On the Horizon - Part 2
ON THE HORIZON 2
The latest fad
- LaGard Smith notes that the latest fad among liberal brethren is that of exchanging pulpits with denominational preachers (Who Is My Brother, p. 73). One writer notes, "For God’s people to have fellowship with the churches founded and controlled by men is the very height of inconsistency. Those who participate in such fellowship are saying by their actions, ‘It’s all right for you to preach that sinners are saved before and without water baptism. That is, it’s all right for you to do it in your building, but not in ours…. I don’t object to your preaching that babies are born hereditarily depraved, but it would be a sin for me to preach that. We will all preach what we believe in our own buildings and when we are not together, but when we all come together we will avoid mentioning our differences, and spend our time bashing those who refuse to be cooperative. That, my friends, is what is involved in having fellowship with denominations. It’s later than we think when prominent brethren are invited to address denominational groups, and the only thing they can find to criticize is their own brethren and the church for which the Lord died" (Spiritual Sword, April 1998, p. 15).
Points To Note: 1. Those who are arguing for tolerance and fellowship with the denominational world, have very little tolerance or fellowship with those of us who are standing for the truth. They will exchange pulpits with someone who teaches error, but not with someone who teaches the truth. 2. They will speak out against supposed errors and "traditions" embraced by those who are sound in the faith, but in reference to the errors in the denominational world, they are completely silent! One writer appropriately noted, "We must never lose sight of the fact that liberals (those in error) claim a right for themselves which they never wish to grant to others. Once liberals have taken over a school, or a congregation, have you ever heard them inviting someone to teach or to speak from a conservative view?" (Spiritual Sword, April 1994, p. 2). 3. Can you imagine Paul exchanging pulpits with Judaizing teachers? (Galatians 1:6-9) Or, John trading pulpits with the Gnostics? (1 John 4:1-2)
This is a section of Scripture that some are trying to use to justify fellowship with the denominations. It is basically argued that John and the other apostles were acting like supposed narrow-minded members of the church of Christ, and that the man casting out demons in the name of Jesus is to be compared to a member of some denomination. Then it is argued, that as long as someone professes Christ and appears to be doing some good, we should simply accept them as brothers in Christ. Points To Note: 1. This man was able to cast out demons in the name of the Lord (9:38), a thing which no impostor could do (Acts 19:13-16). Doing something in the name of Jesus, is to do it with His authority and approval. He was on the Lord’s side, he was right with God, even though he wasn’t personally traveling with Jesus and the apostles. 2. Just because this man wasn’t personally known by John does not mean that he was a false teacher. On the contrary, Jesus approved of the man, and we know that Jesus never approved of those who taught error (Matthew 7:15-27). 3. This man wasn’t against Jesus and the apostles (9:40), but denominations who teach that baptism isn’t necessary for salvation, are against Jesus (Mark 16:16). 4. If people want this text to justify the denominations, then the text needs to read, "Teacher, we saw someone teaching false doctrine in Your name, and we tried to hinder him…But Jesus said, "Do not hinder him, for there is no one who shall teacher error in My name, and be able soon after to speak evil of Me". 5. Remember, while Jesus was on the earth one didn’t have to personally accompany Jesus on all His travels to be right with God. Yet, following the crucifixion and the day of Pentecost, one does have to be a member of His church to be right with God (Acts 2:38,41,47; 20:28; 1 Timothy 3:15). One writer has argued, "When I see someone calling God Father and Jesus Savior, I meet a brother or a sister—regardless of the name of their church or denomination" (A Gentle Thunder: Hearing God Through the Storm, Max Lucado, p. 141). The problem with this, is that Paul encountered various groups that would have professed both the Father and Jesus, and yet he viewed them as false brethren (Acts 15:5 "who had believed"; Galatians 2:1-5). 6. It is also interesting to note that Jesus condemned and rebuked every major religious party in Judaism during His public ministry. Jesus didn’t argue, "When I see someone calling Jehovah their God, I meet a brother or a sister—regardless of whether they are a Pharisee, Sadducee, Herodian, Essene, or Zealot". In fact what many people are saying is, "Everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 7:21)?
