When Moses was leading the Children of Israel up to the Promised Land, he warned them of a great concern:
Deut 4:1-2 Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I am teaching you to perform, so that you may live and go in and take possession of the land which the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you. You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.
Moses knew that staying right with God required keeping true to what He has said. Not take away from it if you disagree or add to it to make it say more than what God intended. He also knew that if they didn’t keep true, their lives and society would suffer.
What happened? The moment God’s word was no longer vital to their lives, the people strayed. That has been the hazard and malady of God’s people: Christians, Churches and Denominations, caught up in the tendency to stray.
Every denomination has battled over foundational beliefs – what do we believe and how do those beliefs shape us. The ones who began the denominations had strong convictions driving them to establish distinctives that made their branch of Christianity unique. Each used the Bible for their basis for their beliefs.
But after the original leaders died off, generations further removed from those leaders began to add to or take away from those beliefs. They created a crisis within the denomination and thus the people by challenging: Why do we believe this? Is this necessary any longer? How does this belief apply to modern life?
The crisis was over how important the Scripture was. It led to splits and factions within those denominations as Scripture conflicted with current trends. Unfortunately, the people followed along with whatever their leaders told them to believe.
At the core of these factions and division is the warning Moses gave the Israelites. Whenever there is disregard for what God has said and an elevation of the opinions of men that adds to or takes away from what God has said, the people, the church and the denomination suffers.
2Tim 4:3-4 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.
Back that up. What precedes turning away? Rejecting the truth of Scripture and the One who spoke it.
All apostasy begins that simply but it found fertile ground in the 60s. The freewheeling mindset of the day said: Question everything. Hold no allegiance to anything. Which included government, church or any authority. That attitude welcomed in a collective disregard for anything connected with the things of God.
When God is forgotten, the boundaries are removed. When the boundaries are removed, the lid comes off Pandora’s box. No more prayer in schools soon followed by the removal of the Ten Commandments from its walls began the surge to remove God completely from society. But guess what? He was already being removed from the churches.
The major teaching in Colleges and Seminaries during the 50s and 60s was Modernism. Trying to be relevant, keeping up with culture. The thoughts and writings of European Theologians and Philosophers used for interpreting Scripture began taking the place of seeking God for answers. Even when I was in College and Seminary in the 70s, I had to study the thoughts of men over the commands of God. I was required to quote the theologians but not quote Scripture to make my points. I was losing the sense of God and His Word being my final authority, replacing God with the thoughts of men.
The 60s ushered in the psychology of worldly opinions as the way to best handle life’s crises. The underlying movement was called Liberalism. It was new, fresh and exciting, and soon filtered into the theology of the churches as a counter-movement against Scriptural foundations.
Acts 17:21 Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.
The basic tenets of Theological Liberalism were:
1. Although the Bible offers spiritual and ethical insights, it is only a collection of human writings. Many of which must be classified as folk tales or legends with no historical value.
2. Jesus may have been divine in the sense that we are all divine, but He was not uniquely God. Nor did He exist before His birth. Nor was He born of a virgin. Nor did He rise bodily from the grave.
3. The purpose of life is not personal salvation from sin, but salvation of society from the evils of poverty, ignorance, and injustice.
This movement of Theological Liberalism began taking over the churches and denominations. Why? Because of what was being taught to its leaders in seminary.
In the SBC, for example, a student in the early 1970s did a survey at one of their seminaries. He made a list of doctrines, beliefs generally accepted as true in most churches. Virgin Birth of Jesus, the Resurrection, the Second Coming, Jesus being the only way to Salvation, the Bible being the inspired word of God. He then had the students mark what level of study they were in at seminary – 1st year, 2nd year, 3rd year, graduate, post graduate, and then mark whether they believed the doctrine of not. He found that the students who had been in seminary the shortest amount of time marked all of them true. But those who had been in seminary the longest, believed very few. Reason? Theologically liberal professors.
That discovery started the takeover of the SBC by conservative/fundamentalists in the late-70s to regain control of the convention and its seminaries from the growing liberal faction. They patterned their takeover from what the Presbyterians failed to do just a few years earlier.
The Presbyterians, like most denominations, had both factors – conservative and liberal – within their fellowship. When the Presbyterians wanted a vote to establish who would be in control, the conservatives lost the denomination to the liberals.
