Monday, November 7, 2011

Biblical Inerrancy can Fail

Inerrancy, like physical training, is of some value; but it will fall short of addressing unfaithful teaching (doctrine).

I agree with the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. I am impressed with this statement. I could not do better. I could not even come close to doing better.

While I deeply regret the godless way some Southern Baptists treated each other during the Conservative Resurgence (all sides), I agree that the issue needed to be addressed in that generation. It will need to be addressed in every generation until the Lord Jesus Christ returns.

But even if all evangelical entities embraced Inerrancy with all their heart, it still would not prevent many kinds of apostasy (falling away from the truth). And Inerrancy alone fails for the following reasons.

First reason

The flesh (ESV, NAS), the sinful nature (NIV), is capable of idolatry (Gal. 5:19, 20). A person without the help of the Holy Spirit is still disposed toward religious belief. The lost man and the Christian who quenches the Holy Spirit are still capable of understanding inerrancy. The lost man and the Christian who quenches the Holy Spirit are still capable of sincere zeal as they approach religious issues. But they do not have access to the leadership of the Holy Spirit who is necessary for guiding them into the truth (John 14:26, 1 Cor. 2:11-16); unless they repent. That does not prevent them from drawing conclusions anyway. They will ‘interpret’ the inerrant Scripture as they, personally, see fit. They will still share their influence, they will still teach and preach, they will still write books, they will still teach in the world’s seminaries, and they will still find denominational positions in which to serve.

Our denominational structures are becoming less connected with our ability to actually know the persons who lead the denominational structure. We are increasingly tempted to give our confidence to a person’s words when we have no meaningful contact with the way the person lives. When this happens, we are deprived of the following safeguards; “If you know that He is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of Him” (1 John 2:29; see also 1 John 3:4-10).  An inerrantist who does not walk in submissive and dependent fellowship with the Holy Spirit may be “accredited”, but not by the Holy Spirit.

Second reason

Our American culture is currently immersed in the pursuit of comfort and convenience. In such a culture it is rare to take the fear of God seriously. The fear of God is more than ‘reverence’. One can reverence God’s name and still take fearless liberties in interpreting God’s words in a way that God does not intend. If one has a growing fear of God then one will not dare to interpret God’s words in a way that reduces God’s glory or that ‘might’ be in error. To interpret God’s words in a way that changes people’s perception of what God has said is a serious matter. Even a false prophet can be sincere. What can a man possibly do that is more offensive to God than misrepresent what God has said?

The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom (Pro. 1:29) and the beginning of knowledge (Pro. 1:7). The fear of God will cause us to approach His words with the absolute highest respect for submitting ourselves to His meaning. The fear of God will cause us to approach His words with the absolute greatest humility of which we are capable. It is easy to let this priority slip amidst our ambitions toward comforts and conveniences, yet God says, “But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word” (Isaiah 66:2b).  Impeccable credentials and vast knowledge and attractive articulation are not safeguards! Popularity is not a worthy sign of faithfulness. An inerrantist who does not tremble at God’s words will not securely handle God’s words.

Third reason

In a culture that is immersed in comfort and convenience it is hard to avoid personal ambition in a religious ‘pecking order’. Whether in a local church or in a denominational structure, we all are tempted to rise in the eyes of those who are around us. We crave the affirmation of our ‘peers’ and of our ‘idols’ ( !!!). We tend to follow men as if they were worth following. An insidious consequence of this ambition is that we do not want to seriously challenge one another to follow the Lord Jesus Christ whether the denominational structure agrees or not. We are beset by the fear of man instead of the fear of the Lord (John 5:41-44).

What is the answer to this problem? There isn’t a human answer to this problem! Only the Sovereign will of God expressed through the Holy Spirit will cause a generation to become faithful. Consider the following two instances and you will see the magnitude of the problem.

Instance #1.  Seminaries turn out men and women who want to learn about God. They are tested and trained by the seminary staff. If one makes the grades and earns the units; they are graduated. Which seminary will not grant an earned degree because the student is quenching the spirit or lacks a meaningful fear of God? Should such discernment fall to the staff of the seminary? Should such a weighty matter of discernment fall to the governing board of the seminary? Should it fall to those who appoint the governing board? No, no, and no. What mere humans could make such a judgment within the seminary structures? Will seminary staff keep their own ranks faithful? Will the governing boards keep the seminary staffs faithful? How? A degree is validation of educational achievement, but not a validation of faithfulness to God.

Instance #2  Denominational employees and missionaries spend a whole lot of time on their own. It is not possible to maintain close accountability with someone who is on their own most of the time. It is not desirable to maintain close accountability with someone who must be trusted to be on their own most of the time. To a lesser extent, ministerial staffs are also on their own a great deal of the time. Who can possibly know their hearts? Who can tell if they are walking in fellowship with God’s Holy Spirit? Who can tell what they are teaching regarding God’s words? Who can tell if they fear God in the way that humility demands? How does one discern whether they are ambitious for the Lord’s will instead of ambitious for their own comforts and conveniences?

In both instances, there is no sure human plan to maintain a faithful approach to God’s holy and inerrant words. However, there is something that can be done.

