This belief is at the heart of our brotherhood’s refusal to create another denomination, choosing instead to join together in a loose confederacy of believers who none-the-less share a common faith and cooperate with one another in advancing the Gospel. Having no centralized authority to dictate our behavior or monitor our doctrine gives us a freedom to worship that many don’t have but a responsibility to police our own actions that many ignore; as obeying God’s word requires that we know what it says and understand the context in which it was spoken.
Our confidence in the record of Christianity through the gospels and subsequent writings comes from the careful handling of extant manuscripts and related material and the intense desire by the Bible’s author’s to relay to the next generation of believers the essentials of faithfulness to Christ. Luke acknowledged that, “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses…” He further confided that, “…I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning…”, deciding to then, “write an orderly account” himself. His reason for doing so was, “…so that you may know the certainty of things you have been taught.” Luke 1:1-4Or as John says, “…these (things) are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John 20:31 This in turn should instill in us a desire to live according to that word (John 14:15 & 15:10), searching the scriptures for guidance in our debates concerning the social issues that confront us on every side; whether that be same-sex marriage, euthanasia, heterosexual promiscuity, drug and alcohol addiction, abortion, rampant greed, etc., etc.
The ambivalence some Christians express concerning these issues is very often rooted in a scandal of epic proportions that has curiously generated scant attention. The fact is that, for decades, a number of main-line denominations – or at least a significant number of their adherents – have elected bishops or other “leaders” within their ranks who are not even Christians. Gene Edward Veith raises this issue in an article entitled, “Wandering Sheep.”1 In it he notes that John Spong, a retired bishop from New Jersey, spent his whole ecclesiastical career writing and preaching against the Christian faith; not believing in the virgin birth, the doctrine of incarnation, Christ’s deity, his resurrection or even the existence of God! Likewise, David Jenkins, a past bishop of Durahm England – the fourth highest post in the Church of England, scorned belief in Christ’s resurrection as a conjuring trick. Richard Halloway, the former head of the Anglican church of Scotland dismissed the resurrection of Christ as well. A sad commentary on the slide into insignificance of many of the churches from which our national founding and religious heritage occurred. Which raises the question: How can those who don’t believe in the most basic doctrines of the church of Christ be appointed as overseers of the flocks of Christ?
The lesson to be learned from all this is that this slide into insignificance came about as a result of years in which the authority of scripture was questioned, then denied – making Christian doctrine, faith and obedience optional. Surely heresy is more destructive than homosexuality, additive behavior, adultery or even ‘mercy’ killing; which are only symptoms of the disease. Mr. Veith noting that, “…it should not be surprising that a church that has rejected the authority and the truth of the Bible would take the far lesser step of saying that sexual immorality is O.K. And those who no longer believe in Christ – His deity, His cross, His resurrection – can no long offer… sinners the gospel that their sins are forgiven in Christ. Instead they can offer nothing stronger than the fiction that they have no sins that need forgiving.”
“..such controversies all go back to the battle for the Bible. The church bodies that rejected the inerrancy of scripture in the 20th century now have no basis for resisting the…” liberal agenda of many in our culture. “They have been sliding down a slippery slope and now have nothing to grab on to stop their fall.” EXCEPT the radical alternative of returning to the Gospel of Christ and the teachings of the church found in scripture. Men and women who will consistently declare with Peter and John, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking what we have seen and heard.” Men who witnessed the trials of Christ and experienced the difficulties of persecution in his name but who still prayed, not for deliverance so much as that God would enable them to continue to speak His word with conviction and boldness; declaring, “We must obey God rather than men!” (Acts 4:23-31,5:29)
1From an article appearing in World Magazine
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