The main issue is the nature of salvation, in that, if a person becomes saved, it is not because they said a prayer or conjured up any belief from within themselves: regeneration (being given new life) is a sovereign act done by God according to His will, not the will of man. The fact is that man by nature is wicked and will not seek for God and cannot come to Jesus unless the Father draws him (the picture is a man drawing water out of a well). Man has NO desire for God or anything righteous, and has lost the ability to come to God. This was a result of the fall. Another result is that the guilt of Adam’s sin was imputed (charged to the account of) every person he represented, which is the whole human race. So, we are guilty of God’s eternal wrath, for Adam’s sin and for our sin, and the penalty must be paid in order for God’s holiness to be maintained — His justice against sin must be carried out.
So, if we have no ability to come to God on our own, how is anyone saved? First, a person must be given a new heart — a heart of flesh instead of the heart of stone. The picture is Lazarus, being dead, was called forth by Jesus: Lazarus had no say in the matter and no ability to do it on his own. God breathed life into him, and he came forth. The other picture is being born: we had no say in the matter in our first birth; and when we are born again, we have no say in that matter either.
With the new heart comes the ability to believe and the desire to repent, which along with faith, are gifts from God, not things we inherently have or can do ourselves. So, salvation is entirely of the Lord, in accordance with the will of the Father, and applied by the Holy Spirit. Also, who God saves was decided by Him before the world was even created.
The other side of salvation is the payment for sin. What did Christ do on the cross? He made atonement, which was that He satisfied the wrath of God, removing the guilt completely. Rom 5 talks about that as guilt was imputed to those in Adam (every person), Christ’s righteousness was imputed to those who were in Him, which means they are no longer guilty. Now, since the guilt was completely paid for and God’s wrath was satisfied, that means God will not punish those to whom this is applied. But we know that some people are going to hell. So, could Jesus have died for every person? If Jesus paid the price, and God declared those He (Jesus) represented “not guilty”, and if the sacrifice applied to every person, then every person should be going to heaven. But we know some are going to hell. So, Jesus couldn’t have died for every single person. The picture is the priest in the Old Testament, who went into the temple’s Holy of Holies wearing the ephod, which had 2 stones with the names of the 12 tribes written on them: he went into the temple representing only the people whose names were written on the stones (Ex 28:29) — not the Egyptians, not anyone else in the world, just those written on the stones: a specific, chosen set of people — the Israelites. The same idea is for spiritual Israel (Rom 9) in regards to Jesus’ sacrifice.
So, for a person to be saved, God had to decide before the world was created the person would be saved, Jesus had to die for that person, and the Holy Spirit has to regenerate them. As you can see, it is all God’s work.
I know these ideas are difficult to understand and even accept. It took me 2 weeks of walking around like a zombie trying to understand them; but in the end, after reading Rom 9 over and over again, with God saying he will have mercy on whom He will have mercy, and He will harden whom He will harden, and that He makes some vessels for honor and others for dishonor, by God’s grace I had to accept these evidences. Here is a reference to a document of Scripture sets that regard these doctrines: Election, Atonement, and Other Interesting Verse Sets . If you read through these, please do so carefully and prayerfully, and please go through the entire document.
So, after God began to show us these things in the Bible, and then listening to teachings at the River in light of these understandings, it became apparent that what was held at the River was not these doctrines. And as a result, over time it became apparent that we needed to not participate there.
Since then though, in continuing to study, it has become evident that the River is essentially following the Purpose Driven ideas, which we disagree with for the following reasons:
First, in looking at the social justice direction of the River, the main Scriptural reference to that was Luke 4:16-21, which talks about Jesus preaching the Gospel to the poor, healing the brokenhearted, recovering sight to the blind, setting the bruised at liberty, etc.. We believe He was referring to these situations in a spiritual sense: the poor in spirit, and the brokenhearted and captive, because of sin. If Jesus was referring to these things in a physical sense, when He was here He would have 1) created a whole bunch of money for people, 2) delivered the Israelites and everyone from the hand of Rome, 3) healed everyone, and 4) fed everyone. We see no evidence of those in the Bible. And what really did Jesus come to do? He came to make an atoning sacrifice, which is entirely regarding the spirituality of people. So, we disagree with the River’s approach in that regard.
Second, resulting from the doctrines above, God builds His church according to His will; we don’t build it. We preach or plant the seed, and God grows the abundance. But if you look today, most churches have watered down the message, not talking about God’s wrath, and trying to make church attractive so as to draw people in. Well, whose job is it to attract? It’s the Holy Spirit’s job; and the Gospel message alone, in its entirety, should be enough. At the River, God is painted as a God who hopes people come to Him, and who tries to accomplish His own will. Well, the Bible describes God as the one who calls His sheep, who hear His voice, and that nothing can stay His hand in the accomplishment of His will.
Further, churches have become more of a show than places of worship. What is worship? Is it music? Worship is prayer, and Bible reading, and living a life as a Christian, along with some music. And if you look at how music in Christian gatherings were done in the past, they were all very -reverent and low-key — quite unlike many churches today. Today’s “worship,” which is really just the music, is heavily geared toward uplifting the soul (the mind, will and emotions). Many get a “spiritual” charge on Sunday, which ends up being nothing more than a weekly hit of feel-good. And then many wonder why they have a difficult time “finding time” to study the Bible: their soul is being built up, but their spirit is being starved (from that and a lack of Biblical truth).
Plus, if you look at church gatherings in the New Testament, who gathered? It was the saints — the Christians. The purpose of church gatherings is for the fellowship of the saints: as God saved people, they would fellowship together. Today’s church is a mix of Christians and non-Christians, with an emphasis on what the non-Christians would want in a church, which is not what the Bible prescribes.
Also, there is a large focus on relationships with each other, and building relationships, and how we cannot truly grow in the Lord without relationships. Well, we grow from the Lord revealing and teaching by the Holy Spirit from His word and the preaching of it, not from the building of relationships.
Which leads to InterVarsity. From what I’ve read, InterVarsity is very ecumenical in nature, joining with various religious entities, regardless of doctrinal persuasion or religious beliefs, including joining heavily with Catholicism, which beliefs we believe to not be Biblical and some even blasphemous. Others IV have joined with are Pat Robertson, Benny Hinn, Jack Hayford, and Paul Crouch, with some of whose teachings we believe are wrong and sometimes also blasphemous. IV has also teamed up with World Vision, with whom we disagree, in that, they are not out promoting the Gospel of Christ, as we have a specific example ourselves: Sue has been supporting a little girl in Africa, and she gets reports; one report was that she is learning to the Muslim religion, and we were disheartened and disappointed with World Vision.
Also, InterVarsity Press has published books that are non-Christian, including as one example, “Holy Scripture: Revelation, Inspiration & Interpretation” by Donald Bloesch, which denies the inerrancy of the Bible. Here’s an excerpt: “Not everything reported in the Bible may be in exact correspondence with historic and scientific fact as we know it today. … We must avoid the hermeneutics of biblical literalism, which leads us into both scientific creationism with its young earth theory and dispensationalism. … The true humanity of Scripture involves a vulnerability to error and a limited cultural horizon because the authors lived in a particular time and place in history.”
Ecumenical movements can be seen across the board in churches today, or the idea of accepting other religions and beliefs as ok, as evidenced by the President’s comments that he believes Muslims and Christians worship the same God. There is a falling away from the truth as truth and a standard by which we base everything else. There is too much of the idea that truth is relative, or my truth and your truth are ok.