In the year 2000, a gallop poll asked the question, “What is your religious preference?” 82% responded Protestant, Christian, or Catholic, and only 8% responded, none. In 1950, the response was 91%, Christian and 3%, none. In 2017, the response was 62% Christian and 18%, none. From 2000 (2) to 2017 (3) the percentage of nones more than doubled. To be accurate, nones increased 125%. That is an average of 7.35% per year. Based on that projection, over the next 10 years nones could reach 34.1%. If Christianity is dropping by 1.47% per year, then the corresponding numbers could reach 55% in 2022 and 47% by 2027. In a mere 15 years, there could be more, much more nones (52%) than professing Christians (40%) Now, it is important that you understand that I am NOT among those who believe Christianity is collapsing. I am convinced that these numbers have never reflected true Christians. They reflect mostly pseudos (fake Christians-Christians in name only). The overwhelming majority of “Christians” in American history have been much closer to what might be termed a therapeutic deism, embracing something very close to Christian values and principles at the most surface levels only. As the old saying goes, mile-wide Christianity but only an inch deep. Still, the trend in our culture is extremely significant and Christians should pay very close attention.
With the increase in nones comes an increase in changing values, changing worldviews, along with pressure and persecution. And we are seeing pastors and other leader-types (professors, educators, apologists, etc.) react to these pressures differently. Most of those reactions in recent years have been mostly negative where biblical truth and authority are concerned. To be sure, the real problem is the lofty level occupied by human reason and its ability to sit in judgment of all truth-claims. If human reason deems it so, then it is so. The cause of this problem is obvious to the serious Christian: sin. Man sits in judgment of everything. He occupies that chair for which he desperately aimed thousands of years ago in the garden: the place belonging solely to God.
Sin displaces God and in his place, inserts human reason. Man judges what can and cannot be known, what is and is not moral, what is and is not the state of affairs than has obtained. In other words, human reason dictates our metaphysic, epistemology, and ethic, as opposed to God through divine revelation. Whatever violates man’s standard is dealt with harshly. Now, in American culture, man has extended a certain cognitive respect to Christian principles over the course of her short history. But that respect has always been determined, not by Christian principles themselves, but by what human reason has been willing itself to extend. And as one looks at the trends above, human reason in American culture is rapidly changing. It is my conviction that the primary driver of this rapid change is the professing Christian’s view of Scripture. The visible Church has always served as a counter-balancing element in American culture. She pushed back on certain ideas and beliefs. And even if it was in word only, she upheld certain Christian principles that served to influence the external behavior of the culture at large. But that has been changing slowly over the years and as the numbers above indicate, that change as accelerated at an alarming rate. I blame this acceleration on an evangelical community that has been rapidly succumbing to the pressure of the culture. The problem if complex and it is beyond the scope of this post to get into the details. However, make no mistake about it; the subject of this scope is the only cure, the only hope that Church has for thriving in a culture that is obviously post-Christian at this point even if that “Christian era” was more pseudo than genuine where the majority is concerned.
The solution to this problem is for evangelicals to stop compromising every truth taught in Scripture that modern intellects, secularism, judges to be offensive intellectually or morally. Even when we state the truth, we find ourselves trying every way possible to take the stinger out of it. Isn’t it true? How many times do you find yourself having to talk about God’s truth knowing that the other participants in the conversation are going to find your position incredibly offensive and so you try your best to state it as softly as you can. Why? Why do we do this? We do it because we are desperate NOT to offend anyone. But what if such an approach offends God? Yes, what about that?
The purpose of this section is to provide an overview of the Christian doctrine of Scripture. One’s view of Scripture will do more than anything else to determine how they think about and interact with modern culture. Churches that have lowered their view on Scripture find themselves becoming more and more irrelevant where true Christian living is concerned. From my perspective, nothing is more important in the American Churches today than ensuring that our people understand what the Scripture teaches about itself and what Christianity has always affirmed about the nature of God’s Word set down in written form.
