In our post-modernistic culture which shies away from the notion of absolute right and wrong, many do not embrace the idea that one can hold to a position which is authoritatively right and thus make all contrary positions authoritatively wrong. As with most other cultural trends, this relativism has seeped into the minds of many in the religious world, even to the point where embracing and defending doctrinal truth is labeled sinful. In his book, Counterfeit Gods, Presbyterian author Timothy Keller writes, “Idolatry functions widely inside religious communities when doctrinal truth is elevated to the position of a false god. This occurs when people rely on the rightness of their doctrine for their standing with God rather than on God himself and his grace.”
Some within the Lord’s church toy with this notion as well. This writer has discussed theology with many brethren in the church over the years, most of whom are preachers. In many of these discussions I’ve observed that some tend to shy away from the notion of stating with scriptural proof that a particular belief or person is absolutely wrong; others react with outright hostility to the idea that I or anyone else could state with authority and scriptural proof that they or anyone could hold to an erroneous religious belief.
I recently read two blog posts by brotherhood writers. One, authored by Jack Wilkie and titled “A Dangerous Trend In The Churches of Christ,” starts out by saying, “Right doctrine that leads to right actions is critically important, but if we’ve come to the place that our rightness outranks Jesus in terms of where we direct our attention (and I believe we have), we have a problem.” Citing the above quote from Keller, Wilkie then criticizes our “constant dwelling on the doctrines that set us apart from others, like baptism, music, women’s roles, and the like,” before talking about our supposed condescension towards outsiders, an unfriendly, unwelcome attitude we theoretically show towards any who question us, and our “ever-shrinking window of fellowship.” While he repeatedly clarifies that we must teach correct doctrine, the majority of Wilkie’s piece seems to promote the idea that we overemphasize correct doctrine, resulting in making us shallow, prideful, fearful people who de-emphasize Jesus, the cross, and the grace of God.
The second blog post, authored by Steven Hunter and titled “Has Our Bible Replaced Our Lord?”, asks this about our true faith: “Is it in the Scriptures themselves, or the Person to whom the Scriptures point us—Jesus?” Hunter wonders if we “have become more about our Scriptures than the Lord who gave us the Scriptures,” comparing some in the Lord’s church to the Jews whom Jesus chastised when He said, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me” (John 5:39). Criticizing using the Bible “as a method to win debates and arguments,” “search(ing) the Scriptures to prove others wrong,” and “read(ing) the Scriptures in snippets to establish a doctrine,” Hunter believes the Scriptures “more often make us into Pharisees because we sometimes care more about being right in our obedience than in our carrying the whole of the purpose of Scripture.”
Those who hold to these views are likely sincere, but they overlook some facts of great importance concerning the value of focusing on the Scriptures. First, without emphasizing the Scriptures one would know absolutely nothing about God’s grace, the cross, Jesus, His will, salvation, the promise of heaven, or the curse of hell. One cannot look to Jesus or focus on Jesus without looking to the Bible.
Secondly, 2 Timothy 3:16-17 teaches that we must focus on the Scriptures if there is anything concerning the Christian religion about which we need instruction or correction. If we want to be right as God is right, we cannot achieve that goal without the Bible. If we want to grow more complete spiritually or be thoroughly equipped for any work God considers worthy, we must go to God’s Word.
Much false doctrine exists because most do not do this. The Scriptures command us to expose such error (Eph. 5:11; Jude 3; etc.) by “speaking the truth in love”; this is how we grow more like Christ (Eph. 4:14-15). God’s Word is that truth (John 17:17). Thus, we must teach topics on which error is taught by others such as baptism, worship, and the like. Doing so, even in love, may put us in a negative light in other’s eyes, but such can’t be helped (2 Tim. 3:12-13). The whole counsel of God must still be proclaimed, and the Bible is the sole source of that counsel.
The Scriptures are a major part of the method God chose to use to save us. One cannot overemphasize their importance; indeed, many are lost because they de-emphasize them. May we never do so.