Apologetics: ə-pŏl'ə-jĕt'ĭks from the Greek απоλоγία Def: The branch of theology that is concerned with defending or proving the truth of Christian doctrines.

Christian . . . or Not?

Written By Esthermay Bentley-Goossen on 08 February 2010

hristian is a great noun and a poor adjective.”
–Rob Bell

Nearly thirty years ago, Robert Schuller wrote a book called Self-Esteem: The New Reformation. The book did indeed usher in a new "reformation" -- a reformation of anti-biblical, anti-Christian thought that has permeated the culture and effectively turned out a great many Christians in our generation who are anything but a reflection of the very first Christians of the New Testament.

So, can the same terminology used in the First Century to describe Christ-Followers be used today? Has the meaning changed? Have Christians changed?

Rob Bell's ministry is the direct result of Mr. Schuller's "reformation" so you do have to wonder what he's really thinking; and how he defines the term Christian. But when Mr. Bell tells us that the word "Christian is a great noun and a poor adjective," it's easy to agree with the last half of the statement. The word "Christian is indeed a poor adjective as used to describe the majority of mainline churches today. Especially when you consider the message of the New Testament Church and compare it with the message of a great number of today's churches.

But the word "Christian" is also an incredibly loosely used noun ascribed to most churchgoers of our culture. . . Thanks to Mr. Schuller's New Reformation and the resulting Seeker-Sensitive Movement. Biblically and properly defined, however, Christian is a great noun.

It really does depend on how you define "Christian."

Mr. Bell is a prominent leader in The Seeker-Sensitive Movement. Are you familiar with this term? Seeker-Sensitive Churches give their audience what they want -- what they "seek." They "seek" relevant sermons and exciting programs that may or may not have anything to do with Biblical Christianity.

Seeker churches rarely use expository preaching and seldom do they ever bring up redemption, or sin. These are the recurring themes of the Bible, but they are not themes that people "seek." The Seeker Movement is a church "style" that dominates American churches; and it is anything but reflective of the New Testament Church.
I'm not sure what Mr. Bell is trying to tell us in his quote
Because I'm not sure what he means by "Christian."

Christianity, in the hands of these Seeker-Sensitive churches has diluted (and in many cases completely misrepresented) the divine message of Salvation as revealed in the Bible beginning in the Book of Genesis!

Seeker Sensitive churches have replaced the Glory of God with the satisfaction of human beings. They have neglected to teach -- or even understand -- the entire Story of Redemption which unfolds in every single page of the Bible. They have effectively done away with the Word of GOD. Except -- of course -- for it's soundbites: those selected "feel-good," "Jesus-loves-you" verses taken out of context to give the audience what it wants to hear.
. . . 'cause who wants to hear the that we are sinners who deserve Hell?
To be sure, the Book of Romans has been
completely ripped out of the
Seeker-Sensitive Bible.

John MacArthur calls the trend "quasi-Christian, narcissism" and it is vividly characteristic of the false teaching we are warned about in II Timothy 3 where we are reminded, "Dangerous times will come, for men will be lovers of themselves." (II Timothy 3:1-2)

And because so much of the Seeker-Sensitive Movement has infiltrated our churches, the Church of 2010 bears little -- if any -- similarity to the New Testament Christian Church.

In today's culture, the use, meaning and expression of the word "Christian" is indeed a poor descriptive of a person who has been saved by grace through faith. (Ephesians 2:8)

"Christian is . . . a poor adjective."
Indeed! . . . so how did this all start?

In his bestselling book, Schuller aggressively attacks the Protestant Reformation which began when Martin Luther published The Ninety-Five Theses in 1517. Schuller writes: "It is precisely at this point that classical theology has erred in its insistence that theology be 'God-centered' and not 'man-centered.'" (1)
Excuse me?? But. . . *WhaT!!??

In an attempt to define this "man-centered theology," Schuller explains, "This master plan of God is designed around the deepest needs of human beings -- self-dignity, self-respect, self-esteem." (2)
Again: Huh??
He goes on. . . "Success is to be defined as the gift of self-esteem that God gives us as a reward for our sacrificial service in building self-esteem in others. Win or lose: If we follow God's plan as faithfully as we can, we will feel good about ourselves. That is success!" (3)

So. . . Self Esteem trumps Salvation??!!
Anything but Biblical, Mr. Schuller.

"If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself,
and take up his cross daily, and follow Me."
~ Jesus

Schuller's not done. Perhaps his most preposterous assertion comes when he writes, "Once a person believes he is an 'unworthy sinner,' it is doubtful if he can rally honestly accept the saving grace God offers in Jesus Christ."(4)
Mr. Schuller, do you own a Bible?
Have you read it?

". . . for all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God."
~ Romans 3:23

Sadly, this "man-centered theology" is precisely the theology that the Seeker-Sensitive Movement is teaching. And it exists at some level in the majority of mainline "Christian" churches today. Christianity is no longer about Christ. It's all about the seeker.

What does the seeker want?
What does the seeker think they need?
What is truth according to the seeker?
And how does the seeker feel about that?