In 1973, the Presbyterian Church in America separated from the Presbyterian Church in the United States in “opposition to the long-developing theological liberalism which denied the deity of Jesus Christ and the inerrancy and authority of Scripture.”
The Baptists declared that result a failure and worked for years to get conservative leadership in place before their vote was taken.
Within Lutherans, the Missouri Synod was first formed in 1847, in America. It considers itself the "confessional" branch of Lutheranism, which means their followers adhere to a stricter interpretation of the Bible, taking the stance that scripture is God’s word. In 1988, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, broke off and formed its own denomination, merging with other Lutheran groups. It placed more importance on the general meaning and tone of the Bible rather than what it says, and doesn’t consider it the infallible Word of God.
Then, in 2010, a split occurred within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to create the North American Lutheran Church. The split came after a vote to allow gay pastors into its churches, becoming the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. to allow noncelibate gays into its ranks. Paul Spring, one of the leaders of the new North American Lutheran Church said, "The issue that really presented itself was the issue of sexuality, but back of that was the broader issue: Which is the authoritative voice of the church today? Is it holy scripture, which Lutherans have always confessed, scripture alone, or is it supposed to be some combination, that, as well as some mood of the times?"
Earlier this year, leaders of The United Methodist Church announced that they had agreed to a plan to split the church into two sub-denominations — one that will permit gay marriage and gay clergy, and the other that will stick to “traditional Methodist” teachings. It was decided that in the split, the LGBT-friendly faction, which was the largest segment of the United Methodists in America, will retain the United Methodist Church name and the Traditionalists will seek a new name. The final vote for individual churches to choose which group they will align with will be coming this August.
What’s going on? Churches and Denominations that have been vital to the religious tone of America, throwing away that that made them unique. What’s been the common denominator within these denominations? In each split, division or redefining, it has all come down to Where does God and His Word fit into the question of what is the ultimate source of authority for the church?
In all examples within these churches or denominations, some chose to walk away from Scripture for their religious practices while others stayed with the Bible. Some rely on what the Bible says, others interpret the Bible according to their desires: this is what I want the Bible to say, this is what I don’t want the Bible to say. That contrast brings the person, church or the denomination to a crisis. Then, opinions are collected and those with the greater following make the rules. Often, choosing to believe what is an afront to God. Those wanting to follow Him are pushed out as though they are the ones at fault.
Gal 5:7-9 You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough.
Changing Scripture to fit society doesn’t come from God. It comes from giving in to the ungodly influence of the world. What makes the church unique? The presence of God and respect for His Word. Having a Bible that remains consistent regardless of social change is vital to restricting that ungodly influence from redefining who we are.
Matt 7:24-27 Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.
God built His church upon a rock, not the sand. His Word was that rock. That rock will remain sufficient until the very end. Staying on the Rock becomes our safeguard. It requires:
- Biblical accuracy. Seeking to determine what God said.
- Biblical finality. Knowing God never lies, relying on what He has said as true.
- Biblical faithfulness. In light of what God has said, adjusting myself to it.
What will happen if we don’t set up these safeguards?
- We will accept error as truth.
- We will dismiss what God has said in order to coexist in our world.
- We will argue against belief instead of embracing belief.
- We will permit evil by not standing firm upon what God has said.
- We will make wrong right and right wrong.
- We will allow an ungodly society to tell us what we can and cannot believe.
Paul tells Titus, Titus 1:15-16 To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.
In that day, they became defiled by becoming insensitive to the holiness of God. But that only identified the problem. They remained defiled, stopping their ears from hearing the voice of God calling them back to obedience to His Word. They walked away and just kept on walking.
The Apostasy Paul said would come has come. It is currently affecting God’s people and the churches they have collected themselves into. 1Tim 1:19 I entrust to you, Timothy…that you fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith.
Christians are being shipwrecked. Churches are being shipwrecked. Denominations are being shipwrecked. All because they have added to or taken away from God’s Word, accepting the claims of heretical teachings that promote false promises. These are the End Times. And as a result, many more Christians and churches will renounce the Christian faith here on out as they abandon God by rejecting His word.
- The church is not free to believe whatever it chooses.
- Being an extension of the Body of Christ, the Body functions in response to the control of its Head.
- The Head of the church is Jesus.
- He is the ultimate authority for what we believe and how we live.