A Biblical Perspective on False Doctrine -- By: Robert P. Lightner

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 142:565 (Jan 1985)
Article: A Biblical Perspective on False Doctrine
Author: Robert P. Lightner


A Biblical Perspective on False Doctrine

Robert P. Lightner

[Robert P. Lightner, Professor of Systematic Theology, Dallas Theological Seminary]

Long before the canon of Scripture was completed, heterodoxy or false doctrine was evident. In fact as soon as God’s truth was given it was opposed by some. Wherever on earth there has been truth there has also been error. The pages of Scripture and the record of history verify this.

The longer an error is condoned or tolerated the easier it is to compromise the truth. Somehow a conditioning process goes on. An unhealthy toleration of false doctrine usually leads to accommodation to it. When falsehood is left unchecked, unexposed, or unopposed it gradually seems less and less objectionable. It looks more and more like merely a weak and watered-down form of truth, though, to be sure, a less desirable option than the truth.

At the turn of the century J. Gresham Machen, a great spokesman for orthodoxy, apparently sensed this was happening to many in his day in their understanding of the nature of liberal theology. He spoke to the issue pointedly in his classic work, Christianity and Liberalism. The major thesis of this Presbyterian leader was that theological liberalism was not in any sense a form of Orthodox theology.1 It must not be viewed as partly Christian and partly non-Christian; rather liberal theology was to be seen as non-Christian, heterodox, and anti-Christian. The reason for this bold assertion was that classic liberal theology unashamedly rejected and ridiculed belief in the supernatural Christ of Scripture and the Scripture of Christ.

Other great defenders of the faith shared Machen’s views. Arno C. Gaebelein, for instance, argued strongly that “modernistic” Christianity was “the most dangerous infidelity true Christianity had ever faced.”2 On the heels of the collapse of old liberal theology with its deification of man and humanization of God came neoorthodoxy, which was built on the same foundation of the higher critical theory of the Bible. Today a new contemporary liberal theology has arisen, which also rests solidly on the higher critical theory of Scripture but speaks with more respect for Christ and the Bible. However, this is the same denial of old pre-war classic liberal theology in new costumes. The wrapping has changed but the package is basically the same.3

How should Bible-believing Christians respond to false doctrine today? How should those who embrace and seek to obey the Bible respond to such teaching and to th...

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