By Jay Stephens
A June 1993 article by brother Dobbs (Firm Foundation) alerted our congregation to the fact that our Bible school material might be denominationally biased. Our class material is purchased from Sweet Publishing Company, who allegedly purchases this material from David G. Cook Publishing it is written, therefore, by denominational people.
In recent years, much of our Bible school material (irrespective of the publisher) has been getting away from the basic Bible truths of the plan of salvation; the one, true church; the sin of division and denominationalism, etc., and seems to be concentrating on teaching morals.
While we do not deny the value of teaching morality in our Bible school, the basis of morality is fellowship with God through his Son and his church. Brother Dobbs’ article, which revealed the sources of the various materials, offers a possible explanation as to why there is a marked change in class material recently.
During this past winter quarter, a perceptive teacher for our teenage class became extremely alarmed by the outright declarations of one of his lessons. What follows are direct quotes from Sweet Publishing Company’s High School Teachers Manual, Lesson 2, for the week of Dec. 12, 1993, pp. 14-19. These quotes will be compared to Scripture, with some comments by me.
Sweet Material, Page 14
Bible Truth: The Holy Spirit is the guide for all Christians.
Lesson Aim: That your students will trust the Holy Spirit to guide them in their Christian walk.
The lesson references Paul’s second missionary journey specifically Acts 16:6-10. But the material utterly fails to make the distinction between how the Spirit worked with the disciples in the first century and how he works with us today! There is a decided distinction. In the first century, the Holy Spirit spoke directly to some disciples, enabling them, while the New Testament was being written and confirmed, to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mk. 16:15).
No gospel preacher that I know of would make the same claim today. Therefore, if members of the church are editing this material for doctrinal correctness (which is the claim), they have completely overlooked this particular lesson; or they are teaching another gospel! Either way, our teenagers will suffer as they are subtly seduced.
Sweet Material, Page 14
Bible Application: Evaluate situations in which people felt “led” by the Spirit. Identify specific areas of life in which students need the Holy Spirit’s daily guidance.
There are no “feelings” referenced in Acts 16. What “feelings” are we supposed to have in 1994? Since when are “feelings” supposed to be our guide? In every century the Word of God has been the guide (Psa. 119:105; 1 Pet. 4:11). That word was delivered directly in the first century by the Holy Spirit into inspired persons. It was then written down and circulated for the edification of all the churches (Eph. 3:3-4). Inspiration passed from the man to the page. These writings were collected as our New Testament, called “the faith” and meant to be defended (Jude 3).
Sweet Material, Page 14
Life Response: Discuss how a Christian knows he or she is being led by the Spirit.
Today, we are to study in order to determine how the Holy Spirit wants us to live our lives (2 Tim. 2:15). The Sweet material then encourages the student to make his feelings his guide.
A person that is led by his feelings has made his stomach his guide (Rom. 16:18) and has ceased to serve Christ. Our teens are in a phase in which their emotions are very strong. To suggest that it is appropriate for them to “feel” led by the Spirit is an invitation to all kinds of religious problems.
Sweet Material, Page 15, Paragraph 6
Understanding the Bible: Through experiences such as these, Paul developed a profound sense of the importance of staying in step with the Spirit. Paul not only relied on the Holy Spirit for guidance, but also relied on the Spirit for help in holy living.
Paul stayed in step with the Spirit, because he did not resist the Spirit’s direct leading (something an inspired prophet could do, if he wanted 1 Cor. 14:32; 1 Tim. 4:14). Paul didn’t have a New Testament to consult in order to determine the correct path he was in the process of receiving the New Testament. Paul relied on what the Holy Spirit “saith expressly” for guidance be-cause a new law was being revealed, and the Lord was working with the early disciples to confirm it (1 Tim. 4:1; Mk. 16:20). Even though Paul received direct guidance through words spoken by the Spirit (Jn. 16:13; 1 Cor. 2:13) on holy living from the Spirit (the only guidance available), he still had to subject himself (1 Cor. 9:27).
Today, it is correct to say that we rely on the Word, as revealed and confirmed by the Holy Spirit, for guidance and holy living. The implication in Sweet’s material is the Holy Spirit is somehow guiding and assisting the Christian in a manner that is separate and apart from the inspired Word that, my friend, is wrong unscriptural! I can understand the Baptists putting this in their material, but I cannot understand any Christian allowing it to pass under his pen without extensive editing unless no Christian edited the material!
