Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The People vs God ~ Part Two

Dear Friends,

Last week we looked at the growing influence that the secular Humanist movement has had on the liberal church movement in America. Humanism says that there is no external standard to live by. A person lives according to what they believe is the right thing to do. Seeing this relativistic influence in the liberal church movement, we can better understand why it embraces modern culture and reacts negatively to the conservative Evangelical church.

We looked at Theism – that God and His Word is the external standard by which we live. Because orthodox theist beliefs are in the foundation of the conservative Evangelical church, we can under-stand more clearly why it embraces historical orthodox doctrine and reacts so negatively to the liberal church and to our Nation’s increasing move toward a culture of humanism.

Between the liberal and conservative churches therein lies the tension between “action and deed” versus “belief and creed.” The conservative Evangelical church can certainly err in the direction of their “orthodoxy” which means correct doctrine. We can get swept up in the nuances of theology and engage in intellectual discussions that are worthy of the ancient Greek philosophers. But, when we become too focused on the doctrine and ignore the doing, we may forget that at the very core of our faith, we are first and foremost to love God and love our neighbors. Jesus said  “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.” (Matthew 7:26) and James said, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only... Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?” (James 1:22; 2:22.)

The error of the liberal church movement can be in their emphasis of “orthopraxy” which means correct practice or activity. That can look like a focus on the correct ritual in liturgy with de-emphasis on sound doctrine. In fact, we see that their focus on affirming current cultural practices has resulted in a dismantling of historical doctrine. They are taking the unchanging Word of God and changing it to be more pleasing to a secular world. To make mainline churches more “user-friendly,” liberal denominations are denying the atonement and embracing universalism – all are saved no matter what you believe. They are denying or significantly diminishing the virgin birth of Jesus, the deity of Jesus and His resurrection.

It should come as no surprise that membership in the liberal mainline churches has been rapidly declining. Paul warned that bad doctrine will lead to disaster. “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4.)

What is “doctrine”? Acts 2:42 tells us that the first Christian church, “..continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine.” The Greek word translated into “doctrine” is didaskalia and means teaching, precept, proposition. And we need to get that right! If we don’t, we are being led by human fables instead of by God’s Word.

I am unapologetically a Theist. I am a conservative Evangelical Christian. Correct doctrine is important to me. I need to look past my own filters, assumptions and church traditions and be constantly asking myself: is this doctrine Reformational? Is it Evangelical? Is it Historic? And is it Classic Christianity? Good theology will always echo the divine Word of God as faithfully and as truthfully as it can.

Sound theology (orthodoxy) leads us to the right combination of doxology and devotion – meaning the praise of God and the practice of godliness. We need to be grounded in solid doctrine, but then  we need  to get out of our head and into our heart. We were created to not just have an under-standing of God, but to have a robust, constant, devoted, joyful, loving, dedicated, awestruck and passionate relationship with God.   Amen?