In my judgment, the basis of much tension in the church comes
from two waves of thought which have washed over America. The
one, more biblical and Christian, crashes headlong against the
ideas of the Enlightenment, emerging principally from Europe's
encounter with the Renaissance. These ideas were powerfully anti-Christian
exalting the supremacy of human reason and explaining all phenomena
by natural law. Their influence has been staggering. They are
the source of today's secular culture, helping to put into place
questions which are more philosophical than biblical and which
challenge our Christian approach to the nature of life and its
purpose. These questions which emerge from speculative thought,
and which need to be answered, include the following:
- Is there reality? If so, how can we know it?
- Is there a Supreme Being who can act outside of nature?
- Can words accurately convey meaning?
- Is culture foreordained to be supreme or can it be effectively
- Can a verbally inspired Word be accepted as authoritative
Addressing these questions:
- Our senses of sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell confirm
there is reality. When our experiences are confirmed by these
senses reality is accepted. This is the basis of modern science.
Touching fire does speak truthfully to man.
- The complexity, immensity, and dependability of the universe
demand an explanation. Such a universe mandates a God of tremendous
power. If God has such power, he is able to reach beyond his established
law and miracles become a possibility.
- Much theory of speech teach that words only reflect our experience
and cannot convey meaning accurately. In spite of such theory,
most of the understandable communication between humans requires
words, and on this basis our world functions financially, academically,
and personally. While God communicates his power and grandeur
through the physical universe, his inspired words are necessary
to convey his will to mankind.
- The New Testament consistently draws a line between the world
and the church. The church is presented as God's countering agent
to the world's culture. It is God's leaven, his element of change.
Through the church the antiChristian world can see the alternative
of being molded by his Word.
- If we limit God's ability to provide an inspired, authoritative
and complete Word, we turn away from the selfclaims of the
Bible and the way Jesus, the apostles, and prophets used it.
- Conceding unclear answers to these five questions is to concede
the present array of criticisms about the church are true. This
litany is familiar and includes the following:
- "Prooftexting is unacceptable."
- "The culture is forcing the church of Christ into existing
as another denomination."
- "Believing verbal inspiration is presumptuous. "
- "Opposing women as preachers and instruments of music
in worship are hopelessly out of step with the times."
- "Command, example, and inference are unacceptable principles
for explaining Scripture. The church of Christ is based on a poor
- "The church severely lacks highlevel scholarship.
This lack explains many of its failures."
- "The New Testament does not provide a pattern and example
for the church in any time and place."
- "Grace alone, not commandments, should receive our approval.
Demanding obedience distorts the gospel."
To those critics calling for the abandonment of the New Testament
church, please provide your proposals for a better alternative.
This I have not heard.
Feature Book: Among the Scholars
by David W. Hester
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