Sweet Material, Page 15
Precession Activity: “Simon Says” Grows Up.
Objective: To encourage your students to listen care-fully even when they’re having fun.
Excerpt talk briefly about the importance of listening carefully to instructions.
Anyone willing to give the material the benefit of the doubt will be dismayed when they see the activity de-signed to teach the Bible “truth” about the guiding and help of the Holy Spirit is a game of “Simon Says.” In what way does this activity reflect how the Holy Spirit works today?
A teacher might develop an activity that centers around carefully reading and following instructions, but only a Calvinist would suggest that “Simon Says” is a reflection of the reality of how the Holy Spirit works in 1993-94.
Sweet Material, Page 16
When you’re faced with a problem or a tough decision about how to act in today’s society, where do you go for help? Students will probably say things like the Bible, the minister, parents, a special friend, an adult they admire, books, magazines, talk shows, their own in-group, their own consciences, the Holy Spirit.
The Scriptures provide patience, comfort, and hope (Rom. 15:4). We are to abide in God’s Word (Jn. 12:43), which is the Truth (Jn. 8:32). Just how is one to go to the Holy Spirit for help? The Sweet material fails to tell us how this is done.
Most teens are not grounded enough to challenge the subtle leading of this material. I n the hands of some of our unsound “youth ministers” this material will be devastating to the future of undenominational Christianity.
Sweet Material, Page 16
John 14:21-23 . . . indicates that every Christian can count on Christ’s presence within him or her. Christ works in our lives through the Holy Spirit, who guides us in understanding the Word as well as God’s will.
John 14:23 does, indeed, teach the presence of the Father and the Son in our lives, but their presence is contingent upon keeping his Word! Sweet makes the subtle transition to the statement that “Christ works in our lives through the Holy Spirit, who guides us in understanding the Word as well as God’s will.” Alright! Here it is outright Calvinism. The Holy Spirit, according to Sweet, helps us understand the Word and understand God’s will. Sweet has completely misrepresented the Holy Spirit’s work since the first century. If the Holy Spirit helps us to understand God’s Word, how come we do not all under-stand it completely alike? If the Holy Spirit helps us to understand God’s will, how come we do not all practice it alike in our lives? Sweet would have the Holy Spirit be the author of confusion (which he is not 1 Cor. 14:33) and responsible for our sins and shortcomings.
Galatians 5:22-23 speaks of the “fruit of the Spirit.” This is not a reference to something that the Holy Spirit does directly in our lives; it is a reference to the character manifested in our lives when we put into practice the words of the Holy Spirit recorded on the pages of inspiration.
Brethren, there are three more pages of this heresy in the Teacher’s Lesson Plan of this material, which time and space do not permit me to review. The lesson speaks about becoming “more sensitive . . . to the Spirit’s leading.” It states explicitly that the “Holy Spirit uses many means to accomplish his task of guidance.” It asks the teens to discuss their opinions and thoughts about how the Holy Spirit leads. It takes Paul’s situation and applies it to how the Holy Spirit guides a Christian today this is completely wrong! The distinction is night and day.
We have discontinued using the Sweet material. Let me say that Sweet Publishing has always handled our account correctly and politely. We have no problems with them from a financial standpoint. But in light of this lesson, we cannot continue to sanction the material for use in our Bible class program (2 Jn. 9).
The current digression over the work of the Holy Spirit today has progressed much farther than any of us care to admit. Preachers, elders, deacons, and concerned teachers must go back to carefully reviewing their Bible class material no matter who the publisher is and bring the false teaching to light. In the past, we trusted our “Christian” publishers to provide sound materials for our Bible class programs, but some of these publishers do not deserve out trust anymore.
(Editor’s Note: This article discusses the problem of denominational doctrines in Bible class literature. We witness many churches purchasing material produced by liberal brethren and know how widespread this danger is. There are three series of literature which have been produced by faithful brethren: Truth In Life, Walking With God, and Use Your Bible. Though not perfect, these series are relatively free from denominational errors.)
Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 15, p. 16-17
August 4, 1994