There is only one acceptable view of Scripture that the Church should embrace. “This is the man to whom I will look, he that is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” (Isa. 66:2) The Christian stands, not in judgment of God’s Word, but in awe of it. The Christian community desperately needs to be reminded of what the Christian confession is and always has been regarding the Scripture. James White writes, It is our conviction that all true Christians stand in need of continual renewal and reminder of the nature of the revelation of God embodied in holy Scripture. This is germane to the principle of semper reformanda (always reformning) in contrast to Rome’s boast of semper eadem (always the same). [Holy Scripture: The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith, Vol. I]
Calvin writes, For by his Word, God rendered faith unambiguous forever, a faith that should be superior to all opinion. And then again, For errors can never be uprooted from human hearts until true knowledge of God is planted therein. [Institutes, I.vi.1-3] The logical priority of Scripture over all other means of religious knowledge in the church – tradition, present-day corporate or official doctrine, and individual insight or illumination – lies at the heart of the teaching for the Reformation and of its great confessional documents. [Post-Reformation Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. II]
Plenary inspiration is opposed to partial inspiration. It means that all the divisions of Scripture – history, chronology, geography, and physics, as well as doctrine – were composed under the infallible guidance of the Holy Spirit. [Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, Vol. III, 27]
We also affirm the plenary inspiration of Scripture, meaning that Scripture in its totality is inspired. The words of both the prophets and apostles are deemed authoritative (2 Pet. 3:2), and the New Testament letters are called Scripture along with the Old Testament (2 Pet. 3:15-16; 1 Tim. 5:18). [Bloesch, Donald. Essentials of Evangelical Theology, 55]
The 1689 London Baptist Confession on Holy Scripture
Chapter 1: Of The Holy Scriptures
1. The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience, although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God and his will which is necessary unto salvation. Therefore it pleased the Lord at sundry times and in divers manners to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his church; and afterward for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan, and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which maketh the Holy Scriptures to be most necessary, those former ways of God’s revealing his will unto his people being now ceased.
( 2 Timothy 3:15-17; Isaiah 8:20; Luke 16:29, 31; Ephesians 2:20; Romans 1:19-21; Romans 2:14,15; Psalms 19:1-3; Hebrews 1:1; Proverbs 22:19-21; Romans 15:4; 2 Peter 1:19,20 )
2. Under the name of Holy Scripture, or the Word of God written, are now contained all the books of the Old and New Testaments, which are these:
Of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I Samuel, II Samuel, I Kings, II Kings, I Chronicles, II Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, The Song of Solomen, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations,Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi
Of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, The Acts of the Apostles, Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, I Corinthians, II Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, I Thessalonians, II Thessalonians, I Timothy, II Timothy, To Titus, To Philemon, The Epistle to the Hebrews, Epistle of James, The first and second Epistles of Peter, The first, second, and third Epistles of John, The Epistle of Jude, The Revelation
All of which are given by the inspiration of God, to be the rule of faith and life.
( 2 Timothy 3:16)
3. The books commonly called Apocrypha, not being of divine inspiration, are no part of the canon or rule of the Scripture, and, therefore, are of no authority to the church of God, nor to be any otherwise approved or made use of than other human writings.
( Luke 24:27, 44; Romans 3:2 )
4. The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man or church, but wholly upon God (who is truth itself), the author thereof; therefore it is to be received because it is the Word of God.
( 2 Peter 1:19-21; 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 John 5:9 )
5. We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the church of God to an high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scriptures; and the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, and the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man’s salvation, and many other incomparable excellencies, and entire perfections thereof, are arguments whereby it doth abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God; yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth, and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.
( John 16:13,14; 1 Corinthians 2:10-12; 1 John 2:20, 27)
6. The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down or necessarily contained in the Holy Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelation of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word, and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.
( 2 Timothy 3:15-17; Galatians 1:8,9; John 6:45; 1 Corinthians 2:9-12; 1 Corinthians 11:13, 14; 1 Corinthians 14:26,40)
7. All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of ordinary means, may attain to a sufficient understanding of them.
( 2 Peter 3:16; Psalms 19:7; Psalms 119:130)
8. The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which at the time of the writing of it was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentic; so as in all controversies of religion, the church is finally to appeal to them. But because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God, who have a right unto, and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded in the fear of God to read and search them, therefore they are to be translated into the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come, that the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship him in an acceptable manner, and through patience and comfort of the Scriptures may have hope.
( Romans 3:2; Isaiah 8:20; Acts 15:15; John 5:39; 1 Corinthians 14:6, 9, 11, 12, 24, 28; Colossians 3:16 )
9. The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself; and therefore when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched by other places that speak more clearly.
( 2 Peter 1:20, 21; Acts 15:15, 16)
10. The supreme judge, by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Scripture delivered by the Spirit, into which Scripture so delivered, our faith is finally resolved. (Matthew 22:29, 31, 32; Ephesians 2:20; Acts 28:23)