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  • Biblical Studies Journal Volume 1, Number 13

    November 30, 1997

    The Conscience of a Conservative

    Gregory Alan Tidwell

  •  Introduction
  •  The Current Crises
  •  The Bible Comes from God, Not Humanity
  •  We Are All Influenced by Our Culture
  •  Everyone Who Reads and Interprets the Bible is a Sinner
  •  Conclusion



       In times of crises, otherwise level-headed people say and do things which are out of character.  Faithful Christians, likewise, confronted with a profound challenge to their faith, may say or do things inconsistent with the very faith they defend.  Consider the contemporary division within Churches of Christ and the temptation to embrace worldly tactics in pursuing spiritual ends.  Top of Document

    The Current Crises

        The watershed question facing Churches of Christ today is profound:  Can a Christian maintain spiritual integrity while abandoning the total truthfulness, the inerrancy, of Scripture?  For over a  millennium and a half no one would have even ventured to ask the question.

        Contemporary doubts as to whether or not we can trust the Bible surfaced about three hundred years ago as certain philosophers and theologians compromised their view of God to accommodate human understanding, dispensing with the biblical view of Him as the sovereign and transcendent Lord of all.

        Deist philosophers of the eighteenth century ruled out, as a matter of course, the possibility of Scripture as God's objective instruction to us.  A reduced view of God inevitably translates into a reduced view of Scripture.  The main stream of Western intellectual history followed this lead without reconsidering the question.

        The nineteenth century (dominated by increasingly secular modes of thought) arrogantly disparaged the Bible, considering its ancient religious thought undeveloped and unsophisticated in contrast with modern understanding.  Nonbelieving intellectuals such as Darwin, Marx, Nietzsche and Freud, set the tone of academic discussion.

        Following this secular trend of thought, since the early 1800s certain theologians have purported to distill the facts of Old Testament history from the supposed embellishments of Old Testament fantasy; to uncover the “authentic Jesus” from the allegedly inaccurate New Testament portrayal of Him.

        Popular culture has bought into the opinions of academicians ignoring the exclusive and consistent claims of Scripture.  The Bible and authentic Christian faith have been effectively barred from public venues and marginalized in public discourse.

        In the late-twentieth century prevailing culture shifted to reject Liberal optimism, no longer believing that everything is progressing.  Unfortunately, even so, the Lord’s church has failed to engage those around us to return in complete confidence to Scripture as a true and sufficient guide, informing and enriching every facet of life.

        Part of the reason for our lack of dynamic outreach is the ongoing battle among brotherhood academicians and opinion leaders as to whether or not we can remain united in proclaiming to the world, through scholarship and evangelism, that Scripture (as God’s word) is completely true and authoritative.

        Much of the controversy is underground as Liberal, Neo-orthodox, PostModernist, and other sorts of infidels (knowing that they do not yet have the political and institutional strength to honestly state their lack of faith in Scripture) withdraw from the open arena, digging in to defend and advance their apostate notions.  Scholars with a bizarre range of views concerning the Bible's meaning and relevance compete for control of positions of power.  Little in the way of open and constructive dialogue occurs, as emotions on both sides of the divide run high.  Professional standing, careers and reputations hang in the balance.

        Against this dramatic backdrop, there is a pressing need for Conservatives to remind ourselves why we are fighting and to be sure that in opposing error, we do not forget God’s truth.

        Consider, then, salient issues which highlight the significance of this doctrinal conflict for the ongoing faithfulness of congregations, the basic integrity of institutions and the spiritual health of Christians.   Back to top

    The Bible Comes from God, Not Humanity

    First, the doctrine of Scripture must always maintain the contrast the human and the divine.  “ For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the LORD.” (Isaiah 55:8)  Humility should be the hallmark of our faith.  “ Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven, and you upon earth; therefore let your words be few.” (Ecclesiastes 5:2)
    Ego leads to animosity and division.  Humility leads to unity and truth.  No individual nor group of Christians is infallible in understanding the truths of Scripture.  Understanding our limitations counsels reverent humility and great deliberation before challenging the combined wisdom of the whole fellowship and our heritage of faith.  Freewheeling arrogance only brings more division.  We need an operative assumption of personal fallibility.  Rather than lashing out on a private crusade against the established views and practices of the brotherhood, we would do well to reflect on a sober second thought.   Back to top

    We Are All Influenced by Our Culture

        A further consideration is the blinding limitations of culture.  “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” (Proverbs 14:12)
        Some teachings of Scripture are clearer than others to God’s people at any given time.  Part of the obscurity grows from the blinding effect of worldliness.  A good question to ask concerning any problematic issue is “What does the world want me to do?”  If a matter is legitimately questionable, and the world is clearly on one side; God is probably on the other side.
        Contemporary culture, for example, weighs heavily in favor of gender inclusiveness.  Accommodating to whims of the age, many are attempting to revisit the issue of male leadership in the church.  The world is clearly supportive of these innovations, and for this very reason faithful Christians should be cautious that in embracing change they do not become worldly.
        Likewise, Christian worship is being retooled in an effort to accommodate the preferences of the secular world.  Recognizing legitimate latitude in the incidentals of conducting worship services, care must be taken.  As the world increasingly sets the agenda for the church, entertainment may replace biblical worship, worldliness replacing the distinctive character of the church.  Congregations attempting to conduct “seeker services,” inoffensive to the secular attendee, stand in danger of selling out the gospel for worldly approval.
        Worship cannot be culture-centered and remain biblical worship.  True worship focuses on God through five authorized means: prayer, proclamation, song, financial contribution and observance of the Lord’s supper.  By this standard, much of what takes place among Churches of Christ cannot be called worship.    Back to top

    Everyone Who Reads and Interprets the Bible is a Sinner

        A third reality is human sinfulness.  “...None is righteous, no, not one;   no one understands, no one seeks for God.    All have turned aside, together they have gone wrong; no one does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12)
        Even the most devout among us should join in the prayer of Mark 9:24:  "I believe; help my unbelief!"  We must make sure that our use of Scripture is never a veneer for selfish advancement.
        The Lord’s church is sadly divided by personal ambition and hidden agendas.  As religion in many quarters becomes big business, the egos of individual men and women bring the strain and stress of competition into the picture.  Across the spectrum of theological opinion, views are expressed and actions taken which sacrifice fraternal devotion on the alter of individual aggrandizement.
        Faithful Christians will guard against many errors by emphasizing God’s infinite power, wisdom and holiness in contrast to our human weakness, ignorance and sin.  Maintaining this balanced and humble approach, Conservatives may avoid embracing the very humanistic errors we oppose.
    Back to top


        It is not enough to be opposed to liberalism.  We need to know why we are opposed and be sure that God is.  If it is our commitment to the word of God that causes us to be opposed to liberalism, good.  This commitment is a safeguard against all possible errors, both potential and actual.
        The root problem of liberalism is looking to human authority instead of God.  Our commitment to the word of God demands that we don't use human authority to justify our methods in our fight for God's truth.    Back to top

    (c) 1997 The Fishinger & Kenny Roads Church of Christ, Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A.

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