arabia. For me as a person to come to Christ, a salvation call from Pastor Brian Houston's preaching on the TV was enough. This was years ago. I am now a changed man. I am attending a Church today where there are so many things that I can find fault with however, the realisation that I don't know it all and neither does the pastors, preachers, teachers etc, keeps me going in love. the kind of back ground that I have had and the joyful life that I am living now are a big contradiction and it happened because I came to Christ and it is true God used Hillsong for it. So what I am saying is even Brian and the person mentioned here Joel A'Bell I am sure doesn't know it all. But thank God for such people. Get a life everyone. I call this the Christian Syndrome. Think about people coming to Christ from a different religion and wisely stop being stumbling blocks.

Troy said...

Hi Cameron,

Would like you to clarify a few things. You said:

"I have heard many sermons by Brian Houston and Hillsong conference guests over the years and I am yet to hear a Gospel presentation that is faithful to what I outlined..."

This is the outline you're referring to:

"At the fundamental level, any Gospel presentation should include these five elements:
1. An explanation of The Holiness of God - His character and nature.
2. An explanation of man's depravity - define and explain sin.
3. The necessity of judgment - heaven and hell are real places where real people go - that God is bound by His character and nature to punish sin.
4. Christ's atoning work and resurrection - that Christ fulfilled the law that sinners break, and took God's wrath on the cross in the place of sinners and that the resurrection verifies God's satisfaction with Christ's payment.
5. The call on all men everywhere to repent of their sin and believe the Gospel."

Do you believe that unless someone is taken through all five of your points they are/will not be saved?

So for example simply saying "Jesus I need you, forgive me for my sin, I give you my life, you are my saviour."

Would someone "be saved" after saying that prayer? Or would God say "pretty close, but not quite..."

What about Romans 10:9:

"If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."

Does simply believing in your heart that Jesus is Lord and confessing that God raised Him from the dead, make you saved? That's what it seems to say here.

What if a person is alone and does not have someone to take them through the "five points", but in a moment of desperation cries out to God, and their life is forever changed? I've heard many stories of this type of encounter where someone meets Christ.

What are your thoughts? Is it the "five points" or you're not in, or can you be saved with out being so specific?

Cameron Buettel said...

Dear Troy and anonymous. I posted a response here but it was too long. It will be posted as a new post tomorrow. Keep watching for my next post on this blog.

Joel said...

Hi Cameron,
We thank you for your continued interest in the work of Hillsong and we share your commitment to advance the Kingdom and build the church. However we do not see any value in a continued discussion given that your focus appears to be on discrediting the work of Hillsong Church rather than gaining a greater understanding of our approach. We trust you understand that our priority is the commission of Christ to reach out to the world with hope and love and that while we may have slightly different approaches to you in some areas, we are both committed to this aim. We are not able to respond to further requests as we feel we have explained our position clearly and accurately.


Cameron Buettel said...

Dear Joel, thank you for your willingness to be interactive. I truly do appreciate it and your overall tone of conversation. I think you'll find todays post interesting (it has nothing to do with you) as I discuss my own journey in Denmark and the need we had to plant a local church. I relates very much to the topics we have discussed.

Please Joel, give me some credit. If my sole aim was to discredit Hillsong then I could have indulged in numerous scandals and finance related accusations that have swirled around Hillsong for a long time now. I lived in Australia for almost all of my life and many of those years I attended an AOG church in Queensland. I was not living under a rock during those years - I could talk about a lot of other things relating to Hillsong if my goals were personal maliciousness.

My passion is the purity of the Gospel and the danger of generating false converts with false assurance via a false gospel that says nothing of God's just and righteous demands on humanity, nothing of man's enormous guilt before God, nothing of the penal substitutionary nature of the atonement, nor Christ's command to repent and turn away from our former sinful lifestyle., and reducing conversion to a personal decision rather than. I would prefer that you tell me I am wrong than try to suggest that we have "slightly different approaches" in some areas.

While Hillsong perseveres in this practice then I will gladly discredit the gospel being propogated by Hillsong. Because it can be a deadly poison of false assurance based on a mountain of missing information and confidence in a human decision. For years I have tried to reason about this privately in the hope that there would be some reform. My blogging on the subject is borne out of that dead end.

But I like you a lot Joel, I really do, and I hope and pray that your conscience would provoke you to be a Luther within the machinations of Hillsong and bring about much needed reform. After all, we are in the business of life and death, heaven and hell, to proclaim God's greatness among the nations - these are not trivial matters.

I love you Joel and am praying for you and do hope that we would one day get the chance to speak in person.

Sincerely Cameron

Anonymous said...

To live for God should be our first priority rather than our last resort..I am 16 yrs old and I'm so inspired by Pastor Brian Houston...I don't really have access to his videos and was wishing if somebody can help me out....I'm all the way from Guyana.....Tweet me @:Ryan bacchus