Volume Six, Issue Six
I am sending this e-mail out to address a matter that deeply concerns me.
I have noticed a decided tendency on the part of a growing number of churches and pastors to distance themselves from discernment ministries and hard issues. Now let me say at the start that if you are one of those church leaders who do stand for the truth and use those involved in discernment ministries, keep up the good work. I realize full well that pastors in particular do not have the time to check out all the materials that come through their churches. This is where you can make good use of those who do discernment research. That being said, I see a concerted move by many churches toward a critical attitude concerning discernment ministries in general. Not every situation is the same but, from what I see, there are a number of factors that play into this new bad attitude towards discernment.
First, a number of large churches are in the middle of building or expansion programs and they donít want to offend any of their constituency and lose funding. I believe they have found it easier, in their minds, to bury any dialog on difficult issues that face the church and concentrate on being "friendly" with everyone. I have seen a growing number of churches drop financial backing for missions and missionaries who are involved in cult and/or discernment ministries because they feel it is just too controversial a stand for their church at a time when funding for building programs is taking center stage. What they don't realize is that if they decide to back down from standing for the truth it won't be long before their churches are filled with thrill seeking nominal Christians on the hunt for wilder experiences and exciting myths rather than biblical teaching. I have seen it happen over and over again.
Another factor in the new "dising" of discernment ministries is the move toward "seeker friendly" services and outreach programs that preach "God is love" without the offense of the cross. Those who stick to the old rugged cross and the hard truths of the Word are looked upon as out-of-date old "fuddy duddies" who go around seeing every glass as half empty. Many churches have decided that, since positive reinforcement and lots of fun activities builds numbers quickly, those who are perceived as "negative" and "old" must be pruned off the tree at all costs. You would be surprised at the talk that goes on today in the church behind the backs of Christians involved in discernment ministries, or even those who doggedly stick to the truth of the Word of God. I guess the feeling is -- if you can't stifle the message, stifle the messenger. You do that by passing around unverified stories and vilifying people on the basis of something someone else said or did, e.g.. guilt by association.
I am here to stick up for those Christian brothers and sisters God has placed in your church to help the church stay on track with the Word, and keep the heretical riff raff away from your church pulpits, music ministry and bookstores till they repent. When a brother who is a discernment researcher reads a book in your church bookstore and finds some serious heresy within, that person should not be told they are making something out of nothing out of hand. Every serious concern should be investigated and the elders, pastors and others leaders in the church ought to take heresy very seriously so they can make informed decisions about what they will and will not allow into their church.
Unfortunately many churches have apparently decided to give up the fight. Let me tell you how that happens. It usually starts with unbiblical music being played for worship and sold in the church bookstore, then moves to books written by Third Wavers being promoted and used in the church. Then videos like Transformations hawking an unbiblical prayer agenda are shown, and special speakers with dubious connections and unbiblical doctrines are allowed into the pulpit. Finally you begin seeing "revival" meetings replete with the "impartation". It all leavens in so innocently and slowly that most churches don't even know what hit them until it's too late and, of course, by that point they are afraid to offend their constituency by making a strong stand against anything. This is where the discernment ministries can help. They can help you stand against the river of apostasy that is trying to enter every Christian gathering even as we speak.
Church leaders need to realize that discernment ministries are an asset and not a liability. Pastors and those in discernment ministries need to sharpen one another. Issues should be discussed, not shoved under the rug. Why are we so afraid to talk to one another other about difficult subjects these days? Is our belief system so fragile and our personalities so insecure that we are afraid of correction? The mistake I am seeing being made today is that biblical terms like "admonition", "exhortation", and "rebuke" have become nice Christianized clichés we use on Sunday morning but have almost ceased to exist as a tool for the building up of the Body of Christ.
Sound doctrine is not an option for Christians. It is something we need to guard at all costs, and here I am not talking about minor issues on which Christians may disagree but on core doctrines. If you want your church to be leavened into apostasy, simply drop your guard. It will happen so subtly you will probably not even notice it.
The Bereans were commended for being more noble because they searched the Scriptures daily to check out what Paul preached. I don't expect or desire any applause for myself and that is not the intent of this letter. This e-mail is my attempt to step up to bat on behalf of those in your church who have a deep love of the truth and are willing to put their reputations on the line to stand up for it. They ought to be treated with the utmost respect.
The feature article in this issue is "The Importance of Sound Doctrine" by A.W. Tozer, The Best Of A.W. Tozer, pg. 174-176, taken from Man,. The Dwelling Place Of God. Though this article was written a long time ago, it shows that the seeds of unbiblical doctrines that were beginning to be accepted in the post-Modern church have today blossomed into full blown heresy. Yet we have become so used to false teachings and teachers that we have become numb and unresponsive to the need to separate ourselves from them as a holy people unto the Lord. This article is a call back to standing up for the truth. I am convinced that we are swiftly entering a time when the issue will not be "Renounce Jesus or die" but rather "Don't judge, don't discern, don't speak out, and don't be divisive or die". Will most Christians be able to stand that kind of test? I wonder.
Sandy Simpson, missionary
The Importance of Sound Doctrine
by A.W. Tozer, The Best Of A.W. Tozer, pg. 174-176, taken from Man, The Dwelling Place Of God
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.
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.
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?
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
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.
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.