In his book Impostors in the Temple, Martin Anderson observes: "The school of thought called ‘deconstruction’ holds the view that language is always so compromised by metaphor and ulterior motives that a text never means what it appears to mean". And yet a literature professor at Abilene Christian University wrote, "Deconstructionists challenge our naïve faith in the power of language to reflect reality…In its best light, deconstruction causes a climate of faith by fostering a healthy skepticism about our capacity to know reality". What he and others are saying is that you cannot read the Bible and learn the truth. You must have a mystical encounter with the Divine to illuminate your understanding, or at the very least, you must know a ‘scholar’ who has experienced such an other-worldly encounter, and follow his guidance. Closely linked with this what is called the "Hermeneutic of Suspicion". In analyzing the papers presented at the 1990 Christian Scholars Conference (scholars who are associated with liberal churches of Christ), Tom Burch noted that the hermeneutic of suspicion is already raising its head in churches of Christ. He did so by phrasing the thesis of the 1990 CSC paper ready by Randall Harris. Mr. Burch said, "A ‘hermeneutic of suspicion’ is what Randall Harris (David Lipscomb University) said we should proceed under. Assuming the relativism of Post-Modernism, he made an interesting case for the fact that we never see clearly in this world". The hermeneutic of suspicion is the idea that the biblical writers were filled with prejudice and didn’t tell us the whole truth. For example, feminist theologians call for a deconstruction of Scripture for a complete rewrite of the Bible to go behind Moses and Paul and return to women the rights denied them which were buried by the authors who created an androcentric (male-centered) bible for the sole purpose of exercising male control. A hermeneutic of suspicion invites readers to investigate the biblical texts as one would search the place and location where a crime has been committed. That is, study the Bible from the premise that the writers had ulterior motives. In contrast, David said, "The law of the Lord is perfect…The testimony of the Lord is sure…. The commandment of the Lord is pure" (Psalm 19:7-8). Concerning the Scriptures, Jesus said, "Thy word is truth" (John 17:17); "It is written" (Matthew 4:4); "have you not read that which was spoken to you by God" (Matthew 22:31); and that the copy the Scriptures present in His time was accurate right down to the smallest letter and mark of punctuation (Matthew 5:17-18).
As voices in professed churches of Christ head towards denominationalism, we are hearing more that more that we cannot understand the Bible alike and that the Bible is beyond the understanding of the common man. Again those who have bought into deconstruction argue, "Jesus shows that the real issues of understanding the Bible go beyond being focused on the words of the text or even the context. We must instead focus centrally on the heart of God as it reaches out from behind those words and contexts to people" (The Forgotten Treasure, Gary D. Collier, p. 98). Points To Note: 1. How can we know the heart of God without paying attention to the words which compose Scripture? 2. It is interesting that Jesus didn’t have any problem in looking at the precise wording of the Old Testament(Matthew 22:29-32,41-45). 3. Since the words which compose Scripture are those words revealed by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:13; 2 Peter 1:20-21), and apart from such revelation, we haven’t a clue what is on the mind of God (1 Corinthians 2:9-11), how do we see the heart of God without paying attention to what God has said? 3. Jesus certainly didn’t discount the importance of His words (Matthew 7:24 "Everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them"; 24:35; John 12:48; 6:63 "the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life"; 8:31 "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine"; 8:47 "He who is of God hears the words of God"). Sadly, faithful Christians are often accused of worshipping the Bible instead of the God who gave the Bible. The truth of the matter is that faithful Christians worship God, and they realize that one of the ways that they worship and express their love for God, is in paying attention to what He has said (John 14:15; 23 "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word". In addition, like all godly people of past ages, Christians realize that the Bible is our lifeline to God. It is the sole communication from God to man, and without it we are blind (Psalm 19:11-13; Hebrews 5:13-14; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; Acts 17:11).
You shall know the truth
Contrary to the claims of some, Jesus said that we can know the truth (John 8:32). In fact Paul believed that understanding the Scriptures was often just as simple as reading what had been written (Ephesians 3:3-4). Through Paul, God said, that He "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4). One should note that the Holy Spirit at this point selected a word (translated "knowledge"), which means, an exact or full knowledge. This is a deep, intimate, correct and precise knowledge. Compare with Romans 1:28; 10:2; Ephesians 4:13; Philippians 1:9; Hebrews 10:26. Against all the claims that we can’t understand the Bible alike or that the Bible is beyond the understanding of the common man, be impressed that common people became Christians in the First Century (1 Corinthians 1:26), and these common people were commanded to be of the same mind, both in attitude and doctrine (1 Corinthians 1:10; Ephesians 4:1-6; 2 John 9). On this point I am reminded of what Jesus said, "I praise Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou didst hide these things from the wise and intelligent and didst reveal them to babes" (Matthew 11:25).Concerning this verse MacKnight comments, "Babes, therefore, stand in opposition, not to men of sound judgment and reason, but to proud politicians and men of learning who are so full of themselves that they disdain to receive instruction from others". Jesus also said,"Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:3). To Jesus, the most important quality when approaching the Word of God was a humble disposition and a good and honest heart (Luke 8:15). In 1558, William Weston, a Jesuit priest, reacting to translations of the Bible into English, condescendingly described a Puritan gathering, "Each of them had his own Bible, and sedulously (diligently) turned the pages and looked up the texts cited by the preachers, discussing the passages among themselves to see whether they had quoted them to the point, and accurately…Also they would start arguing among themselves about the meaning of passages from the Scriptures—men, women, boys, girls, rustics, laborers, and idiots". In response, one writer said, "Hooray! Thank God for people who care enough about pleasing the Lord and gaining heaven that they have ‘no small dissension and disputation’ with those who teach false doctrine (Acts 15:1-2). Compare with Acts 17:11.
Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church Of Christ/ (503)644-9017