WHERE DOES ERROR COME FROM? Tuesday, Jul 8 2014 

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (II Timothy 4:3,4)

One does not have to struggle to discover that doctrinal error often rises from the unread and unlearned. It always comes from the hearts of men and women who simply make up doctrine as they go. The cults serve up an unhealthy diet consisting of the doctrine of devils, and they are persistent in their task of blinding the eyes of men. It really doesn’t matter what this crowd of false teachers dreams up; it is all the same, and their evil teaching is condemned by God.

Thus, when moderate evangelicals give credence to these cults, making them acceptable evangelicals, we are left wondering why. It is often the intellectual scholars who laud these strange pronouncements that turn a blind eye to doctrinal error. This observation, then, leads us to a serious consideration: how is it that these scholars are comfortable with error that often damns men’s souls?

TIRED OLD ACCUSATIONS

When error, however, is clearly assigned to the intellectual crowd, people who know better are often quick to call others “anti-intellectual”. This is an old liberal trick, and it doesn’t work with thinking people. Anyone who knows anything about my fifty-four years in ministry can tell you that for most of my life I’ve been involved in education. Learning is very important, and people who are able should go as far as they can on the education ladder. We should never stop learning; study should be a way of life.

I am not against intellect or serious study. It is also wise for a person to pursue a single discipline and to follow it as far as possible. No one can be an expert in every discipline, but we need to be as broad in our understanding as is possible. You will no doubt read materials that leave you with the impression that the writer has a full grasp of everything; that is a serious mistake.

ERROR THAT FLOWS FROM THE ELITE

Like it or not, much of the theological error being spread abroad does not come from the simple-minded, unread, and unlearned. You would think that the more knowledge one has, the more likely that person would be to maintain a theology that is biblical. That, however, is not the case. It appears that the higher a student climbs on the academic ladder, the greater the danger. Not all of this is deliberate, but intellectual pride can be a terrible thing. It seems to provide a license for error on the part of the scholar.

Recently I jotted down a list of ten theological errors that are currently floating around, many of which are being disseminated by some popular theological gurus. I honestly didn’t fix the list, but every one of them has been sourced or popularized by well-known men who we would recognize as being scholars. It is clearly evident that scholars can be, and are, wrong occasionally – and sometimes frequently. That is not to say that everything they teach is wrong, because “diamonds come from dirt”.

A TRAGIC FALLOUT

I travel a lot and read as much as I can, and my email box is full most mornings. My soul is grieved at the creation and dissemination of theological error, but that is only the beginning; the real tragedy is in seeing how blind people so often have become. You can almost tell who and what people read by the error they spout.

We all need to read broadly, and should even include authors who have proven they can popularize erroneous doctrine. The question is, why are not the readers asking the right questions? It is imperative that the reader be able tell when his theological leg is being pulled. Young men are most often caught in the web of intellectualism simply because they think they know more than they actually do. It is a heady thing to be able to discuss some of the technical positions being spread abroad. It is a terrible thing not to be able to recognize when a teaching has departed from the authority of scripture.

I confess that, when I was a young student and preacher, pride took the lead in my following error. At the same time, I will be forever grateful for godly men who sounded the warning that allowed me to focus on the Book of God rather than the books of men. Just because someone is well-known or has churned out many publications does not mean that what he says is correct. We need to be like the Bereans of old who “searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so”. (Acts 17:11)

Read the writings of men. They offer great questions, but not always the right answers. Read with one eye to the works of men and both eyes solidly on the Word of God. The elite in theology are not necessarily the authority. If they are offering you “false teaching”, they may well be false teachers – wolves in shepherds’ garb, as it were. Error can come from any source, and scholars and intellectuals are no exception. Don’t let people make this a personality issue; stay with ideas so you will not be hindered by the cloak of the elite.

Wednesday, Jun 25 2014 

FACING THE FUTURE

Our nation is in big trouble. Every area of life has been affected. Nothing has escaped the impact of humanistic socialism with this tidal wave of decay and destruction. Our education system has been a major tool in turning the culture to atheism, and the economy has fallen so deeply into debt that the average person cannot even begin to perceive the danger. Our government has left the rule of law for the whim of the individual, and the flawed courts leave little hope for even the law-abiding citizen. Moral standards have sunk lower than those of Sodom and Gomorrah. Like it or not, this nation stands on the verge of civil war if something isn’t done soon to rein in the lawlessness of our high national leaders.

WAIT JUST A MINUTE…

Is it really that bad? It is probably even worse, because we haven’t yet mentioned the rapid rise of Islam and the daily growth of hate speech and anger toward true Christianity. Now that I have your attention, let me take a guess at your response to such strong language. There are three possible responses: one would come from the optimist, another from the pessimist, and a third from the realist.

