I was interested to read an editorial in the latest New Life. Bob Thomas argues for “A Need For Christian Inreach”. He refers of course to the fact that we have outreach for non-Christians, but it may be time for inreach to liberal Christians who deny the basics of biblical Christianity.
Let me quote part of this editorial: “There is a people group which desperately needs to hear and respond to the Gospel today. They have been innoculated against it and are consequently highly resistant to it. Their whole environment encourages them to resist it, as does their long heritage. Many attempts have been made to draw them to fullness of faith in Jesus Christ as their Saviour and Lord, stretching right back to the Apostle Paul himself, but still they resist.
“They are, of course, the people we know as ‘Liberal Christians’. ‘Liberals’ take a high profile for themselves in the visible church but however high their profile might be, they are as lost and dead in their trespasses and sins as any rank atheist or any practitioner of any other religion may be.
“Having fallen for liberalism myself as a student at a liberal theological college, I know it from the inside, and having been restored long ago to Biblical faith and practice I have a burden for those who have also succumbed to the alluring but deceptive charms of this pale imitation of real Christianity.”
He continues, “The old school liberal would readily say: ‘I don’t believe in the miracles, the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, a literal six-day creation, the Atonement …’ But in more recent years the liberals have taken to driving a wedge between the head and the heart. Thus, the liberal might have a sentimental kind of attachment to the events of Scripture with his heart, but with his mind he would allegorise them, looking upon them as stories perhaps a cut above Grimm’s fairy tales, but stories nevertheless, albeit with some kind of ‘spiritual’ message for us today.”
I of course share all of Bob’s sentiments here, but I simply want to take this one step further. I actually think we not only need to reach out to the theological liberals, but to those who claim to have a high view of Scripture. I refer to my fellow evangelicals, who would rightly shrink back from the liberal Christian’s agenda.
The question is, do we sometimes also reject the very gospel we claim to believe? That is, we have all the right words, the right theology, and the right doctrines, but our lives may not always reflect our beliefs. Just like the liberals that Bob spoke about, it is possible that we too have a division between head and heart, but the other way around.
If the liberals have mostly wrong head knowledge, while their hearts may be sort of in the right place to a certain extent, perhaps we have the right head space, but our hearts may be lagging behind. That is, we are fully orthodox in our creeds and beliefs, but we are often living no differently than the world is.
Many recent prophetic voices have spoken to this tragic anomaly. Let me cite a few choice quotes from A.W. Tozer:
“Evangelical Christianity, as we know it, is almost as far from God as liberalism is. Its nominal creed is biblical but its orientation is worldly. . . . The evangelical church is orientated around showmanship.”
“So we have the strange anomaly of orthodoxy in creed and heterodoxy in practice.”
“Just as the Jews were in physical descent from Abraham and nobody challenged this, so the evangelicals are in creedal descent from the apostles. . . . The error is in assuming that, because we are in creedal descent, we are in spiritual succession.”
“We are so theologically correct and so internally dead, and that’s why we are where we are.”
“Never has there been more activity in religious circles and, I confidently believe, never has there been so little of God and so much of the flesh.”
“It is now common practice in most evangelical churches to offer the people, especially the young people, a maximum of entertainment and a minimum of serious instruction. It is scarcely possible in most places to get anyone to attend a meeting where the only attraction is God. One can only conclude that God’s professed children are bored with Him, for they must be wooed to attend a meeting with a stick of striped candy in the form of religious movies, games and refreshments.”
“Many of us Christians have been extremely skillful in arranging our lives so as to admit the truth of Christianity without being embarrassed by its implications. We arrange things so that we can get on well enough without divine aid, while at the same time ostensibly seeking it. We boast in the Lord but watch carefully that we never get caught depending on Him.”
“The Holy Spirit is not necessary to the church; we have arranged it so that he is not required. He has been displaced by what we call ‘programming’ and by social activity.”
And now, a few gems from Leonard Ravenhill:
“If Bible knowledge could change the world, we would’ve changed it long ago.”
“I’m convinced that the greatest thing about those Puritan preachers is they lived in eternity six days a week and came down to earth on the seventh! Our preachers, today, are golfing on Saturday and ‘goofing’ (around) the other five days… It’s a profession to most of them when it should be an obsession with them!”
“The Church used to be a lifeboat rescuing the perishing. Now she is a cruise ship recruiting the promising.”
“We’ve reduced God to a minimum. Most of us are trying to get to heaven with minimum spirituality. If we looked after our business like we look after our soul, we’d be bankrupt years ago! The materialism has crept in and it’s blinded us! It has become a way of life.”
“These days we are spiritually so subnormal that to be just normal (according to the New Testament pattern) seems to make us abnormal.”
“I’m sick to death of the so-called Christianity of our day. What’s supernatural about it? When do people come out of the sanctuary awed and can’t speak for an hour because God has been in glory there? Dear God, as soon as they get out, they’re talking football, or sports or something, or there’s going to be a big sale downtown somewhere. We are not caught up into eternity!”
“The true man of God is heartsick, grieved at the worldliness of the Church…grieved at the toleration of sin in the Church, grieved at the prayerlessness in the Church. He is disturbed that the corporate prayer of the Church no longer pulls down the strongholds of the devil.”
“People say, ‘We want another Pentecost.’ I don’t believe them for a minute. Pentecost in the New Testament is tied in with persecution, poverty and prison!”
I think both these men are quite right. We are in desperate need of revival, and that revival must begin in our Bible-believing churches. Without a deep and penetrating move of God, most of our head knowledge and sound theology will do us little good.
Indeed, we all need to ask some hard questions of ourselves. In doing this, I do not mean to minimise for a moment what Bob said about the liberals. He is quite right, and they need to be reached. But perhaps many people who fill our Bible-believing evangelical, charismatic and Pentecostal churches also need to be reached.
I, like Bob, am a hundred per cent in favour of sound doctrine and proper teaching. We greatly need it in many of our churches today. But at the same time we need holy lives, lives set apart for God, and ablaze with his Spirit. The New Testament everywhere insists upon these twin towers.
“Watch your life and doctrine closely” (1 Tim 4:16).