If you want to be saved, according to this new "gospel," you do not believe yourself to be a sinner. You just "accept Christ" because "God is Love." And -- more importantly -- you can't ever (ever!) tell anyone else that they are a sinner or even mention the word hell!
How distorted that?!

Any minister or teacher who waters down the message of Salvation so that it is less confrontational and more popular, politically correct and appealing to the seekers, is doing one thing and one thing only: promoting a cheap imitation of the Christian life, and corrupting the use, meaning and expression of the word CHRISTIAN.
Mr. Bell's quote is completely dependent on how you define the term Christian.

“Christian is a great noun and a poor adjective.”
–Rob Bell

"One of our great allies at present is the Church itself.
Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church
as we see her spread out through all time and space
and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners.
That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes
our boldest tempters uneasy.
But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans."
~ Screwtape,
A senior devil, instruction a junior devil
on how to tempt and trap humans.

C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

~ Esthermay V. Bentley-Goossen
© 2010 The Heart of a Pastor's Wife

(1) Robert Schuller, Self-Esteem: The New Reformation (Waco, Tex.: Word Publishing, 1982), 64.
(2) Ibid., 71.
(3) Ibid., 76.
(4) Ibid., 98.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

This installment of InOtherWords is hosted by Tami
on her blog, The Next Step


LaVonne said...

Great post! Amen! We need more REAL sermons. I know I am sinner, but I am so glad I know Jesus. I can confess those sins at his feet daily. And he is slowly changing me (it would be quicker if I wasn't so stubborn). Thanks for making it plain.

My husband likes to call this generation a buffet generation. They just pick out what they want in the Bible and leave what is distasteful to them.

We need more Jesus, less us.

Joan said...

Your posts are always so good and I usually have to read them twice to get all the TRUTH - but this is especially good. Thank you for sharing this. Mr. Bell is a false prophet. One of many. Our pastor spoke about him recently. A Rob Bell quote shared in the bulletin:

"the most powerful things happen when the church surrenders its desire to convert people" (pg 167)

Unbelievable!! He is an antichrist because he is anti-Christ and he appeals to the young. Very frightening.
Postliberal is an understatment.

kalopoieo said...

The call to expose false teachers is found throughout the Scriptures. Deuteronomy 13 makes it clear that the responsibility of exposing false teachers belongs to all God’s people. Jesus in Matthew 23:23-33 uses very strong language to warn the people of the falsehood of the Pharisees and Scribes. He called them hypocrites, whitewashed sepulchres, serpents and a brood of vipers. Warnings about false teachers appear throughout the Epistles of Paul, Peter, James, Jude and John. Today most church denominations are umbrella organizations, which tolerate almost every form of false teaching.

Excellent Post, Esthermay.

micey said...

awesome post!!!

Karen said...

Boy am I learning a lot today. This was the first time I heard the quote we wrote on today. I didn't know the history behind it. I've heard the phrase before "seeker friendly churches" but didn't see the connection between the two. Thanks for bridging the gap for me.

MiPa said...

Esthermay you always call me to think--and this post is no exception. Love it when you participate in IOW Tuesdays. I need to wrestle a little while with your thought that Christian, today, is a poor noun as well.

Betsy Markman said...

Another awesome trumpet call of truth! You keep going, girl!

Debbie said...

Wow; I believe you hit a hot button on this post. For years, my husband and I watched Rev. Schuller's Hour of Power. At that time, I was a very lukewarm "Christian" and what he said seemed to make us feel good.

However, about 15 years ago at my grandmother's funeral the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart. I knew then that I needed to get back into the Word and to return to a church where I could grow. Unfortunately, I've been going alone for the last 15 years but I was so hungry for God's Word and to study it. I took Henry Blackaby's study called "Experiencing God" and it impacted me greatly. But truly studying the Bible and being in a church where the Truth about sin, redemption, grace and forgiveness was preached was just what I needed.

I'm not familiar with this man who authored the quote so that's why I didn't join in today. I do believe that many Christians have been poor examples for nonbelievers. My own brother does not go to church because of people in the church who were strong arming him and using guilt to get him to join. That is wrong too. But I've also been praying for him and told him that Christians are human too and not to judge God by some of us.

Thank you for your boldness in writing this post. I appreciate your honesty and I am anxious to see what others think. That's what I love about IOWT. We can agree or disagree but we can do it in a loving manner and with respect.

Blessings and love,

Nic said...

WOW! I have no words other than to say BRAVO! This is a most excellent post. I would like to share this one again. I am appalled and flabbergasted that people who "call" themselves pastors have no desire to pastor their flock the way that God has designed it. I thank God all the time that the past or at my church is a truly God-fearing, Bible believing man. He frequently says that if someone is "offended" by his preaching of the Word then let them be b/c the Gospel IS offensive to those who are without Christ. He also is fond of saying that if God didn't say it, then neither will he and that there is a special punishment reserved for those who add to or take away from the Word of God and the punishments of God are the one's he would much rather avoid altogether.

I continue to be blessed by your posts, insight and wisdom. Thank you so much for sharing what is in your heart and on your mind with the world!

Sadly, I am "related" to Schuller by the marriage of one of my uncle's to his niece. She can't stand him.

Kate said...