The optimist would say “It’s not that bad; things are pretty much like they have always been. There are some good things, and others are getting better”. That is actually denial, apathy, or ignorance; and it doesn’t respect reality at all. Some believers would say “It really doesn’t matter; God is in charge, and everything will come out all right in the end”. Their thinking is that such things are not our responsibility, that all we need do is to love people and share the gospel. The problem with that view is that it is derived from only a small part of scripture. The Bible’s answers and important truths are always supported by the whole of Bible truth, not just a part.

The pessimist would wail “All is lost; there’s no sense in trying. I knew it would all fall apart, so what’s the use, anyway?” Or what is even worse is when the pessimist is so filled with fear and an absence of hope that he decides he will solve the problem himself, and consequently we end up with another mass shooting. There are probably a lot more people in our society who hold this view than you could ever imagine. This part of our culture is a time bomb ready to go off because they really think that they, along with their friends, can fix it. The problem with this one is that it is based on philosophy, just as is the optimist’s view.

The realist is the person who sees the problems and seeks to understand both the problems and the reasons behind them. Liberalism is not reality, but rather a dream world. The liberals don’t understand the problem and have no idea how to fix anything. This movement tends to create problems and then blame them on someone else. The realist knows that there are some good things going on. He knows that God is in charge and that in the end true believers will have already won. He knows that love and the gospel are powerful elements of change. He knows that God is the only answer to all the evils in this society, and he seeks to know the whole counsel of God, not just a part that relieves him of responsibility. Unlike the optimist, he is willing to accept his assignment from God and His Word and to participate in the answers God has provided. He is not a coward, nor is he willing to hide truth under a bushel of excuses.

GOD’S ANSWER FOR THE REALIST

Love for the lost and the glorious gospel of grace are important, and they carry mountains of truth that God intended for us to communicate in the midst of a pagan culture. Some prefer silence, but silence isn’t always golden; sometimes it is just plain yellow!

The whole of scripture is clear: God has given us truth, and it is our obligation to clearly repeat that truth, because it is truth that will set one free. One cannot be an obedient believer and stay quiet where God has spoken on an issue. We want sinners to love God, but they hated the Savior and He warned us that they would hate us as well. God has spoken on the issues of abortion, infanticide, sodomy, etc. He has not been quiet, and He does not expect his servants to be silent. It is our sovereign God who decides what we are to speak about, and not temporary earthly leaders. That means we cannot abandon the public forum where God has spoken.

AN ILLUSTRATION

In my book, The Coming Conflict, published by Faithful Life Press, I point out that The Separation of Church and State is not a political issue; it is a biblical issue. What God has said in His word about the relationship between temporal government and the church is the final word. This is also true of the believer and temporal government. While our Baptist brothers claim this as a distinctive, there is little understanding of what the Bible teaches in this area. That lack of understanding is going to bite us very soon.

Our country is about to come apart, and most churches have no idea what should be the response of the church and the average believer. We have our pat philosophical responses, but they are empty. Let me whet your appetite. How many details do you know about the opening of the American Revolution? Do you know what part pastors and the churches played? Do you know where the first battle took place, where the munitions were stored, or who was the first casualty of the battle? Do you know that there are philosophers who believe that Americans were wrong to fight for freedom? (Watch out for their theology!) Are you familiar with the doctrine of “the right of revolution”? No wonder there are so few realists. My task is only to make you think.

WHAT IS TRUTH? (Part 3) Tuesday, Apr 29 2014 

This is the third article in a series on hermeneutics that demonstrates why the one biblical hermeneutic exposes errors of interpretation. I have been reading a number of wide-ranging articles particularly dealing with the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, the church, and church polity. Many of them illustrate how easy it is to insert personal presuppositions into a text. A partial hermeneutic is often responsible for this. Ignoring texts that clarify or failing to use grammar, context, or the historical setting of the text is a sure formula for theological disaster.

God, the author, in His wisdom gave the average believer a clear way to understand what He intended to convey in the text. The unlearned person, as well as the intellectual, has no trouble finding ways to corrupt the scripture. Sometimes this is done by adding to the text and other times by taking away from it. Every error you can think of has violated either some part of or the entire single biblical hermeneutic. Pride would make us think that our positions are pure and without flaw, but that is not true. Baptists are proud of their doctrinal distinctives, but few are able to give explanation for them without violating the text. Much of what we have adopted has come from culture or history and is only a reaction to the wrong interpretation others have used to build their error. That is not to say there is no truth in what they propose, but we tend to be selective in our use of scripture in order to build our own tower of Babel.

