The Battle For The Bible Continues

One day during my seminary training, I was sitting in a theology class at a school that just 15 years earlier had been influenced by liberal theology – a school where faculty members questioned biblical inerrancy and the exclusivity of the gospel. Thankfully, the SBC had fought “The Battle for the Bible” starting in 1979 and this school had returned to the faith of its founders. But, my theology prof said something on that particular day that I’ll never forget: “The Battle for the Bible didn’t start in 1979. It began in Eden’s garden, and it won’t end until Jesus returns.”

Wise leaders have told me repeatedly that our generation will have to fight for the Bible, and I’ve been reminded of those prophetic warnings in recent days by two key figures in the evangelical world.

First, Andy Stanley tweeted a link to an article where a young lady who has renounced Christianity talks about how much she misses being a Born-Again Christian. Along with the link, Stanley tweeted, “Why we must teach the next generation the FOUNDATION of our faith is an EVENT not a BOOK.”

Second, Christian singer Gungor is drifting from biblical orthodoxy. He doesn’t believe the early accounts in Genesis are historical, or that there was an Adam or an Eve or a global flood. Ken Ham pointed out that Jesus referenced Adam and Noah as historical people, to which Gungor replied that even if Jesus was wrong about the historicity of Adam and Noah that wouldn’t deny the divinity of Christ. Ken Ham responded again, and then he gives a screenshot of a Facebook comment where Gungor writes, “There is a trend in modern society, no more than a trend…a religion, an idolatry that elevates Scripture above Jesus.”

So, Stanley and Gungor seek to drive a wedge between the Bible and the person and work of Jesus. Stanley says the Bible is not the foundation of our faith, but rather an event. Gungor says that people elevate the Bible over Jesus and thereby worship it as an idol. The problem, though, is that we don’t know about the person or the saving event of the gospel except for the book! Any attempt to divorce Jesus’ person or work from the book is impossible because we wouldn’t know about these things without it! My dad tweeted Stanley after his tweet and said, “You do not know the event apart from The Book & the divinely inspired understanding of the event. You know this Andy.”

Honestly, none of this is new. Liberalism has sought to do that for hundreds of years. The impulse behind liberalism was never really to destroy Christianity; liberalism wanted to rescue Christianity from things that the modern mind couldn’t accept. It was in many ways well intentioned – as Stanley is well intentioned in his concern that this lady’s modern objections to the Bible caused her to walk away from Christianity and as Gungor is well intentioned to interpret the Bible through modern scientific analysis.

However, much would be gained if every “evangelical” Christian would sit down and read a book that was written nearly 100 years ago – J. Gresham Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism. Machen was battling for the Bible a long time ago and what he wrote was prophetic in his day and is still prophetic in ours. In his book, Machen destroys any notion that Christianity can survive if one divorces the Bible from the person or work of Jesus. His basic premise is that any belief system that would do that ceases to be Christian and is instead something else entirely. He writes, “For Christianity depends, not on a complex of ideas, but upon the narration of an event” (70), and that narration is found in the Bible.

Here are some things in Machen that are instructive for our modern debates:

  • You can’t elevate Jesus and downplay the Bible because Jesus had a high view of the Bible

Machen wrote that the trouble with liberalism, which sought to elevate Jesus over the Bible, was “that our Lord Himself seems to have held the high view of the Bible which is here being rejected” (75). So, Machen points out that “the modern liberal does not hold fast even to the authority of Jesus. Certainly he does not accept the words of Jesus as they are recorded in the Gospels. For among the recorded words of Jesus are to be found just those things which are most abhorrent to the modern liberal church…Evidently, therefore, those words of Jesus which are to be regarded as authoritative by modern liberalism must first be selected from the mass of the recorded words by a critical process. The critical process is certainly very difficult, and the suspicion often arises that the critic is retaining as genuine words of the historical Jesus only those words which conform to his own preconceived ideas” (77).

