Tuesday, August 05, 2014

The Directions Toward Apostasy -- How Evangelicals and Fundamentalists Are Getting There

I'll be continuing the series I'm doing on prayer, but I'm taking a break today and will (I mean it) pick that up in the future.  I'm on the road, and this one, though as dense, is easier to write at the moment, especially in light of the possible controversy of the series.  This one might be controversial too, but it is an easy write for me.


Often I use google maps for directions.  Their maps are even better now.  I have GPS in the car, but GPS doesn't show the whole route, and I like to see that path that google draws between destinations.  For instance, today my son is driving between Fort Sill and Fort Carson, so I googled (blogger, owned by Google, says googled is spelled wrong -- it's not a word yet) Lawton, OK and then the map of Lawton popped up.  I typed in Fort Carson and saw that it was 8 hours and 51 minutes for him to get there.  There is one part that is about 200 miles and another about 300.  Google lists the various parts and the turns and will even show separate maps for it.  I could see how he gets there.

How does one get from Bible believing Christianity to apostasy.   Like on "list steps" with google maps, I'm going to list the most obvious steps, as I see them.   The point, of course, would be not to get there.  Not long ago I wrote about what I thought was the major reason for apostasy.  I wasn't listing the steps.  I was listing the reason for the steps.  They are interrelated subjects but not exactly overlapping.

As well, our church has been exposing the reasons for apostasy in our recent Word of Truth Conference that is November 5-9, 2014, that Bobby Mitchell will preach at, Lord-willing, and Dave Sutton and I will also make presentations in the mornings to contribute toward another book, entitled I-Magination:  The God of Truth Replaced in an Age of Apostasy.  We are not getting this done as quickly as the first book, A Pure Church, but we are on our way.

If I were to characterize the three major stops on the road of apostasy, I would call the the whole road, "faithless."  Each of these steps takes away confidence that should be there.  You can't turn an actual saved person apostate, so this attack on faith relates to people not getting a genuine faith.  It produces stony, thorny, and then hard ground.  However, it very easily gives people a replacement, impostor faith.  Many think they are saved, but they are not.  And the trek, the map toward apostasy, lists these major roadways with turns to each.  They also come in this order.

Step One:  Lack of Confidence in What the Words of God Are

Before I get into describing this one, some might think a better explanation is a denial of the Word of God, questioning its inspiration and authority.  Men do that, but I don't see this to be the first step in the road map as I see it.  That is less subtle and surely people question that, but this is not the path that apostasy is taking.  Men start with not being sure what the Words of God are.  This, of course, does take away from the confidence in the authority of scripture.

Even though scripture promises perfect preservation of every word of scripture, accessible to every generation of Christians, this is denied by this almost entire generation of evangelicalism and fundamentalism, contrary to the biblical and historical position.  Therefore, most professing Christians are not sure about every word.  They don't know.  Generally, they are told lies about this.  They are told that all the words are somewhere in the preponderance of the manuscripts.  Evangelicals and many fundamentalists don't believe that, even though they say it is their position.  Then they say that the biblical position is a heterodox and heretical doctrine, which is an abominable lie, especially since it is their position that is novel and contradictory to scripture.  They in general don't tell their people that they don't know what the words of scripture are, even though they don't believe they know or even can know.  I think they are afraid of telling their people that bit of news, seeing that they themselves imagine how that tends toward apostasy.

The fall back position for many is that the percentage of variation doesn't change doctrine, and then you find they mean that it doesn't change any major doctrine.  In fact, the differences change the meaning of scripture, including what the Bible says about its own preservation. Questions arise, such as, if God could inspire a perfect scripture, why couldn't He keep it for us, especially when He promised He would?  And this question has motivated a new concept of inerrancy.  The attention turns back on the so-called original manuscripts, which, of course, they don't believe we have.

Here's how this point works with apostasy.  If we can't know what the words are, then how can we know what they mean or how they apply?  How can we expect people to obey them, when we are still arguing about what they are?  When there is so much diversity on what the Bible is, how can we expect people to understand what the Bible means?  If we are to live by every word, but we don't have every word, then we have to allow for some disobedience.  And if man concocted rules provide the strongest basis for what the words are, how can the Bible be a supernatural book?  If knowing which are the words is optional, shouldn't some obedience be optional?  The uncertainty is doubt and doubt doesn't engender faith.