AN EXAMPLE

If I have any area of expertise at all, it is in the doctrine of the church and particularly church polity. Not a single one of us is infallible, and that is why we need to be willing to honestly challenge each other’s conclusions. I am amazed at how blatantly our own crowd will often make a “grammatical pretzel” out of the text, twisting it in an effort to insert a cultural polity into their position. God has given us clear tools to define congregational government, but those have to be ignored to arrive at a political structure. One reason this is done is in reaction to error. It is right to oppose the idea of the pastor’s acting as a despot or dictator, but the answer to this problem is to let the text speak. The interpreter does not have to destroy the office of the bishop/elder/ pastor/shepherd to deal with that error. To relegate the office of pastor to one of a mere lackey who only serves as an example is desperately misguided. This is often done by tossing proof texts around and ignoring all the teaching on the subject. In the text, the whole of the teaching about this office gives a powerful picture of the function of a true under-shepherd.

Sometimes the office of pastor has been developed in response to cruel and despicable treatment of pastors by those who often are goats, and not sheep. Even this sinful practice does not give us leave to create an unbiblical style of pastoring. Both of these described errors rest on the ignoring of the context and the historical setting of the text. God gave us simple examples so we couldn’t possible miss what He wanted our polity to be. Can you imagine a shepherd who led only by his example? The answer is so elementary that even a child could tell you what sheep and shepherds do.

EXTREMES

We have already noted that a study of grammar, language, and words is the first task of the interpreter. Few believers are trained grammarians, but that does not mean we cannot know what the text says. The problem with language experts is that they too often tend not to observe their limitations. Let me say again that when we have done our best with the language, words, and meaning in the text, we are still left with a question; an accurate conclusion needs to be tested by a study of the full context and the historical setting of the text. This is where the average believer should begin to ask questions about an uneasy conclusion provided by the experts.

The answer is not in just a part, but in the whole. The sinful nature is prone to wander. When someone wants to be free to sin, he will even use selected scriptures to give credence to his unwarranted conclusions. This selectivity in choosing texts that agree with them is well illustrated in today’s rush for schools and others to approve the drinking of debilitating alcohol. Lust is a terrible thing, and it causes us to do what even common sense tells us is wrong. How could you possibly trust the conclusion of anyone who seriously believes in the Big Bang theory? I personally wonder how you can even trust the theology of anyone who says that the Bible does not condemn booze as a beverage.

In case you are wondering about these strong words, let me tell you that being this close to the Bema tends to discourage one from giving support to sinful practices. The crowd who reject plain words like “sodomy”, or “murder” for abortion, have tipped their hand. We are too close to the end to be nice to the devil and make sinners comfortable about the heinous moral error that God hates.

FINALLY

People who often say they believe in literal interpretation may not mean what you do when you use that term. Even Luther and Calvin claimed to use literal interpretation – and they did – but not when it came to eschatology (prophecy) and soteriology (the doctrine of salvation). Not all their teaching was bad, but that still is no excuse for giving them or anyone else a pass when it comes to the clear, normal, plain, consistent use of the Bible text. Go ahead – make my day!

WHAT IS TRUTH? (Part 2) Monday, Mar 10 2014 

The reader will want to go back over the previous article, since this issue builds on that premise. There is only one biblical hermeneutic, and it produces a theology that is biblical. That one system is simply the normal, plain, clear, consistent, literal use of language. All other systems fall into one category and will allow the interpreter to insert into the text whatever he may choose. The one biblical system is scientific, and it is mathematical. If you use the system and its clearly defined rules, you will always come up with the same answer.

It is extremely frustrating to go to five different commentaries, written by experts, and find five different interpretations of a single passage. These scholars are supposed to be the authority, but it seems they cannot find a common answer. Since each text can have only one interpretation, one of those scholars may possibly be right, but…they could all be wrong, too. It makes one wonder if any of them is right and how many other things they may be wrong about. How can we ever be sure?

The answer is simple. It isn’t that they have different interpretations, but rather that they use different systems of interpretation. Since all those systems allow the reader to insert his own sincerely held views, the text becomes corrupted. The one biblical system, however, will deliver a correct message if its rules are obeyed.

WHERE WE BEGIN

One of the major problems in this discipline is where to begin. You have to begin and end with the Bible text. If you begin with a denominational creed, or a theological confession, you will end up with error because you began with error. If you begin with a covenant or reformed hermeneutic, it is impossible to end up with a theology that is biblical. This may shock you, but there is no such thing as a dispensational hermeneutic, so you cannot begin there if you want to know what the text says for itself. It is true that the use of the one biblical system will lead to a dispensational theology, but that theology rises from the text and not from a preconceived hermeneutic. For some, eschatology is not important; and they would say it doesn’t matter. If you begin with the text, use the biblical system, and obey the rules, it does matter. Foundational truth is not like a cafeteria or a dart board. The biblical hermeneutic is clear and plain, until such time as it is corrupted by a humanly devised system. It does matter that there is a Millennium, and it does matter where and when Christ is coming for His church. These are clearly stated with the normal hermeneutic.