Machen wrote these words nearly a hundred years ago, but it is still the case that some modern Christians jettison or re-interpret things in the Bible that don’t conform to their preconceived ideas. This is exactly what Gungor is doing by jettisoning the early accounts of Genesis. Machen writes, “It is no wonder, then, that liberalism is totally different from Christianity, for the foundation is different. Christianity is founded upon the Bible. It bases upon the Bible both its thinking and its life. Liberalism on the other hand is founded upon the shifting emotions of sinful men” (79).

  • You can’t separate the person and work of Jesus from the book that proclaims Him

Machen was clear that the events of the gospel were not enough to save; the re-telling of the events and the interpretation of that narration were necessary for saving faith. He writes, “The world was to be redeemed through the proclamation of an event. And with the event went the meaning of the event; and the setting forth of the event with the meaning of the event was doctrine. These two elements are always combined in the Christian message. The narration of the facts is history; the narration of the facts with the meaning of the facts is doctrine. ‘Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried’ – that is history. ‘He loved me and gave Himself for me’ – that is doctrine. Such was the Christianity of the primitive Church” (emphasis mine; 29).

But, Machen anticipated the objection that we can free ourselves from this and appeal to Jesus Himself. Let’s go “Back to Christ” (29-30). In that day there were those who wanted to drive a wedge between Jesus and the Bible. He gives their objection, “Should not our trust be in a Person rather than in a message?” (39). But, he responds with the problem in that view, “The plain fact is that Jesus of Nazareth died these nineteen hundred years ago. It was possible for the men of Galilee in the first century to trust Him…But we are separated by nineteen centuries from the One who alone could give us aid. How can we bridge the gulf of time that separates us from Jesus?” His answer is the New Testament (39-45). He says that Jesus and the Bible are under attack, but we cannot know the Savior apart from the Bible!

Again, Machen writes, “From the beginning, the Christian gospel…consisted in an account of something that had happened. And from the beginning, the meaning of the happening was set forth; and when the meaning of the happening was set forth then there was Christian doctrine. ‘Christ died’ – that is history; ‘Christ died for our sins’ – that is doctrine. Without these two elements, joined in an absolutely indissoluble union, there is no Christianity” (27). If we divorce the person and work of Jesus from the book that tells us about who He is and what He did, then we no longer have Christianity.

Saying the foundation of our faith is an event – the cross and empty tomb – not a book can sound right, but we have to think a little more deeply and say to ourselves, “I wouldn’t know about that glorious cross and that empty grave without The Book!” Saying let’s elevate Jesus above our Bibles is true enough, but the only Jesus we know is the one to whom all the Scriptures point! So, don’t give up your Bibles because without them you don’t have Jesus, and if you don’t have Jesus, that’s Hell. Christianity is based on a book and Machen challenged us nearly 100 years ago, “Let it not be said that dependence upon a book is a dead or an artificial thing…Dependence upon a word of man would be slavish, but dependence upon God’s word is life” (78).

 

Original article found here.

The Blind Leading the Blind

The following is a section out of the book Deep and Wide:  Creating Churches Unchurched People Love To Attend by Andy Stanley.  You are welcome to agree, or disagree with my assessment of this statement made by Mr. Stanley, but before you do, check out the links included below to others who share similar opinions.  So, on that note, lets dive in to Deep and Wide.  Mr Stanley writes:

People are far more interested in what works than what’s true. I hate to burst your bubble, but virtually nobody in your church is on a truth quest. Including your spouse. They are on happiness quests. As long as you are dishing out truth with no here’s the difference it will make tacked on the end, you will be perceived as irrelevant by most of the people in your church, student ministry, or home Bible study. You may be spot-on theologically, like the teachers of the law in Jesus’ day, but you will not be perceived as one who teaches with authority. Worse, nobody is going to want to listen to you.