Step Two:  Lack of Confidence in What the Bible Means

You get meaning from words.  If you don't know what the words are, then you can't know what the Bible means.  Not totally.  And are you going to base your life on something of a sliding scale of certainty?  This is a supernatural book with errors in it.  They would say, "But not in the original manuscripts!"  Uh-huh.  Not much good that does now, for us, who don't possess those originals.  The words seem more basic than the meaning.  If we couldn't pass the words down through history, then how could we pass the meaning down through history, especially with all the disagreement there is.  There is very little unity on the meaning of scripture.

The way evangelicals and many (if not most) fundamentalists deal with the uncertainty is by saying that we've go to agree to disagree on the non-essentials.  And they will point out that Peter said that Paul was hard to be understood at the end of his second epistle.  Sure, hard to be understood is not can't be understood, but it's the best place to read in that meaning for those who find it necessary.  The Bible we do have, if it is in fact the Bible, doesn't read like God doesn't expect all of it, every word of it, to be done, to be obeyed.  The Bible doesn't read like that at all.  It reads like God wants everything, every word, done.  But since that isn't happening, evangelicals and fundamentalists say that it can't happen, so we've got to make the best of this bad situation by agreeing to disagree except on the essentials or the fundamentals or the gospel, or an acceptable range of variation on the gospel.

No wonder unbelievers could find this hard to believe.   The world in which we live doesn't operate with the kind of uncertainty expected.   The created universe operates with precision.  And the things man makes, if they are going to work, have to expect detailed conformity and workability.

How could there be so many beliefs if the Bible was so easy to know?  And that typical question from an unbeliever is actually accepted by evangelicals and fundamentalists, who also themselves accept a wide diversity of belief and practice.  And now that same sex marriage has been added to the list of non-essentials, someone should wonder why we would think we could understand any of the Bible.

Step Three:  Lack of Confidence in How the Bible Applies

Application seems several notches removed from interpretation and several more from what the words are. If you can't be sure of the first two, the last one seems hopeless.  And this is where we are at today.  Historical Christian applications have been rejected, ejected, marginalized, or abandoned.  If you talk about them like you know, you're proud.  There are so many ways, easy ones, to explain away application, when you've already done so with the interpretation and the identity of the words.

Most application of scripture assumes the truth or certainty of a second or minor premise.  It assumes, for instance, that we know what corrupt communication is or the attire of a harlot, and much more.  In other words, scripture assumes truth in the real world.  We should know that we can know.  We can't apply much of scripture without that assumption.

Peter commands, abstain from fleshly lust, but today fleshly lust is essentially totally ambiguous.  No one can know what that is to abstain from it, so it can't be expected to be obeyed.  "Be not conformed to this world" assumes that we understand the spirit of the age.  But how could we know that if we don't know what the words are or what they mean?

These three steps are the directions toward apostasy as I see it.  There are certainly some corollaries to those.  If people are so distracted by the things of the world that they have lost the skills necessary to understand basic vocabulary or interpret words, then they can't know what they mean.  When men can't sustain linear thought, they won't be interested enough in scripture to pay attention to it.  And sure, they are actually rebellious, which is why they don't want even to be able to know what the words are, to understand what they mean, or put them into practice.  Not knowing is a convenient excuse for the rebel.  But those are corollaries, I believe, not the steps on the map that bring men to their final apostasy.

1 comment:

Dan Knezacek said...

I don't think the apostasy began only in the last generation or so.

I think it started way back.

One of the first steps was to lift up men above the Word of God, and while the pope is a prime example, Baptists were quick to follow suit.

In the early 1800s, long before the Critical Text came into vogue, pastors were telling their flocks "you can't trust the literal reading of the Word of God. You need to come to me and I will interpret it for you".

Of course, they did it for a "good cause". All evil starts with a good cause. I call it the "good cause syndrome", and by its use you can turn the world upside-down.

In this case the "good cause" was to keep people from getting drunk. Who could argue with that?

What they did, and many still do, is to say that the word "wine" (oinos) in the bible was really a reference to "grape juice". That oinos was used to mean wine and grape juice, and thus you can only tell its true meaning by the context of the passage; if it is good then it must be grape juice, and if it is condemnation, or bad, then it is wine!

This interpretation is actually an insult to the ancient Greeks, and assumes that they did not know the difference between oinos (wine) and trux (grape juice).

Unfortunately, very few Christians actually did the research, and so these false teachers stayed in positions of authority in the Church, and ultimately used their authority to create another Jesus.

No doubt these men were still in these positions when the Critical text reared its ugly head. They already had their congregations eating from their hands by then, and so it made the acceptance of this text so much easier!

So I agree with your analysis, but I would go much deeper. The modern apostasy has very deep roots, going all the way back to the "enlightenment" and to the Victorian era at least.