The last two Shepherd’s Staff articles have revealed some disturbing realities. First, that doctrinal error is rampant in our circles; second, that there is widespread ignorance of what the Bible text actually teaches, and finally, that there is a segment of people who are busy defending error. It could be summed up as ignorance and apathy sprinkled with denial. This premise has been constantly confirmed as we have tried to use social media to bring attention to God and His glory by discussing the Bible.
I definitely don’t know everything, and over my fifty-three years of ministry have learned that I know even less than I thought I did! There are some things, though, that are clear, and years of consideration and discussion about the Bible text have left them as a solid foundation. One of these principles is that what a person states he believes is not nearly as important as how he reached that conclusion. How we view God and His Word will make all the difference in our conclusions.
GOD AT THE CENTER OF ALL THINGS
The Bible begins and ends with God, and everything in between is about God’s revealing himself to man. God is the source of truth, and only He has the answers. All man-made systems and much of man’s wisdom are flawed. Fallen man does not have the ability to create anything perfect, despite which much of Christianity has made man the center of almost everything. Perhaps that is why people feel free to rewrite scripture when they come to something in the text they don’t like.
I don’t get a lot of hate mail, but crude personal attacks and unacceptable language are a clear confession of man-centered thinking. This is not about the discussion of ideas — such exchanges are welcome — rather, it is about personal attacks on someone’s character. For the person who presses the discussion of content and meaning, such unkindness can be expected; but what is of greater concern is that these attacks are often against God, not against a human being.
Much of the defense of error comes from those who think it is terrible to disagree with someone, particularly if they are a popular Moderate Evangelical. Some fly to the defense of flawed men with respect to a person, but have little concern about the offense to God. They are unable to separate the discussion of ideas, content, and meaning from the individuals who hold those ideas. They are so occupied with form that they tend to miss the heart of the issue.
Redemption, the person of Christ, and the failure of man are all great themes throughout scripture; but they are not the central issue. God and His glory constitute the centerpiece of the scriptures. The reason some men choose another subject for their focus is because of their motive: it allows them to build their own system in disregard to God…at their own peril.
POINTS OF INTEREST
The discussions I referred to at the outset of this article included the Millennium, the Rapture, the Kingdom, the New Covenant, and some practical issues such as benevolence being an obligation of the believer. All of these had one thing in common: the various views all came from the fact that participants used different systems of interpretation. It was these systems that allowed them to stray from the centricity of God and to put man at the center instead.
The problem here is that when man is considered central, people are no longer sensitive concerning the offence to God. That is why error is winked at or ignored, and what is even worse is that it is defended. The current worship systems are filled with theological abuse and error, but who seems to even notice or care? The mainstream of publishing pushes erroneous doctrine, and hardly a murmur is heard. If someone does challenge this disdain of God and His word, he is attacked as being anti-intellectual or a “baggy pants”, a backwoods know-nothing.
Let me dare to illustrate this. When a major Evangelical figure states in a public forum that Christ did not die for Hitler or some other evil figure, there is silence, no matter what is the clear statement of scripture. The humanly devised system has to be right; no matter that it includes rewriting the text and inserting convenient wording.
So, when the ESV study notes (in reference to John 16:7 – It is to your advantage that I go away) read as follows: “This is because while Jesus was on earth he could be in only one place at a time, but the Holy Spirit would carry on Jesus’ ministry over the entire world at all times. In addition, in God’s sovereign plan for the unfolding of history, the Holy Spirit would not come in new covenant power and fullness until Jesus returned to heaven.”, there is silence.
At best, this is misleading; but at the worst it is an attack on the person of Christ. This is what happens when we are silent. It is the result of pressing a humanly devised system on the text and making it say whatever the “scholars” want it to say.
GO AHEAD, MAKE MY DAY!
I don’t even have to guess at this one. In the next article, I will confirm that the responses to such questions will be just as they were outlined at the beginning of this article…but then, “who am I”?