Monday, December 25, 2023

The New Battle for the Bible

Have you noticed? There is considerable pressure these days to focus the church's mission primarily on the transformation of political and economic "structures of sin." There is also a strong tendency, not only among mainline liberal churches, but even among conservative evangelical denominations, to collapse the mission of the church into simply working for social justice and to diminish the importance of repentance and conversion on a personal level. These trends in turn are accompanied by a very strong and explicit acceptance of deviant moral practices. It should therefore not surprise us to see the total omission of bringing persons to personal faith in Christ, to repent of their sins, and to follow Jesus in obedience and love. This transmutation of liberal theology into the primary mission of the church could never have taken place without the perennial tendency of humanity to reject the revelation of Scripture and to accommodate its theology to the society. The hope is to bring the church's theology into greater harmony with the culture. Biblical Christianity is now seen as an obstacle in accomplishing this progressive agenda. The desire to coerce "recalcitrant" believers into conformity with secular ideology is hardly restrained. 

Conservative faculty members at our leading universities realize this first hand. "Never say out loud what you actually think" is frankly the new normal on these campuses. It is necessary to invent a new faith, we are told. Universalism is the new opiate of these modern theologians, whose purpose is to free the academy from the "ideological straightjacket" of biblical Christianity. Preaching the pure gospel is now equated with proselytism of the worst kind. 

Of course, there is no true evangelism unless the saving work of Jesus of Nazareth, whose birth we celebrate today, is proclaimed. The message of the gospel is not content free, and we do no favor to people if we fail to call them to repentance, conversion, and discipleship. Christians everywhere should be concerned about this erosion of biblical inerrancy and exert all the pressure they can bring to bear to see that their churches and denominations are fully committed to this non-negotiable commitment. Otherwise their churches and denominations will end up with interpretations that do violence to the Bible and undermine its authority, not to mention it infallibility. 

This coming semester I plan to remind my students of this often. There is a battle for the Bible taking place today the likes of which we haven't seen since the 1970s. For, apart from a trustworthy Scripture, I see no reason whatsoever to teach students Greek or Hebrew or exegesis.