“Which is worse, to worship Baal under a tree on the mountainside, or to bring the idol of Baal inside the temple of God to worship him there? It is a terrible thing when men perform evil deeds in secret. It is much worse when men bring their deeds inside the temple of God and claim that their evil is sanctioned by God…If you place God’s name upon your sin, you are adding the sin of blasphemy to your original sin.”
In his book Escaping Religion, Pastor Vaughn Martin points out the deadliness of the Western church blessing and honoring sin within it, particularly homosexual relationships. “When idolatry is brought into the house of God, God’s jealousy is provoked and He must bring judgment upon it.” The book outlines how deception has come into churches in recent years, most notably with an emphasis on the Mennonite/Anabaptist circles, denominations formerly known for their adherence to scripture.
“I believe in the coming years a severe shake-up is coming in the Mennonite Church…God is separating Ishmael from Isaac…the religious systems of man are being set apart from the true sons of God’s promise…He is going to bring forth a people who walk in the Spirit and truly fulfill His purposes,” Martin says.
Martin provides historical and Biblical context in such a way as to show the difference in the Isaacs (sons of promise) and the Ishmaels (religious systems). Martin also covers a spectrum of issues such as Islam, peace and pacifism, social justice, and Palestinian statehood, outlining how these issues have become the heartbeat of much of the Mennonite and Anabaptist causes, transforming groups that previously identified as political separatists into the most radical activists to-date.
“When the redemptive work of Christ’s death and resurrection loses its central place in Christianity, it opens up the door for something else to take its place…The idols of peace and pacifism begin to take their place at the center of [many] religious institutions…Christianity becomes just an ethical system that is applied to the world’s problems, such as war and poverty,” Martin observes.
Martin cites several examples contrasting the path of religion and the call of Christ. One such is the universally esteemed Agnes Bojeaxhiu, known better as Mother Teresa. Upon the death of Mother Teresa, the release of her letters and private diaries revealed a woman who spent nearly her entire missionary life tormented. Depressed, despondent, she wrote “Sometimes the pain is so great, it feels like everything will break. The smile is a big cloak that covers a multitude of pains.” Not only was this devout nun herself in perpetual shipwreck, but upon close scrutiny, her ministry drew many concerns from some who worked with her.
Mother Teresa was called to her ministry not only by Christ, she claims, but another voice spoke to her as well. “A deeply religious woman, she put great faith in the Catholic church and its rituals,” Martin writes. “But did she know Jesus? The emptiness and barrenness of her heart would indicate she did not.”
Pastor Vaughn Martin is a missionary currently based in Belgium who founded a discipleship training school in East Africa. His primary focus is to reach Muslims with the good news of Jesus Christ, and in this endeavor, has repeatedly risked his own life. Growing up in the Mennonite Church, he saw what was shaping the denomination and was deeply burdened for it. His book There Is A Way Back focuses on the righteous roots of the Mennonite faith and a coming revival.
Vaughn Martin is also a scholar of Islam. In an age in which most Westerners can only parrot what they’ve heard in the news media, Martin provides piercing insight into Muslim culture and ideology.
The church today in America and throughout much of the West is divided like never before. But the book of Acts, which gives the blueprint for the first church, describes a completely united Body of Christ. “And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul”(Acts 4:32). If we serve the same God, how are we so divided?
Paul says this to the church in Corinth: “For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully” (2 Corinthians 11:4). Notice there are three things which infiltrated the church in this region of which Paul warned: another Jesus, a different spirit, and a different gospel. Is it possible that the church today is under a similar crisis of faith from “bearing beautifully” that which is not of the Holy Spirit?
Escaping Religion crystallizes the dilemma facing the church today and offers insight into what has been hijacked by religious systems and how to right it by walking according to the Spirit. This book is especially beneficial to pastors, elders, campus ministries, and youth pastors.