The Deeper Issues of Our Struggle
Brother N. B. Hardeman told a story about a man who received a telegram which read as follows: "Your Uncle James, being advanced in years, and being debilitated both physically and intellectually by reason of the frailties that attach to the encroachment of senility, and having suffered severe financial reverses, in a moment of temporary dementia precipitated his own demise." Not being familiar with the terminology of the message he took it to a neighbor for translation. "Well," said the neighbor after reading it over, "it just says that your Uncle Jim got old, lost his wad, went nuts and bumped himself off."
Some time ago I read in a bulletin the following: "Nurtured on a piety in which God is lavished with our saccharine love and a theology in which membership in the right religious institution becomes the key to salvation, our morality, gutted by a process of spiritualization which psychologizes and disembodies all our social responsibilities, and the legal systematization which catalogues an impersonal list of touch-menots, we modern Christians are unable to recognize the towering presence of unbelief, especially in ourselves."
When you strip the excess fat from this logomachies, it sounds like the brother is trying to tell us that our religion is anemic and our love for God hypocritical because our faith has been stunted by such scriptural handicaps as that salvation is only in Christ, hence in the one body which is His church (one church) 2 Tim. 2: 10 - Eph. 1: 3 - 2 Cor. 5:17 - Eph. 1: 22-23 - Col. 1: 18-24 - Eph. 4:4- etc., that the work of the church is primarily spiritual and not social, designed to prepare people for heaven rather than trying to solve the world's social ills and by placing upon us certain restrictions -- certain "don'ts."
In the same article the writer tells us that the people who emphasize the need and necessity of immersion and oppose the musical instrument in worship are fools. I don't get excited every time I am called a fool. I learned some time back that there are different kinds of fools. I don't even mind very much making some enemies if I make them by contending for what I believe to be the truth. When Senator Vilas nominated Grover Cleveland for a second term he said, among other things, "We love him for the enemies he has made." Neither am I greatly disturbed if my "love" is not the quality and measure that this "Church of Christ" preacher thinks it ought to be. I have noticed for several years now that my preaching brethren hardly ever reach the intellectual pinnacle and develop the capacity for love indicated by this brother until they have attended a denominational school of- religion and outgrown the Bible. "This is the love of God that we keep His commandments: and his commandments are not grievous" (1 Jno. 5: 3). I'll settle for this if I can make it.
Our learned brother continues (and this brought to mind some questions): "The deeper. issues of our struggle are. . . clarifying the alternatives between faith and unfaith ... and developing an honest and articulate faith which is willing to risk itself in combat with worldly-wise and intelligent- exponents of unfaith."
I don't think I know this fellow personally, but anyone who has been keeping up with the trends in this brotherhood will like Isaac of old, recognize his voice. I could not help wondering when I read this just what kind of ammunition this preacher would use if he should encounter one of these "worldly-wise and intelligent exponents of unfaith." Surely, he would not try to use the bible. That would invite certain defeat because he either doesn't know much about that book or he doesn't believe enough of it. An intelligent infidel would make him look like Lil Abner at a scientists' convention.
In any contest there must be some norm, some standard. Otherwise, there could be neither winner nor loser. If there are such things as right and wrong, truth and error, then there is a standard by which these things are determined. Otherwise, we have only a war of words. What is our standard of authority? With what shall we meet the "exponents of unfaith?"
Is revelation subjective? Then there are as many standards as there are individuals. Is the bible the standard? Whose bible? Karl Barth's? Emil Brunners? With a Bible that has been "gutted" by the compromise of timid souls by those who have been captivated by the "wisdom of the world?"
I must confess that all I know about my duty to my Creator came from the Bible. All I know about the Bible is found in the words of the Bible. Words in the Bible mean just what they mean anywhere else. A combination of words makes a sentence. Sentences convey thoughts. A sentence in the Bible conveys the same thought now that it conveyed when it was written. If God had anything to do with writing the Bible, He had everything to do with it. If God meant to convey any message through the words of the Bible, that message is still there and means just what it meant 1900 years ago. Twentieth century science, vanity and the deification of human wisdom have not changed that. The word baptize meant immerse when the New Testament was written and it still means that. Isa. 7:14, Matthew 1: 18-20, Luke 1: 34-35 teach now just what they taught 1900 years ago, namely, that Jesus was miraculously conceived and born of a virgin. I Cor. 15 and other scriptures teach that he was raised from the dead; Hebrews 9 teaches that his blood made atonement for our sins. Men with confidence in these things will not cringe it the presence of "towering unbelief." If the Bible is the word of God then man must obey it, and he can find out what it teaches only by finding out what it says; If some of the Bible can be ignored or rewritten with impunity then why not all of it?
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XV: 48, pp. 7a-8