THE WORD “LITERAL”

This is demonstrated in the accidental, or deliberate, misuse of the word “literal”. It is dishonest to say that those who hold a literal interpretation see everything as literal, meaning that even pictures are the real thing. There are some fine works on this subject, and the serious reader should consider reading them. The normal, plain, clear, consistent, literal use of language is just that. It is the text that tells us the answer, not some twisted grammatical pretzel. We take everything in the text as the normal, literal use of language unless the text clearly tells us it is some other form. Literal interpretation simply means that we accept what the Bible states, including language forms.

An illustration of this is Revelation, chapter 20. Five times at the beginning of this chapter you see the term “one thousand years”. What is the normal, plain, clear, consistent, literal use of this term in language? Even a first grader could answer that one! So why would anyone choose to corrupt the answer, as some scholars have done? The answer is that they use the wrong hermeneutical system – one that is humanly devised – and they begin with the wrong system. These intellectuals say that when it comes to eschatology, you have to use an allegorical system. Who gave them the authority to make such a conclusion? Are they smarter than a first grader? This reminds me of the Lucifer syndrome: “I will know as much as the most high God”.

STRONG WORDS

Someone will very likely write and tell me that I am not being very charitable in this discussion. There are lots of things we do not know and about which God has not given us an answer. Those are the areas of charity. When the normal, plain, clear, consistent use of language that God has chosen to use is being trampled underfoot, I am not obligated to be silent.

We don’t seem to have any trouble shining a light on other people’s foibles, but we are not keen on our own being looked at. That is why we don’t use the same rule and rhetoric on our own crowd; but let me do that now. We complain about the misuse of interpretation and systems on the part of those who “sovereignly” decided that eschatology is allegory, while at the same time we do the very same thing in our own circles when the subject is church polity. We use literal interpretation until it comes to the doctrine of the church, and then we turn left. Of course, we are more “respectable” than they are. We “complicate to confuse” in order to get our own way when we really know that our practice in polity is nothing more than an adoption of cultural politics.

THANKFULLY CAUTIOUS

I am thankful for our forefathers in the faith. They have been a wonderful blessing to us, but they are not God and they are not perfect. Historical theology has great value, but those tenets are not the same as the Bible itself; and we should not be afraid to challenge things that jettison the plain teaching of scripture. A strongly held view that is wrong is still wrong, no matter how many years it may have been taught.

WHAT IS TRUTH? Friday, Feb 14 2014 

Truth, for the true believer, is simply what God has to say about anything. It is interesting to note that in the Gospel of John this subject is dealt with often, and it is Pilate who asks the question in John 18:38. While it is correct that Jesus Himself is truth (John 14:6), John makes it clear that the Word of God is the truth (John 17:17) and that the Holy Spirit will lead the believer into all truth (John 16:13). Not only does this ministry of the Spirit as our guide and teacher lead us into truth, but that truth is used in our sanctification (John 17:17). The text also clearly states that the Holy Spirit will carry on that ministry of truth because He indwells the believer as He began to do at Pentecost (John 15:26; 16:7, 13).

In the church age, every believer has the advantage of access to the clear statements of the Bible text and the guidance of the indwelling Spirit. The Scripture, on which we depend for truth, was inspired in the original writings and is without error. Truth is stable and consistent within the text because its words and the whole were supervised by the pure oversight of the Holy Spirit.

SO, WHAT HAPPENED TO TRUTH?

Concepts are clarified as we stand back and look at the whole. For instance, there are only two religions in the world. One is Biblical Christianity, and the other is what I have come to call “Humianity”. All religions other than Biblical Christianity find part or all of their sources in flawed human thought. The names of those religions are irrelevant. Their beliefs are legion, but they all have the same source even if their degrees of error are wide as an ocean. Final truth is found in God’s Word. Even if those religions use some Bible and have some truth, that truth is negated by the infusion of human reason.

The same concept is true in the science of hermeneutics. There is only one biblical hermeneutic that God has given to the believer. Man has invented multitudes of hermeneutical systems, but once again they all fall into the same category. They are humanly devised so that there are only two hermeneutical systems: the one biblical system and the one whose source is man. There is a wide variety of systems outside the biblical one, but they are all one because they all use the same human source.

Truth is found in the clear statement of the text before man adds his convenient adjustments to the scripture. Theological error does not come from the Bible text; it comes from man’s attempt to force the Bible to agree with human thought. Truth is safe within the bonds of the biblical hermeneutic because this system is simply the normal, plain, consistent, literal use of language.

SO, WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?

There are many who confess that they practice this normal use of language. They even use it some of the time…but the minute man begins to play God and gets carried away with his own ideas, truth is lost. Failure to use the biblical system and the clear rules all the time creates the same human error.

