Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Bible Tells Me So

There’s an interesting controversy in the church today that has been brewing for some time, but that seems to be gathering steam of late. And that is the role that the Bible plays in the life of the church and Christianity as a whole. You may have heard of a rather well known preacher who has popularized the idea that Christianity is not dependent on the Bible simply because Christianity began before the Bible. I suspect that what the preacher is intending to say is that the New Testament was not composed until after Christianity had been established. This fact is then used to promote the idea that we should not be so dependent on the Bible for our faith and that we need to detach ourselves from some of its pronouncements if we’re going to be successful evangelists in a postmodern culture.

Although the fact that Christianity began before the New Testament was written is true, the New Testament church has never been anything but the church of the Bible. The Christians of the first couple of decades in the life of the church did not have a New Testament writing to refer to, but they did have the real, living witnesses of the events they believed who could provide the word to them in spoken form. And not only that, as we can see in the book of Acts, from the very beginning of the Christian era, the disciples appealed to the Scriptures of the Old Testament in their insistence that Jesus was the fulfilment of the promises made to Israel (and to the Gentiles). Even the first sermon of the Christian era during Pentecost, was heavily influenced by the biblical record. When Peter stood up to deliver that sermon, he made it clear that the Scriptures had foreseen that day and that, consequently, these events were not some sort of innovation. (For a great series of articles dealing with the teaching of the apostles in Acts, see the link here.)

Fast forward to today and the contrast is stark. The insistence that man is the one that must decide whether he will be of Christ or not has led far too many to engage in a sales job like no other. To be sure, this is not all that new. In the 19th century, Charles Finney promoted the idea that the gospel had to change to appeal to a new generation. Finney’s idea was that the sinner needed to be made aware of the attractiveness of the gospel if he was to be convinced of his need for it. That has morphed into what today is termed the seeker sensitive movement where marketing strategies and other gimmicks are used to attract unbelievers to the “church.” The idea that the Spirit of God can and does change the heart through His Word and that He brings about the conversion of sinners seems to many to be outdated.

An unfortunate side effect of such thinking is that, when man is placed at the center of the salvation process, he will begin to think that his “feelings” are all that matter. If you’re of the mind that people need to be cajoled and massaged until they finally come to Christ, the result will likely be heartache and disappointment. If you seek to bring people into the church with programs and allurements, what will they say if you move on to the weightier matters of the gospel and the Christian life? If the sinner is made to believe that it’s all about him and how he feels, how then will you be able to convince him that God demands holiness and absolute obedience? The inevitable result is that you will not demand such things. You will continue to let the sinner believe that he can “have his cake and eat it too.” Witness the push in many quarters to accommodate the so-called “carnal” Christians.

Getting back to the preacher at the beginning of this article, his primary reason for wanting to deemphasize the Bible is simply so that Christianity will be less objectionable to the average person. In his view, putting too much emphasis on the inerrancy of the Bible or in its demands, will make it less likely that people will want to become Christians. To be sure, he and those who think like him are often people who have very good intentions. But again, the question needs to be asked, just who is it that Christianity is all about? Is it about the man and his “feelings” or is it about God and His glory?

Others will claim that if we insist on the absolute infallibility of the Bible, there will be those who will find it hard to believe it because science seems to contradict so many of its decrees. Thus, science and man become the arbiters as to what God has or has not said. These are the folks who tell us that we really don’t need to believe that the history of creation as portrayed in Genesis is literally true. After all, what does it matter whether God made Adam as Genesis describes it or whether He used some sort of evolutionary process as the scientist insists? Can you imagine the chaos we’re thrown into since Genesis forms the basis for the entire scheme of redemption that follows! Not to mention that if you make scientists the ultimate word on whether the Bible is true or not, you’ll be changing your stance about every 30 seconds.

In the final analysis, we must allow God to perform His work while ensuring that we submit to His will and His desire for us. It is the height of arrogance to think that we somehow can do a better job of convincing sinners to embrace Christ than He can. The apostle Paul declared in 1 Corinthians 1:18 and following that it pleased God through the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe. Although God chose to use us in that role, we should not make the mistake of believing that we are thus indispensable. Later in the same book, Paul recognized his role in the salvation of sinners when he said that “by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10). If we remember that it is only by His grace that we are anything, we will never go wrong.




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