Good for you for exposing yet another false prophet. Rob Bell makes me so angry. He jabbers and jabbers about living the way of Jesus and being like Jesus, but without the message of the gospel of Salvation, his message is scandalous.

I LOVE YOUR BOLDNESS to teach Truth!

I am a SINNER, I deserve HELL and I SEEK forgiveness! How's that for seeker-centered theology!!!

Tami Boesiger said...

I agree the term "Christian" has been watered down both as a noun and an adjective, from nonbelievers and believers. May God continue to draw us to Himself, granting us discernment and faithfulness.

Barbara said...

Ditto what all the other comments say. I had to 'Google' Rob Bell cause I've not heard of him before seeing your post. Wow! what a perfect example of false doctrine. I always appreciate your boldness to call out err and point readers to Truth.
(hope I'm not related to "Mr. Bell" LoL!!)

Since I'm not familiar with your In Other Words Group, I am wondering where in the world do you find these quotes? Rob Bell is just a scary person to be quoting. I am going to share and forward your post.

Thanks again for an excellent teaching article.

Anonymous said...

(Have I commented here before? I've lurked for a while...and can't remember if I've ever said hi. ...Hi!)

This was a fantatic, sad post. People like their ears tickled, eh... I must admit my eyes about popped out of my head when I read the quote from Schuller about the Gospel needing to be man-centered.

I love how you handled the subject.

One thing I'd love to hear about is how you bring your (really solid) worldview into how you view/handle counseling...

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing as you did. Rob Bell "teaches" in a church in our area, and we know many who go to his church. My pastor gave me some info on some of his books were he denounces the virgin birth of Jesus and some other very important theological issues. Thank you so much for sharing something that many would not discuss. :)

Rachel M. said...

Amen, Esthermay. I had no idea that this book existed, although I had noticed the influx of secular humanism and psychology into the church.
Christian originally meant "follower of Christ." Our original focus, in fact, our true focus as Christians has always been on Christ. Without Him, we're just another group of Me-ians.
May this generation wake up soon and realize why they feel so empty and purposeless. I also pray for all who are trying to stay focused on Christ, so that they will not grow weary in doing good.

Shelley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Excellent post!

Kathy S. said...

Yup Yup Yup...(that is the Wisconsin nod of agreement~doncha know?)

You always write the truth well! Praise God~I love Truth!!!!!!!!!

pastorbrianculver said...

very well done! Good to see the call go out to expose false teachings and false leaders!

Warren Baldwin said...

Any attempt to make man the center is idolatrous. God is at the center, and we are blessed and fortunate that he allows us to approach him! Good post.

Patrina said...

My son -in -law is a pastor and specializes in apologetics too. I here him in your read! You are like two peas in a pod. I'm so glad that I'm in that same garden as the both of you :) Currently, I can't defend and expose the 'false apeaaring real' syndrom - but I see it!

You did an awesome job! My Toby would be pleased!

Carry on!

Patrina <")>><

Anonymous said...

Excellent post! I am going to share it with my Titus 2 Womens group. Thank you!

Nic said...

I have given you the BEAUTIFUL BLOGGER AWARD for having such a wonderful heart and way with words that you exemplify what being attuned to God's leading really means! Plus...StEaK!!! ;-)

Anonymous said...


Melanie Redd said...


I'm new to this blogging world, and found you on the Top 100 Christian sites. What an interesting site!

I'll enjoy coming back and really praying and thinking through the things you are sharing!

Thanks for your courage!


Cindy Jasmine said...

okay so this is the first article that I read by you and i LOVE it. I found you on top 100 christian blogs from internet cafe. I started from the top to the bottom but got bored with all the ummmm not so great blogs :/ but thats only my opinion. Anyway, im soooooooooooo glad I found your site. We need more bloggers like you :)

annette said...

Thank you for exposing this prevalent lie. I am so tired of the word "relevant" trying too hard to reach out to the unsaved that we compromise holiness and Gospel Truth. When we stop trying to put God in a man-sized box, maybe we will begin to see the real truth that it's not about us at all. His Glory is at stake. Love your writing and boldness for authentic Truth.

Mike & Hilary said...

Thank you for pointing it out. So often I wish I could tell this to my LDS family.

Another dangerous book out there is the ever-popular The Secret...ever heard of it? :)


Edie said...

Esthermay I just love reading your posts! This is so right on the mark and sadly many real Christians don't see it very clearly either. The enemy has infiltrated the ranks and his strategy is to blur the lines. True followers of Christ need to come out of complacency and take the risk of looking different again, to be the light on a hill that stands out in stark contrast against the darkness that calls it's self light.

Interesting to me is your choice of the phrase "accept Christ". It is one that has been grating on my nerves a lot lately. There has been a post brewing in my heart over it lately.

Love your heart my friend!!!

敬忠 said...

We could learn a lot from crayons. Some are sharp, some are pretty and some are dull, Some have weird names , and all are different colors, but they all have to live in the same box.............................................

Bebemiqui said...

Nice to find a reformed-minded woman and one who speaks well. I find very few women who expound or exposite well and dwell too much on feeling. I'll be back to read some more.

Page Navigation