This is something you are not likely to read in any major newspaper. In fact, you're unlikely to find it in most religious periodicals. But I'm going to tell you what threatens to destroy so many churches and denominations of our day and why so many people already feel that religious views and matters of faith should be discussed only inside the walls of a church sanctuary or Sunday school classroom and not in public view.
While I could go into some detail on the root causes for this shift based on the philosophical views of modern man, let it suffice to say that it all boils down to how people and churches view the Bible. In early Christianity and again at the time of the Reformation, the Bible was viewed as God's Word to man, given by inspiration of the Holy Spirit and true and authoritative in all that it teaches, including matters of morality, history and science. The Bible was regarded as true and without error in matters relating to God's plan of salvation in Jesus Christ, but also in other matters, such as a six-day creation, the age of the earth, the universal flood and the earth being round rather than flat (Isa. 40:21-22).
As modern man moved away from this absolute and authoritative view of the Bible, in its place man substituted relative truth based on the popular opinion of the day. Thus, as opinions and views change, so do moral values and laws. What was once considered true because it is taught in the Bible is no longer considered true today. What was wrong because the Bible calls it sin or an abomination may no longer be counted as sinful or wrong today.
While we might expect this in secular culture, it has also crept into churches and church bodies, even into conservative ones -- I know from my own encounters with it. Pastors and teachers may still call the Bible true and authoritative but they draw a line between the Bible's teaching on spiritual matters and its statements which touch upon matters of science or history. They say the Bible teaches spiritual truth but is full of misguided errors when it speaks in the arena of history and science, errors that were shaped by the thinking of the period in which the Bible was written.
Many churches and religious teachers will say that God is the creator but deny that He did it in six normal-length days some 6,000 years ago. They may say that sin and evil came into the world but would deny the historical accuracy of the account of the fall in Genesis 3. They may even admit to a deluge of some sort but would deny God's judgment upon the world through the universal flood described in Genesis 6-8. In this way, much in the Bible (and especially in the first 11 chapters of Genesis) is viewed only as myth that conveys spiritual truth.
But the dividing line in this division of the Bible hasn't stopped there between what is spiritual truth and what is history and science. It has crossed over even further, into moral issues, with a view that many of the Bible's teachings on moral issues are only statements of the cultural values of the day in which the Bible was written.
Examples abound. Passages regarding marriage being the union of one man and one woman, and sexual relationships outside of marriage and divorce being sin are viewed as reflections of the culture of that time but not applicable today (cf. Gen. 2:18ff.; Ex. 20:14; Matt. 5:27ff.; 19:3ff.; Hebrews 13:4; and the same argument is often applied to the moral perversions condemned in Gen. 19, Lev. 18 and Rom. 1:18ff.). Prohibitions against women preaching and teaching in the churches (1 Cor. 14:34-37; 1 Tim. 2:11-15) are also regarded as cultural views of the day and not binding, even though the Scriptures tie them to creation and the fall and to God's law.
This, of course, affects the heart of Christianity; for, if the Bible is in error regarding creation, the fall into sin, God's judgment upon wickedness in the Genesis flood, moral values and lifestyles, of what need is there for a Savior from sin, Jesus' atoning sacrifice on the cross or His resurrection? And where does this dividing line in regard to truth in the Bible stop? It leaves nothing untouched, and faith is completely separated from history, science and any moral absolutes -- and even reality! It becomes only a crutch to cope with the difficulties of life and to be practiced in the privacy of one's home or church but not in the real world. Its truth is only relative -- true if it helps you, but not true absolutely and applicable to all people.
The result, if left unchecked, is a Christianity stripped of its heart and soul -- just another group of organizations seeking social justice and the welfare of mankind in this world. And for those who hold to the Bible's authority, as did the early churches and the churches of the Reformation, it will mean exclusion from public expression and service and accusations of hate speech. In fact, Bible-believing Christians may soon face trouble and persecution simply because they believe and express all that the Bible teaches.
To combat the shift, Bible-believing Christians need to wake up and speak up, both by holding fast to all that the Bible teaches, whether it be in spiritual matters or matters of science, history and morality; and they need to study their Bibles and the overwhelming evidence of its truthfulness in all that it affirms so that they don't lose their faith in the wake of the tide of modern relativism but can, rather, defend it.
Randy Moll is the managing editor of the Westside Eagle Observer and may be reached by email at [email protected] Opinions expressed are those of the author.