We can pray that God will have mercy upon us, and give us faithful leaders. We can pray that our leaders will care about God’s approval more than they care about the approval of men; even if the men are members of the same religious ‘pecking order’.

Our leaders can challenge one another to humble themselves, and tremble at God’s words, and walk every day in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, and despise bitter jealousy and selfish ambition toward an ‘office in the church’, or a degree, or a denominational office, or a title, or great popularity among the people of the world. “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.”  James 3:14, 15

Religious leaders who care more for their paycheck and their tenure and their denominational rise than they do for the fear of God and the integrity of God’s words are already quenching the Holy Spirit. How can the fear of God be before their eyes? Religious leaders who will not put their name behind their witness to righteousness are already quenching the Holy Spirit.

Why don’t most of the members of past and present evangelical denominations publicly condemn their own denomination’s apostasy? Why didn’t they prevent it? Could they prevent it?

Why don’t the staffs and professors of past and present evangelical seminaries publicly condemn their own seminaries’ apostasy? Why didn’t they prevent it? Could they prevent it?

Why do so many current people call themselves “Christians” and deny that every generation must always be wary of the many instances where they must confront unfaithful leadership? Haven’t they read the Old Testament and the New Testament? Are they unaware of apostasy even when our culture is submerged in it?

Fourth reason

I will risk saying that it is self-evident that those who speak of ‘inerrancy’ are students of the Bible; though some may only be students of the history of man studying God (theology). Some may be both. Both are beneficial. But the study of what God says about Himself and man far exceeds the study of what man has said about God. The words of theologians are not the words of God. Biblical scholarship trumps theology.

Here is a simple land-mine that you cannot pass without getting yourself blown away. “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves”  (James 1:22). A great deal of study (hearing) without a great deal of humility, obedience, and confession of sin; results in a great deal of personal deception. A disciple of Jesus Christ wants to know what their Master teaches so they can do what their Master says should be done. A disciple who only wants to know what Jesus Christ teaches so they can teach it also has a self-deception problem. God says the result of their Scriptural intake will result in deception, not faithfulness. Will a seminary degree, or the accolades of your friends in the ‘pecking order’, or acclaim from the congregation, enable you to see the truth? Not at all. When a Christian does not do what God says, they deceive themselves. They may be personally sincere, they may affirm inerrancy, but they are quenching God’s Spirit and they are not faithful teachers. The more one shows rebellious contempt for God’s words, while studying large portions of God’s words; the more they deceive themselves.

A man’s affirmation of the truth of inerrancy is not enough. Believe in inerrancy? Yes. And fear God and tremble at His words. Maintain a daily humility that reveals a contrite heart to those around you. Do what God says. “To obey is better than sacrifice”. Care more for what God says than what your religious ‘pecking order’ desires. Have the courage to be a witness (Greek – martyr) and challenge those who are false. Challenge those who might be false. What will you tell Jesus on your day of judgment? “I thought it might be false teaching, but I didn’t dare find out?” Really? Put your name behind your actions so that you are not a false witness. Do what God says you should do. When you fail, confess it as sin (regardless of what others may think of you). Then try again sometime.

So what is the solution to saving the evangelical denominations from apostasy? There isn’t one that I can see. No solution was found for similar groups in Europe over the last 150 years. While I sincerely pray for mercy, I see cause for judgment and wrath mounting higher and higher.

Might there be a solution for you, personally? Sure. Read the Bible as if God breathed it Himself. Take it personally, with fear and humility and contrition. Confess your sin to Him and seek purification and faithfulness. Influence yourself!

And as God empowers your faithfulness, influence those around you. Who knows how far your faithful influence will spread?

If a nation follows a course of apostasy, the denomination doesn’t have to follow it. If a denomination follows a course of apostasy, the church doesn’t have to follow it. If the church follows a course of apostasy, the family doesn’t have to follow it. If the family follows a course of apostasy, the individual doesn’t have to follow.

Fifth reason

What God has said about love is critical regarding our faithfulness. Adherence to Biblical Inerrancy without the personal priority to love (1 Cor. 13:4-7) God and others (Matt. 22:37-40) results in becoming an ‘annoying nothing that gains nothing’ in God’s eyes (1 Cor. 13:1-3). I fear God too much to become an ‘annoying nothing that gains nothing’ in His eyes. The Holy Spirit will not fellowship with an ‘annoying nothing that gains nothing’. The very mark of being a disciple of Jesus Christ is that Christians love one another (John 13:34, 35). There is a massive deception in the middle of our culture: “And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12).

Unloving words and actions quench the Holy Spirit. Even when one is defending the truth of the Bible, unloving words and actions tend to annul the blessing that God wants to bestow. An unloving controversy over any given issue can do a lot of damage. Unloving advocates for Biblical Inerrancy can do the cause more damage than good.

Will adherence to Biblical Inerrancy help a person before God when they are apathetic about what God considers to be the Great Commandment? What kind of blindness is it, when Christians don’t bother with a personal awareness of what God means when He uses the word ‘love’?

What kind of religious organization is it, when the love of God is assumed, or ignored, or belittled? What is a Soldier of Jesus Christ who does not bother to carefully examine the Lord of Hosts’ greatest command?

I believe in Biblical Inerrancy. But it will not stand alone. The remnant will stand alone; and they will not fail. 

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