I’m constantly reading from a number of sources and am amazed at how frequently writers ruin a perfectly good study of the text by finding ways to add their own thoughts to its content. In the biblical hermeneutic, the very first step is exegesis. We are obligated to use the appropriate grammar, definition, syntax, etc. Now, this may sound simple – but it isn’t. It is far too easy to manipulate the text by forcing a meaning into it and then making that appear to be the only possible answer. This is a favorite trick used by grammarians. Remember, the Bible was not written for scholars. While we are grateful for the ministry of these godly men, God in His grace has given the rest of us believers a way to know when our theological leg has been pulled.

When the interpreter has finished with the issues of the language, all he has is a question; but he does not have an answer until he has completed the hermeneutical process. The next step for authentication is context. We all know that a text without a context is a pretext. Unfortunately, there are few who practice the rule, and this is the big bear trap. No interpretation that rests on one text can be trusted. If the teaching is central to the faith, it will be supported by both the micro and macro texts. Even here, though, it is possible to go astray; and this is another trick used by those who ignore the biblical hermeneutic. Contextual authority must be clearly identified by the text itself. That simply means that passages being considered must actually – and without question – apply to the subject under consideration.

The next step in the one biblical hermeneutic has to do with the historical setting of the content of the passage. This step enhances our understanding of the grammatical conclusion, but it does not create the doctrine. This is one of the reasons we don’t develop doctrine from the parables. On the other hand, this step is a bright light in exposing the insertion of theological systems into a text. The Holy Spirit was not acting in a foolish manner when He gave us historical settings that allow us to ask, “Does this illustration by God confirm the interpreter’s conclusion?”

FINALLY

This marvelous process of the one biblical hermeneutic is an affront to theological systems and constructs that make it possible for humans to press their ideas and conclusions on the text. Is it possible for anyone to ask, “What does the text say” and get the answer God put there? Yes, it is…if only we are sufficiently humble to admit we have been playing games with a holy book at the expense of truth. (To be continued)

TAKING RESPONSIBILITY Thursday, Jan 9 2014 

This country in which I live continues to plunge toward moral, economic, and spiritual disaster. In the world of the unregenerate, this would be no surprise; professing Christianity, however, is complicit to this looming tragedy, and no one wants to take responsibility. The liberal mind bent on change has no measuring device. It continues to create problems and generate difficulty for society, but is not willing to grasp or admit its error. For some strange reason, liberals seem to think that more moral degeneracy will make things better. The answers they offer are limited to the physical and the temporary, using such things as money to make things right. In the end, this human- based system refuses to take responsibility for the suffering it creates.

On the other side of the coin is professing Christianity. The problem here is that this crowd tends to be filled with unregenerate souls who have only a pretense of any true Christianity. In the end, their charade provides no room to bear responsibility for the misuse of scripture and the practice of polishing liberal ideas.

The real focus of this article, however, would be those of us who are true believers, who understand that Christianity is not a thing – it is a life. It is impossible to possess the gift of eternal life without its manifesting itself in the way we live. Our words and actions should betray the life within us. No one should have to search for evidence in our lives of the presence of the Holy Spirit; it is impossible to hide such power and reality. We are not talking about perfection – that is God’s work; rather, this is about our spiritual life, the existence of which is undeniable. The true believer must be careful. This fleshly house in which we live can fail, and that failure is what this discussion is all about.

THE ROOT OF RESPONSIBILITY

We love to shift blame. It all began in the Garden: it was her fault; no, it was the serpent’s fault. We all know better, so let’s face facts. The growing disaster in our nation lies at the feet of believers. Those of us who have tried to follow the clear teaching of scripture should have known better. It is time to stop the denial and get on with our responsibility. That means we will have to openly deal with those who claim the name of Christ, but who rewrite the Bible to cover their shame and disobedience.

The only way to begin work on this responsibility is to admit we have failed. It means that we need to go back to the Eternal Word of God and let the text speak for itself. This is something you will not get in the plethora of so-called evangelical publications now available. We talk to each other, but seldom to the flawed society. It appears that very soon speaking the truth of scripture is going to bring persecution. For the believer, it is time for the whole counsel of God to be broadcast to the whole of society. Stop hiding that truth under a bushel – take your responsibility.

SEARCH THE SCRIPTURES

In our busy world, we tend to become lazy. We let everyone else develop our doctrine and then take little time to search the scriptures to see if what they opine is actually true. Almost daily now, those who should know better quote “false teachers” without any disclaimer. The end result is that our listeners go to the writings of these same people and become buried in false teaching. This is only one reason why we are responsible for the decline of a nation that is fueled by error; you can’t share truths with a corrupt society when you don’t even know the truth yourself!

One of the major reasons we have failed to communicate truth to our culture is the compromise of evangelical leaders. We are told repeatedly that we are to stay silent in the open market. The idea is that we need to have “hands off” when it comes to political subjects. Now, that might be true if you are talking about political parties and candidates, but it is a serious error if you mean the discussing of biblical truths. For the true believer to be quiet about abortion, sodomy, and other moral issues is patent disobedience to a Holy God. God is the only one who has the answers to these questions, and we need to be willing to say what God says. People in our culture are deceived because they go about sharing their ignorance while we are told to be deaf and dumb when it comes to truth.

