Saturday, July 20, 2013

...the prototypical test for the local church in evangelicalism today

"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth." -2 Timothy 2:15

"Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you." -2 Timothy 1:13-14

"He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it." -Titus 1:9

by A.W. Tozer

It would be impossible to overemphasize the importance of sound doctrine in the life of a Christian. Right thinking about all spiritual matters is imperative if we would have right living. As men do not gather grapes of thorns nor figs of thistles, so sound character does not grow out of unsound teaching.

The word doctrine means simply religious beliefs held and taught. It is the sacred task of all Christians, first as believers and then as teachers of religious beliefs, to be certain that these beliefs correspond exactly to truth. A precise agreement between belief and fact constitutes soundness in doctrine. We cannot afford to have less.

Contend for the Faith
The apostles not only taught truth but contended for its purity against any who would corrupt it. The Pauline epistles resist every effort of false teachers to introduce doctrinal vagaries. john's epistles are sharp with condemnation of those teachers who harassed the young church by denying the incarnation and throwing doubts upon the doctrine of the Trinity; and Jude in his brief but powerful epistle rises to heights of burning eloquence as he pours scorn upon evil teachers who would mislead the saints.

Each generation of Christians must look to its beliefs. While truth itself is unchanging, the minds of men are porous vessels out of which truth can leak and into which error may seep to dilute the truth they contain. The human heart is heretical by nature and runs to error as naturally as a garden to weeds. All a man, a church or a denomination needs to guarantee deterioration of doctrine is to take everything for granted and do nothing. The unattended garden will soon be overrun with weeds; the heart that fails to cultivate truth and root out error will shortly be a theological wilderness; the church or denomination that grows careless on the highway of truth will before long find itself astray, bogged down in some mud flat from which there is no escape.

Faithfulness to Truth
In every field of human thought and activity accuracy is considered a virtue. To err ever so slightly is to invite serious loss, if not death itself. Only in religious thought is faithfulness to truth looked upon as a fault. When men deal with things earthly and temporal they demand truth; when they come to the consideration of things heavenly and eternal they hedge and hesitate as if truth either could not be discovered or didn't matter anyway.

Montaigne said, "that a liar is one who is brave toward God and a coward toward men; for a liar faces God and shrinks from men." Is this not simply a proof of unbelief? Is it not to say that the liar believes in men but is not convinced of the existence of God, and is willing to risk the displeasure of a God who may not exist rather than that of man who obviously does?

Carelessness in Religion
I think also that deep, basic unbelief is back of human carelessness in religion. The scientist, the physician, the navigator deals with matters he knows are real; and because these things are real the world demands that both teacher and practitioner be skilled in the knowledge of them. The teacher of spiritual things only is required to be unsure in his beliefs, ambiguous in his remarks and tolerant of every religious opinion expressed by anyone, even by the man least qualified to hold an opinion.

Haziness of doctrine has always been the mark of the liberal. When the Holy Scriptures are rejected as the final authority on religious belief something must be found to take their place. Historically that something has been either reason or sentiment: if sentiment, it has been humanism. Sometimes there has been an admixture of the two, as may be seen in liberal churches today. These will not quite give up the Bible, neither will they quite believe it; the result is an unclear body of beliefs more like a fog than a mountain, where anything may be true but nothing may be trusted as being certainly true.

We have gotten accustomed to the blurred puffs of gray fog that pass for doctrine in modernistic churches and expect nothing better, but it is a cause for real alarm that the fog has begun of late to creep into many evangelical churches. From some previously unimpeachable sources are now coming vague statements consisting of a milky admixture of Scripture, science and human sentiment that is true to none of its ingredients because each one works to cancel the others out.

Brainwashed Evangelicals
Certain of our evangelical brethren appear to be laboring under the impression that they are advanced thinkers because they are rethinking evolution and re-evaluating various Bible doctrines or even divine inspiration itself; but so far are they from being advanced thinkers that they are merely timid followers of modemism-fifty years behind the parade.

Little by little evangelical Christians these days are being brainwashed. One evidence is that increasing numbers of them are becoming ashamed to be found unequivocally on the side of truth. They say they believe but their beliefs have been so diluted as to be impossible of clear definition.

Moral power has always accompanied definitive beliefs. Great saints have always been dogmatic. We need right now a return to a gentle dogmatism that smiles while it stands stubborn and firm on the Word of God that liveth and abideth forever."

by A.W. Tozer, The Best Of A.W. Tozer, pg. 174-176,
taken from Man, The Dwelling Place Of God


Keith said...

i was once told by an elder in our church: "we don't discuss doctrine here; it's too divisive."

we don't attend there anymore.

donsands said...

Another homerun by A. W.
Excellent words for us in our age.

I just listened to a Nichole Nordeman song, and it's called, What If.
I think it says a lot about the way the Church is trying to make converts, and it disturbs me.

"What if your right, that His crown of thorns is simply folklore?"
But what if you're wrong?"
I'm paraphrasing here, but it really makes my heart heavy to hear Chritians speak this way.
If I'm wrong, then we lose nothing, but if you're wrong then you lose everything. I get where they're coming from, but I have such a dislike for this.
Maybe I'm making to much out of this, but I thought it fit with the words I just read.
John 14:6

2Tal said...

