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Nudging the Church to Self-destruction

By James O. Baird

religion, articles, christianity

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:

  1. Is there reality? If so, how can we know it?
  2. Is there a Supreme Being who can act outside of nature?
  3. Can words accurately convey meaning?
  4. Is culture foreordained to be supreme or can it be effectively countered?
  5. Can a verbally inspired Word be accepted as authoritative and complete?

Addressing these questions:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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:
  7. "Prooftexting is unacceptable."
  8. "The culture is forcing the church of Christ into existing as another denomination."
  9. "Believing verbal inspiration is presumptuous. "
  10. "Opposing women as preachers and instruments of music in worship are hopelessly out of step with the times."
  11. "Command, example, and inference are unacceptable principles for explaining Scripture. The church of Christ is based on a poor hermeneutic."
  12. "The church severely lacks high­level scholarship. This lack explains many of its failures."
  13. "The New Testament does not provide a pattern and example for the church in any time and place."
  14. "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.

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Published November 1996