SO LET’S TAKE RESPONSIBILITY

We need to ignore ridicule from those whose father is the devil; we belong smack-dab at the center of any discussion on a subject to which God has spoken. Followers of Satan need to be chided for their human theories and destructive opinions, and we must ignore leaders who scold us for saying what God has said. If they choose to be cowards who are fearful of truth, we must not be caught up in their deadly silence. Even if some true believers are fearful to enter into public discussion, we need to do our best to serve the Lord with courage and wisdom.

Liberalism is smart, but it definitely is not wise. Liberals’ ability to debate is often disguised as right, when in fact it is merely foolish. Moderate evangelicals talk a good game, giving themselves to love, the gospel, and going about doing “good”. They don’t have time to stand firm or to dirty their white gloves with discussions which are included in the whole counsel of God. That arrogance doesn’t fool the wise true believer, though. Sure, those things may be good, but it amounts to disobedience if that is all one does with the great task God has given. May we repent of our responsibility in the matter of national failure and move forward with true responsibility.

REALITY SETS IN Monday, Oct 28 2013 

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”?

HOW COULD IT HAPPEN? Friday, Sep 6 2013 

Recently we discussed the tragedy of young, immature men in the ministry who have been drawn into errant theology by intellectuals who pretend to be loyal to the scripture. I have no obligation to protect those who are responsible for this moral crime and no obligation to protect those who allowed themselves to drawn into theological error. I have repeatedly demonstrated how the path to liberalism is a gradual process. Those who have chosen to abandon the one biblical hermeneutic may move along this treacherous route quite slowly, while others hasten to their fall from truth.

With a great deal of grief, I think of a young man who, by the grace of God, sat under the teaching of godly men and was shown the value of biblical text, but who later made the mistake of listening to those who have left the authority and sufficiency of scripture. Those teachers were intellectual and philosophical, and that combination often leads to an arrogance which allows folks to twist the text in such a way as to produce their own desired ends. It is simply a rewriting of the scripture. The end result was that the student, in a very short time, moved from a biblical context to a tragic end with the liberalism of amillennialism.

This heartache sent me on a search for an answer to the question, “How could this happen”?

ALMOST EVERY DAY

It dawned on me that almost every day I have contact with people who ought to know better, but who appear to be incapable of recognizing theological error. Some of these individuals are well educated, with graduate and post-graduate degrees. Some of them majored in theological disciplines, and others have spent a good part of their lives in some kind of ministry. So what went wrong? Why is truth not high on their list of priorities?

My pleasure, as well as my responsibility, is to read. My computer is filled with emails, messages from blogs, and notes from people commenting on all kinds of things. These folks talk about people, schools, missions, and ministries, but never seem to ask the question of what they believe. The latest gossip, idea, or opinion fills the pages; but there is very seldom a question about the theology behind all that. Don’t they know about a theology that is biblical? I can’t imagine that they don’t care. The crisis grows when someone does ask the question about doctrinal error. Such a sincere discussion is seen as an attack on some person, or a lack of love. Instead of searching the scripture to discover the truth about a subject, the person who asks a question is attacked personally. We learned a long time ago that a person who attacks the messenger instead of dealing with the message has a hidden motive.

COMING TO AN ANSWER

Jesus taught us that we are not to be respecters of persons. The Bible is about God. Man is spoken of throughout its pages, but the Bible is a revelation about the Sovereign Creator. That is how we are to deal with doctrine and theology – it is all about God. When someone teaches error, we should hasten to the Bible and the God of the Bible for answers. Instead we quickly go to the defense of some contemporary evangelical figure, even if he is speaking against the clear statement of the text. Others jump on the historical band wagon and defend some theological system or historical writer or teacher. There is not a human living who is not flawed. There is no movement, denomination, creed, or theological system that is not tainted with error, so why do they rush to defend everything but the scripture? Some say the scripture needs no defense, but it is that kind of cute talk that buries professing Christianity in error.

This approach doesn’t mean that we can’t have appreciation for people, organizations, and movements. On the other hand, though, all of these things call for us to ask questions. We cannot please God and actively cover error, nor should we ignore error. What kind of pride would ignore the responsibility given to every believer to compare scripture with statements and printed material?

