Editorial -- By: Richard L. Mayhue
MSJ 13:1 (Spring 2002) p. 1
En route to serve Chechnya war refugees, a missions executive handed Russian-language Scripture booklets to an American pastor for distribution on their Aeroflot flight. Sixty minutes later, with a joyfully shocked expression on his face, the pastor exclaimed, “Unbelievable! Two men tried to give me bottles of vodka as payment for their brochures, several attempted to hand me money, and some asked for more than one copy.”
Contrast that unusual hunger for biblical truth with David Wells’ striking recollection of an evangelical student inquiring after his theology class, “Was it right to spend so much money on a course of study that was so irrelevant to my desire to minister to people in the church?” (No Place for Truth 4). This student’s confusion reflects a prevailing mind-set among American evangelicals that accounts for an alarming biblical ignorance, which is symptomatic of doctrinal neglect.
Hostility to Doctrine
Isolating Scriptural doctrine from Christian ministry cannot be sustained biblically. J. Gresham Machen labeled this kind of thinking “the modern hostility to doctrine” (Christianity and Liberalism 18). Christianity resists being separated from doctrine because the Christian movement is a way of life founded on a biblical message. That is reflected in Paul telling Timothy to watch both his life and his doctrine closely (1 Tim 4:16).
But is the current evangelical distaste for biblical doctrine new? Christ lamented about His day as did Isaiah (29:13), “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men” (Matt 15:8–9). Strange teaching of every kind tickled the ears of first-century people who were carried away from the truth because they could not endure sound doctrine (Eph 4:14; 2 Tim 4:3–4; Heb 13:9).
Evangelicalism must seriously revisit Pilate’s inquiry, “What is truth?” (John 18:38) and embrace again Christ’s answer to His disciples that God’s Word is truth (John 17:17). If truth is the quest, then Scripture is the source. Reflect on Moses’ words later quoted by Jesus in fighting off Satan’s wilderness temptations: “…man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Deut 8:3; ...
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