I have made reference in a past post to this quote from Martin Luther,
“If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the Word of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Him. Where the battle rages there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle front besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.” -Luther’s Works. Volume 3
I bring it up again because I think it has relevance to a clear and present danger facing the church today. If we do not rightly identify the eminent threats, if we do not quickly recognize the wolves already within the flock, then the purity and vitality of the church will suffer.
I grew up as a member of a denomination known as the Church of the Nazarene. The church of which we were members was a bright light in a small, struggling town in West Virginia. Rev. John Hayes was a powerful force for the gospel both in his preaching of the Word and his love and care for the people. His example and friendship shaped and influenced my ministry more than any other one man. I have many life-long friends and countless memories from my days as a Nazarene. I no longer indentify myself with the denomination nor agree with their particular teachings, but I am still grateful for how the Lord used that church and those people in my life.
Recently, a book was released by a current professor and former professor at Eastern Nazarene College in Boston, Massachusetts. You can read a great review of the book here by Dr. Al Mohler. In it the authors took offense over many evangelicals (a term they themselves would strangely identify with) who stubbornly hold to historical biblical teachings concerning issues such as creation and sexuality instead of embracing the undeniable truths of modern science. They do not deny the importance, truth, or even authority of the Bible. They simply do not believe the Bible speaks authoritatively and sufficiently in areas of science.
This shift away from the sufficiency of Scripture for all of life to a more respectable position in the eyes of worldly academia is not limited to one specific denomination. It is slowly gaining ground among the universities and colleges of almost every denomination. We are tempted to think that as long as we hold firm and united on those essential truths of the gospel that there is room for compromise or reinterpretation in the other areas.
What difference does it really make if the world was created in six literal days or over many millions of years that the Bible represents as “days”? What difference does it really make if Adam and Eve were actual people or images used by the Bible to represent all humanity? What about antiquated gender roles? What about new research concerning human sexuality? As long as we acknowledge God’s involvement in these areas and agree in the life, death and resurrection of Christ, should we continue to look foolish and ignorant to the cultural elites? Is there not room among the flock of God for respectable wolves that make us look less weak, less dirty, less vulnerable, less lowly, less simple-minded?
I will address these issues specifically in my next post. For now I want us to see that this is where the real battle lines are being drawn in the church right now. If we are not ready to engage and defend these areas of creation, sexuality and gender, then we will, as Martin Luther warned, flinch and be disgraced by fighting valiantly everywhere except where the true battle rages.