YOU KNEW THIS WAS COMING

Going back to the journey I described at the beginning, something became very clear. Every one of the statements that troubled me had one thing in common: those who ignored or covered error hold a flawed hermeneutic. To the person who is committed to the authority and sufficiency of scripture, a correct system of biblical interpretation is imperative. If there is no single system of hermeneutic, then anyone can make the Bible say what he or she wants it to say; and that is exactly why we have error. Many have chosen a system that allows them to insert whatever they want into the biblical text. I remind you that this is exactly what is being done with the constitution of our country. It is the practice of liberals, a way of thinking, and a mindset. That is the reason why, when someone abandons the one biblical hermeneutic, he can come up with any kind of theology or invention to replace it. That is how a well-intentioned student can leave the truth behind and rapidly take the journey from truth to the liberalism of a-millennialism. Not only do I have no obligation to protect those who are following this path, but I have no reason, either, to be silent about the evil – no matter how intellectual it may be – of destroying the futures of young men.

HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN? Wednesday, Aug 14 2013 

A recent communication from a long-time friend in my home state has once again brought to the surface a very serious issue. The church where he had been a member for most of his life called a new pastor, who failed to inform the church of his intent to remake the church into the emerging-church model. While only God knows his motive, the result became very public. When those who had sacrificed, given, and served for years to create a healthy local assembly began asking questions, they were stiff armed. As time passed, people who had comprised the heart of that church ministry were told to either fall in line with the new plan or leave. In the end, yet another previously healthy congregation moved into the emerging-church tragedy.

We need to begin by agreeing that it is clearly dishonest for any man to accept the leadership of a church without being upfront about his intentions. Even if it is a theological issue that needs to be corrected, he must be transparent.

The question is often asked, “How do you know when the emerging church is emerging in your church”? It has happened to some of you and very soon is about to happen to others. That is what this article is about.

A CLEAR VIEW OF THE EMERGING CHURCH

In reality, the emerging church is simply the road to the emergent church. In the latter, because that movement is at home with heresy, a theology that is biblical is almost destroyed. The emerging church is a façade. It looks good to those who are not settled in their theology, but it is fraught with doctrinal error. No church has ever entered its clutches without having its theology compromised. That cancer is covered by defenders of the movement by “complicating to confuse”. What is needed instead is an approach that “simplifies to clarify”.

To avoid revealing the theological weaknesses of the emerging church, a liberal tool is used: all conversation about it is steered toward culture and methodology rather than the dangers of doctrinal deviation. Although many of their methods are not inherently evil, some are dangerous. Methods, however, are not at the center of this problem; theology is. The emerging church uses its methods, and the ensuing debate about them, to turn from truth. Every church that has headed down the road of the emerging church has been lulled by the siren song of “methods”. When the doctrinal compromise which has occurred is finally realized, by then it’s too late; it is but one more step to the emergent church where at first doctrine doesn’t matter, and finally it is hated. It all begins with the mantra that “the Bible doesn’t speak to that”. Methods do matter, and the Bible records the death of some who were not careful about this.

THE ANSWER TO THE QUESTION

If a church is leaning toward the emerging model, don’t expect to see much of a doctrinal shift from the pulpit; it is more subtle than that. The attitude about the content of sermons, and even their length, may create some valid questions. When the pulpit is removed from the “worship center”, members should begin to ask, “What is central here?” Many churches helpfully place Bibles in the pews for anyone who may not have one, but that is, of course, no longer necessary if the Bible has become merely a fetish in man-centered worship. Don’t waste your time judging any individual churches about each of these things; one single issue will only serve to create a question and not necessarily an answer.

A majority of the churches which are moving left have had a major shift in their style of worship. I have pledged not to get in the middle of the “worship wars”, so I will be brief with this. The concern with this topic is that much of the move in worship styles has left the true meaning of worship behind, a telltale sign of the emerging church. Jesus made this plain to the Samaritan woman: “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth”. (John 4:24). How can we worship God when truth is left behind and when we sing lies? How can we worship God when man, rather than God, is the center of a side show misnamed “worship”?

Music is one of the best indicators of the emerging church infection. Some say that the Bible does not speak to this subject, but that is more of a confession than an observation. If you walk blindfolded into a “worship” service and can’t tell whether you’re in a church or a nightclub or a rock concert or a bar, something is definitely wrong. Showmanship and low-talented performances where you have no idea what the words even are that are being sung should leave you with questions. Even over-used phrases that border on “vain repetition” should make us begin to ask some questions.

FINE TUNING

Any one of these things by itself might not be a condemnation, but taken as a whole they should set off the warning lights. It is clear that every church which has made this transition gave the warning early on in the form of culture, methods, and worship changes. One could not say that the leaders in every case knew what they were doing, but in the end they had to give up something theologically. So…if you are asking, “Is this emerging in my church?” you’d better spend some time thinking about what is going on and asking some Bible questions. If there is no one in your church who has the ability to understand a theology that is biblical, then ask someone who does.

I wasn’t born yesterday, and I have already heard time and again the defense of the emerging church arguments, so if you have input, please make it theological – not philosophical.

