False Doctrine and the Child of God -- By: Robert Lightner

Journal: Journal of Ministry and Theology
Volume: JMAT 10:1 (Spring 2006)
Article: False Doctrine and the Child of God
Author: Robert Lightner


False Doctrine and the Child of God

Robert Lightner

Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology
Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas

Long before the canon of Scripture was completed, heterodoxy, or false doctrine, was evident. The fact is, as soon as God’s truth was given, it was distorted and opposed by some. Wherever on earth there has been truth, there has also been error. It is the mixture of the two that causes the greatest problem. The pages of Scripture and the record of secular history both verify these truths.

The longer error is condoned, the easier it becomes to compromise the truth. Somehow a conditioning process goes on. An unhealthy toleration of false doctrine usually leads to accommodation to it to one degree or another. When that which is false is left unchecked, unexposed, or unopposed, it gradually appears to be less and less objectionable to more and more people. It loses its true character and looks more and more like merely a weak and watered-down form of truth, a less desirable option than the truth to be sure, but not the falsehood it really is and was once thought to be.

In the early twentieth century, J. Gresham Machen, a great stalwart of orthodoxy, apparently sensed this was what was happening to many in his day in their understanding of what liberal theology really entailed. He spoke to the issue most eloquently and pointedly in his classic Christianity and Liberalism. The major thesis of this champion of the faith was that theological liberalism was not in any sense a form or variety of orthodox theology. He insisted it must not be viewed as partly Christian and partly non-Christian. Rather, it was to be seen as non-Christian, heterodox, and anti-Christ.1 Machen put it bluntly when he wrote about the modern liberalism of his day. He said it was to be criticized “on the ground that it is unchristian and on the ground that it is unscientific. …

Despite the use of traditional phraseology modern liberalism not only is a different religion from Christianity but belongs in a totally different class of religions.”2 The reason for this bold assertion was that classic liberal theology rejected and ridiculed belief in the supernatural Christ of Scripture and the supernatural 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 Christians had ever faced before.”3

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