Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Pre New Year's Ramblings
Usually, I'll put up a simple "Happy New Year" - sometimes with a spiritual application, sometimes not. This time, I want to end 2013 with a passage from Dr. Harold Lindsell's timeless "The Battle for the Bible." We will see the battle for the Bible continuing into 2014, and until Jesus comes to gather His own. But as I've been rereading Lindsell for the umpteenth time, a particular passage leapt out at me because Lindsell addresses an issue that's always bugged me enormously. And that is the lack of integrity involved when people sign on to a doctrinal statement that they don't really believe, and seduce the church or theological school of which they are a part.
In "The Battle for the Bible," Dr. Lindsell documents numerous places within denominations and theological schools where drift has begun and the battle has been enjoined. Keep in mind, this book was written in the mid-1970s, and Dr. Lindsell has gone on to glory. In this passage, Lindsell discusses the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod—long a stalwart for holding on to essential truth on the inerrancy and authority of Scripture. More specifically, he addresses a statement by Lutheran Paul Bretscher about inerrancy. Read closely . . .
Since Luther and the Synod both agree on the principle sola Scriptura, are not the opponents of biblical inerrancy wrong when they refuse to believe what Scripture teaches about itself? What the Missouri Synod has done in its Brief Statement of 1932 is not something new; it has been part and parcel of the Synod's views since it was founded in the United States. Bretscher was raised in this environment. If he personally believes that the Synod has erred in demanding adherence to an infallible Scripture, and he cannot convince the Synod that it is wrong, he is free to remove to another Lutheran group more to his liking. So long as he wishes to remain within the Synod, he is bound by his ordination oath to believe, teach, and propagate what the Synod is committed to. He has every right to change his views and depart from synodal teachings. He has NO right to remain within the church when he does this.
We need to explore what it means to be a Lutheran, keeping in mind what Martin E. Marty said about who Lutherans are. If a man denies what a Lutheran church teaches, is he truly a Lutheran? Let me illustrate this. Suppose Bretscher denies the deity of Christ, the vicarious atonement, the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and His Second Coming. Does he then have any claim to the title "Lutheran?" Does he have any right to remain with a church that calls itself "Lutheran?" More than that, does a Lutheran church not have the right to exclude from its fellowship those who deny truths that their confession says a Lutheran church believes? Does a church have a right to permit those who disbelieve Lutheran teaching to remain in its fellowship? Does not the presence of those who disbelieve Lutheran teachings almost surely guarantee further infection in the church and at last the loss of the church to historic Lutheranism in all except name? Since any church has the right to determine what its own confessional standards shall be, men like Bretscher have no right to deny those teachings, or to defy the authority of the church that has set up those standards. This is an ethical issue that cannot be avoided.
Dr. Lindsell is right. And this is a serious issue that goes way beyond Lutheranism. It impacts any Bible-preaching, Bible-teaching, conservative evangelical church body. When you have seminary professors who sign doctrinal statements to belong to a faculty in good standing, or pastors who sign a doctrinal statement to have their ordination renewed, but in reality DENY the doctrine onto which they are signing, it is an ENORMOUS ethical issue. Let's call it what it is. It's lying. Deceptive lying. And it is right in keeping with the warning of the Apostle Peter in Scripture:
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned, and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep (2 Peter 2:1-3).
We've been warned in advance. Before the Lord returns, we who hold to biblical truth will be facing quite a battle. Will we be ready and able to stand when called on? Or will we fold and cave in to the "innovative and trendy?" Will we throw biblical doctrine out the window for expediency, or to maintain "peace and harmony?"