ALL THE KING’S MEN Monday, Jul 29 2013 

Most of us older folks can recite the nursery rhyme about Humpty Dumpty, which begins “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall”, and ends with “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again”. I feel sorry for the pessimists in today’s world as well as the optimists. When either group looks at the condition of our nation and this world, they are very apt to draw flawed conclusions. A biblical Christian, on the other hand, is a realist in that he can observe and discuss the terrible plight we are in but at the same time can clearly see the answers that we need. Some individuals solve problems by simply ignoring them, and there are situations where this might be the best approach. In the case of a “clear and present danger”, however, ignoring the reality can be deadly.

Never in the history of this planet has there been such a worldwide destabilization as there is today. Anyone looking for a stable government, economy, or moral standard, or a peaceful setting, searches the world in vain. For the believer, this is no surprise; the Bible clearly tells us what to expect in the end time. The question is what should we do with this reality?

Never before in the history of this once-great country has there been such a drastic plunge into moral degradation, economic insanity, lawlessness, lack of leadership, and ever-present danger. This is the way of any unregenerate society because it has no moral base, having turned from the Sovereign Creator to the worship of man. The old Wild West was tame compared to the violence in our cities and now in the entire countryside. The question once again is – what should we do with this reality?

Never before in the history of the American church has there existed such disdain for the very Word of God, the Bible. Culture has become the rule of morals and methodology. While all the statements and creeds may still be in print, their contents are very seldom found in the pulpits or in the hearts of those who call themselves Christian. The church has become the favorite whipping boy of those who openly revile God. It has been marginalized to the point that biblical Christianity has next to no major impact on society at all. Society not only rejects the church; it openly mocks it. The question is…what should we do with this reality?

DEADLY SILENCE

From a human point of view, we have a Humpty Dumpty nation and world; there is nothing on the horizon that can mend its broken condition. The judgment of God is apparent in the whole of society, and even creation echoes this. The optimist would disagree because he wants there to be an answer for his own comfort and safety, but his is a false hope. The liberal mind has no answer; it only creates problems and blames them on someone else. Denial and false hope actually keep us from coming up with an answer to this calamity.

Many Christian leaders have not only recommended false hope, but have provided a partial truth, and a half truth is dangerous. It is true that the answer for an individual is the gospel because once someone is saved, his world and future are changed forever. It is true that when a person is saved, the positive influence on his surroundings is an answer. From an eternal point of view, the gospel is the answer; and it has immediate influence on the culture.

For the biblical Christian, we begin with the gospel as described in I Corinthians 15:1-4. I say with respect that the gospel is not the whole counsel of God. A church that preaches only the gospel is only partially obedient. The believer who thinks that sharing the gospel is his sole responsibility will in the end be disobedient to the scripture. The whole Bible is the whole counsel of God. The whole must be believed, taught, and shared with the world around us. If you tell me that I am not to speak to the issues of life openly in society, you have asked me to be disobedient.

Silence is deadly, and the church is paying the price for its silence in our culture. That silence happens because some well-intentioned leader has told you to keep God’s Word to yourself or within the four walls of the building where the local church meets. Morality, abortion, sodomy, and dishonesty are not political issues; they are biblical issues first. If believers refuse to obey God and speak to these issues in public, only the lies of the devil’s children will stand.

NOW FOR THE ANSWER

Silence is not an answer. Ignoring the reality of a tragic society is not the answer. The answer is in the hand of God and in His Word. It is of great comfort to know that the biblical Christian has read the last chapter. God wins, and we are winners because we are in Christ. Our struggles are temporary, and defeat is a fleeting thing. Dr. M. R. DeHaan used to say, “Victory may not always be possible, but faithfulness always is”. Those who have accepted the biblical teaching of the any-moment catching away of the church and the second coming of Christ just prior to the Millennium can rejoice in these answers clearly defined in the text of scripture. These are the final answers, and there can be no doubt about them.

We are still waiting for the sound of the trumpet and the “Blessed Hope”. This is the real world we live in. So, what is the answer to the dilemma of living in this “present evil world”? It begins with our willingness to ignore those who call for silence. We have a duty to speak truth openly in the home, in the church, and in society. It is the gospel that saves, but it is truth that leads one to the gospel. It is the Bible that contains the true gospel, but the Bible is also authoritative in any matter to which it speaks.

The answer is in our obligation to glorify God in all we do. Silence does not glorify Him. It is not our responsibility to change the culture – only God can do that – but it is our responsibility to share with the whole world the truth, all the truth contained in the book. Our world has had a great fall, and it is not our job to put it together again, but we can be obedient. This is no time to hide truth under a bushel.

FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION

The book The Weeping Church was first published in 1985. It has been in constant publication since then, and now Faithful Life Publishers has printed the third edition. It continues to be an effective tool for pastors and churches who are seeking to follow the clear teaching of Scripture as to the polity of the local church.

Faithful Life Publishers.com,The Weeping Church, Clay Nuttall, D.Min ISBN 978-1-937129-80-4

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