by Phillip Brown
WARNING!! There is a problem in the church! There is no need to panic, but there is a pernicious snake that has been slithering in right under our noses. We must keep our eyes peeled and our ears open. This problem may strike your church at any moment, so be prepared.
By now you must be thinking, well what in the world is the problem? Here it is; there seems to be an increasing number of “believers” who tend not to think that knowing God’s Word is required for communing with Jesus. And those same people often deny that Jesus is the only way to God. Yes, you read that correctly. There are self-proclaimed Christians out there, who deny Jesus’ claim to be the only true means of knowing God. And they don’t believe that scripture is required for knowing Him either. This is happening all around us and many of us don’t even recognize the signs.
Please excuse the emotionally worded intro. There is a good reason for it though. Words like pernicious and slithering come with powerful connotations. They put people on guard. They can cause certain emotions to arise within us. But do they actually tell us what is happening? Not really. They are just descriptors, meant to draw us in and bring about feelings of fear, or uneasiness in us. The same type of descriptive wording can be used to bring about other feelings also. In a way, this is what is happening in some Christian circles. There is a growing movement to pull away from doctrine-based belief and move toward strictly feeling, or strictly emotion-based belief. (This is nothing new, but it is becoming more common.) For example, it is probably safe to say that one of the biggest themes we see in The New Testament is the idea of love. God loves you, Jesus loves you, we should love each other and so on. We hear all the time that Christianity is about love. To the point where nothing else matters and this becomes all that is taught in some Churches. This is really powerful and really moving stuff. But, aside from direct connection with the Holy Spirit, can we claim that love has anything to do with Christ without reading the bible and knowing what He said about love? What’s more, without proper understanding of scripture, how can we even know what is meant when Jesus and the apostles speak about love? The simple truth is that we can’t.
When we come across blog articles today with titles like “Ten Things This Christian Doesn’t Believe About The Bible” and the Red Letter Christians article “The Bible Isn’t Perfect And It Says So”, it’s no wonder we may start to think that perhaps we got this whole truth in scripture thing wrong. The problems that I am addressing are not just something of a burgeoning internet trend, these things are coming right from the pulpit. I have attended services at many inner-city churches over the last few years and there seems to be a trend, especially among younger pastors, to preach more about their day and their dog and then weave a biblical concept into the sermon. This is in contrast to starting with scripture and then expounding on scripture. In other words, they are not teaching what Jesus and the apostles said and helping the congregation understand what it all means, so they can live their lives in light of that message, but rather, they try to adapt some part of that message to how we want to live our lives. Even well known American pastor Andy Stanley of North Point Community Church has spoken about “throwing the bible out”. Even if a statement like that was said in a context, which was not meant to downplay the importance of scripture, I think that it’s a very dangerous thing to say because people don’t often try to understand things in context. We love sound bites these days. An example of this is Oprah Winfrey’s famous quote, “love doesn’t hurt”. There is that “L” word again. What Oprah thinks love means is not quite the same thing that Jesus meant. Today, however, the meaning is confused by many Christians. It seems that the use of powerful words like love, tolerance, and grace have replaced the use of scripture, which although it contains those words, uses them in very clear and specific way. Ways that we can only understand by reading and learning them in their proper, biblical context.
The other big problem mentioned above is that some people who claim to be Christian are denying Christ’s sole right to be the only way to God. I think that this issue follows directly from the first. Jesus makes it clear in John 14:6 that he is the only way to God. And God has given us those words and many others to guide our lives. Some churches seem to ignore these words. The Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto is a perfect example of flat out ignoring Jesus’ words. In the “what we believe at MCC Toronto section” on their website, they state that “there are many paths to God, and Christianity is one of them”. Now God works in ways that are not always clear to us and I don’t presume to know His master plan, but it seems to me that a church that puts words like those of MCC Toronto in their faith statement, which stand against one of Christ’s clearest teachings, is not one which cares much for the words God has given us. Something is terribly wrong with that institution. For this reason, I am big proponent of reading a Church’s faith statement before attending.
Now I want to be clear that many, if not most, of the people who see things in the way that I have spoken about in this article are not at all bad people. In fact, they are probably some of the most well intentioned Christians, but they are very misguided. On that note, perhaps it is also worthwhile to mention that we should never condemn, or reject a brother, or sister in Christ because of their feelings about these issues. What we should do is be as close, as gentle, and as loving to them as we can. And do our best to wake them up to the errors in their thinking.
Don’t get me wrong. Faith is a very emotional thing. Belief in Jesus is as much a matter of the heart as it is a matter of historical fact. There is more to being a Christian than knowing and being able to regurgitate bible verses. On the Christian worldview, in order to be saved, we must completely give ourselves up to Christ. And that takes more than just reading a collection of writings, however authoritative they may be. But understanding those writings is essential to truly getting to the point where you know what it means to give yourself up. And this is why the bible, while not the only aspect of Christian faith, is a necessary part of it.