Now, that may be discouraging. Especially the fact that you are one of the few who is actually on a quest for truth. And, yes, it is unfortunate that people aren’t more like you in that regard. But that’s the way it is. It’s pointless to resist. If you try, you will end up with a little congregation of truth seekers who consider themselves superior to all the other Christians in the community. But at the end of the day, you won’t make an iota of difference in this world. And your kids…more than likely your kids, are going to confuse your church with the church and once they are out of your house, they probably won’t visit the church house. Then one day they will show up in a church like mine and want to get baptized again because they won’t be sure the first one took. And I’ll be happy to pastor your kids. But I would rather you face the reality of the world we live in and adjust your sails. Culture is like the wind. You can’t stop it. You shouldn’t spit in it. But, if like a good sailor you will adjust your sails, you can harness the winds of culture to take your audience where they need to go. If people are more interested in being happy, then play to that. Jesus did (Copied from my Kindle, sections 1216-1234).

BAL31875I listened to this quote a while back while on my way to work and it was all I could do to not drive my car off the side of the road in total frustrative disbelief that a supposed minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ could even say something like this, much less print it in a book that will sell many copies and be around for years.  This is an incredible display of arrogant pragmatism that is a slap in the face of any method that Christ, the Apostles, or the Church down through history have used to preach the Gospel.  If I turn to scripture, I find no indication at all that Christ conformed to the culture of his day and used that to his advantage to spread the Gospel.  If anything, he decried the culture of his day.

So, how do you reconcile the above statement with Jesus’ own words? Christ said in Matthew 10:34-39,  “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW; and A MAN’S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.  And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.”  Jesus Himself was very emphatic in stating that he came to cause offense in families, which, from what I have observed, is anything but a happy situation.

Culture is very man-centric.  100 years ago, there was no such movement for same sex marriage rights like we see today.  I submit that in just a few years, polygamy, polyandry, and polyamory will be on the front burner and become even more divisive to our current culture.  All of these forms of relationships mentioned above are due to our cultures inability to find ‘happiness’ in life, so it just leads to more and more debauchery.  So, to take this to an extreme, what would a church that practices what Mr. Stanley says above do if someone came into their congregation and said something to the effect that they enjoyed killing someone or having sex with children because it made them happy?  From the quote I shared above there would be nothing you could say to that person to convince them they were wrong because that would take away their happiness, and we should ‘play to that because Jesus did.’

I have absolutely no doubts that Mr. Stanley is a well educated man, probably much smarter than me, but I don’t think he has thought this proposition through to its logical end.  A statement like he makes above is pretty much a license for ‘anything goes’ as long as it makes me happy and if I am one of the people he is trying to reach, then I should come to expect whatever makes me happy from what I experience at his church.  If it doesn’t make me happy, then Mr. Stanley needs to be informed so that he can make the necessary changes to accommodate me, because my happiness is the ultimate goal, right?  Of course, I’m stymied as to how that would work in a church of 20,000 plus people who all want to be happy.  From what I have seen, there is no generic ‘happiness’ that reaches everyone in the same way.

So, Mr. Stanley, you just keep on preaching to the goats you lead because they have itching ears and only hear what they want to hear.  You, sir, do not want absolute truth because that would cause a full on confrontation with the God of truth who is more concerned with His glory than any happiness that you or I could ever have.  And, by the way, should you ever preach the truth of Gods glory, you would find yourself as one of those small, obscure, non-world impacting preachers you so haughtily poked fun at.  Joshua 24:14-15 says:

Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

That word spoken by Joshua is not a request, that is an emphatic statement to put away the culture that was left behind when the Israelites came out of Egypt.  An entire generation fell in the wilderness because they would not put the culture behind them.  I fear for you, sir, as you and others like you are leading an entire generation into a wilderness that has been charted and explored before.  In your quest for happiness, you will find only misery, heartache, destruction, and when it is over, eternity apart from God because you refused to listen to the voice of God.

Like Joshua said, “but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

Other links of interest:

Happiness Questing from The Mortification of Spin Podcast

Carl Trueman weighs in at Reformation 21

Stand Firm in the Faith has a take on this

A View From Serenity Acres