It's interesting how often those who try to defend classical Christianity against the innovative ones who teach lies are immediately pegged as "stirring up strife" while the ones teaching the lies are embraced. I'm not saying this happens all the time but that it happens at all is sad. Thanks Steve for hitting us where we live yet again.

Snowfire said...

God's Word...His love letter to a fallen world and instruction manual for Life! To say that we love Him yet never read it, is at best self deception. To drift from it in our lives, is to set a course for tragedy.
I have "Christian" satellite tv. Although it is an improvement over the regular broadcasting, it only takes a short stop on many of the programs to see how far from the solid foundation of God's Word many have chosen to build.
May we always be willing to reexamine our beliefs in the light of the whole of Scripture. His Word stands forever. May the Church always stand on it.

Walter said...

Steve, I really enjoy your blog. Please continue to post about anyone who sells out. They all need to be exposed.

SJ Camp said...

To All:

I am delighted that Tozer's words have been a source of encouragement to guard the truth and give our lives to sound doctrine.

Grace and peace,
2 Cor. 4:5-7

Terry Rayburn said...

Good words from brother Tozer.

I certainly would agree that sound doctrine is necessary, but sometimes one man's sound doctrine is another man's heresy. (Brief example: I was called a cultist the other day by a Free Will Baptist friend, because I am a Calvinist.)

We will no doubt err in trying to come to conclusions about what is sound doctrine.

Our error will either be in the direction of "division in the body", which the Lord opposes (1 Cor. 12:25a), or too much tolerance due to "fervent love" for one another.

Of course we should strive to avoid both errors, and hold the perfect biblical balance, but if we do err, better to err on the side of love. God's opposition to "division in the body" is, of course, immediately followed by the better-known 1 Cor. 13 "Love" chapter.

To paraphrase 1 Cor. 13:2, If I have all my doctrinal ducks in a row, but have not love, I am nothing.

And we have to come to the admission that we can learn from members of the body who have some striking differences with us, doctrinally.

For example, some Reformed readers here might be surprised to know that A.W. Tozer was not only not Reformed, but was a pastor in a denomination which holds to a Holiness type of entire sanctification, healing in the atonement, and of course, free will faith preceding the new birth. He also had heavy mystical inclinations, himself claiming great benefit from reading old Romanists and "The Cloud of Unknowing".

I don't say this to demean Tozer in anyone's eyes. On the contrary, I would commend Steve for quoting this godly precious saint. My point is only that although there are "fundamentals" of the faith that we may divide over, beyond those fundamentals, we must remember:

...the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; or again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; ....But God has so composed the body...that there should be no division in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. (1 Cor. 12:21,22,24,25).

Sidenote: For the record, I don't consider having separate church assemblies with those of like peripheral doctrines as sinful "division in the body", as long as we maintain a fervent love toward those in a separate assembly, and don't spend our time slandering or despising them. But rather, "speaking the truth in love", we should build one another up in the faith, and pray for one another.

"...endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace....till we all come to the unity of the faith..." (Eph. 4:3,13)


TSHusker said...

Great posting, Steve! Doctrine, Sound Doctrine, does matter! Thanks for highlighting this truth! I've linked it on my humble blog.


Doctrine Matters

gigantor1231 said...

T. Rayburn

'but sometimes one man's sound doctrine is another man's heresy.'

This is where every man must abandon there own presumption and turn to the word of God, it is not important what we believe, rather it is all of importance what the word of God says!

'but if we do err, better to err on the side of love.'

What does this mean? Sounds like a oxymoron. Love partnering with error, is this love? This is said all of the time but the application of it is impossible, for example, especially when it comes to the doctrine of salvation. Very simply put it is all of Christ, all of grace through faith alone, salvation is not of works at all. Unfortunately the reality is that there is no reconciliation between the opposing doctrinal belief, each produce their own gospel and one is simply accursed.

I am all for unity, and it is so true that we are mandated to love all of our brothers and sisters in Christ but sacrificing truth is not love. We need to hold to the Word of God at all costs and when there is disagreement we need to turn to the word and study it with diligence, we need to contend earnestly for the faith. When all is said and done the Word of God will faithfully direct us, we all need to hold to what the evidence of that word points to!

SJ Camp said...

To All:
The Apostle Paul issues two truths for us to abide by in matters of unity and doctrine in Ephesians chapter four:

"4:1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.


"12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, [4] to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,"

1. Guard the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:1-3). We have unity within the body of Christ by virtue of being regenerated, born again by the Holy Spirit. "If we have not the Spirit of Christ - we have not Christ." That unity must be protected; thus Paul issues a command to do so. It is the first command in response to three great chapters of truth and the first visible sign of a worthy walk in Him.

2. And notice in that same fourth chapter of Ephesians he also says this: "til we all come to unity of the faith..."

The faith here is not faith to believe; but THE faith, the once for all delivered to the saints faith. The entirety of sound doctrine of the Christian faith. It is stated here not as an absolute in that we already have perfectly arrived at it. It is a progress.

We are pressing toward that unity each as we turn and trust in God's Word not "carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes."

Unity - yes. Does doctrine matter? Absolutely. But our foundational unity in the Spirit must be guarded as we press forward in the unity of the faith.

Both are necessary and both are biblical.

Grace my brothers for both. Amen?

2 Cor. 4:5-7

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