There is, I believe, a strong, pervasive, and somewhat subtle strategy unfolding among those who call themselves evangelical Christians. This movement is being masterminded by the archenemy Satan and, sadly, being brought into evangelical churches.
Now, as in all times and seasons, the Word of God is under attack. And we have to be somewhat careful and watchful to discern how it’s being attacked at this time. I believe, presently, the attack on Scripture is primarily coming from those who deny its sufficiency for all matters of faith and conduct — one of the great statements of traditional evangelical theology. Let me briefly describe what I mean by that with some illustrations.
First of all, there has grown to be a great preoccupation with what I would call “worldly management technique.” With all of the books being written on successful corporations and successful styles of management and so forth, the church has perked up its ears and is learning those kinds of methods as if they were the keys to building the kingdom of God. As if to say, “Knowing the Word of God and understanding its principles related to the growth of the church is not adequate, and we must go to the management techniques and the systems of success the world uses, and transfer those to the church.” I believe this is a subtle attack on Scripture’s sufficiency to drive the growth and development of the church.
Secondly, another angle that I’ve been concerned about is that many people seem rather bored with the things of God revealed in Scripture and feel it is not a sufficient diet for the saints of the church. And churches are spending a lot of money to entertain people. We have developed Christian celebrity list of sorts. It is costing the church billions and billions of dollars of the Lord’s money. In that, I believe, is an attack on the sufficiency of the Word of God to bring to the life of believers all that is needed for joy and fulfillment.
Another area of great distress to me is the area of what we could call mysticism, or the occult. I believe if you look closely at evangelicalism, you will find many people becoming preoccupied with the occult. They don’t think that’s what it is, but that is indeed what it is. They are reaching into the world of mediums and demon spirits and the devil himself, because they are searching for supernatural power, ecstatic experiences, for miracles.
There are those who are advocating Christian mantras, a chanting kind of thing. There are those offering formulas for confronting Satan and dealing with demons, positive confession and visualization techniques where you visualize something as a reality, whether it’s your healing, your new car or the girl you want, or developing a ministry. These are all forms of occult magic. They are being practiced to gain supposed divine power, but the power they gain is the power of the enemy.
Further, another way in which firm belief in biblical sufficiency has been abandoned is in the matter of marriage and family. There was a time when we believed that if we studied the Word of God, we would be able to live life in the family to its fullest, that marriage could be all that God ever intended if lived by biblical principles.
But now there is a proliferation of tricks, gimmicks, sex techniques, and things added to the Scripture to try to deal with family problems. And in a subtle way, they are making the comment that the Bible is to one degree or another insufficient or inadequate. It used to be that we could accept what the Bible said in sociological areas, whether it’s homosexuality or the role of a woman. Now we’re hearing that the Bible is rather unsophisticated and cannot comment on these contemporary sociological issues. This is coming on a wholesale level into the church, with homosexuality, with the redefining of the role of women away from traditional biblical teaching.
But perhaps as dominant or more dominant than any of these themes is this area of psychology, which is making frightening inroads into the church. There is fast becoming a wholesale exodus from the traditional land of biblical theology into the new promised land of psychology and psychotherapy. Churches that once would always hire pastors, evangelists, and teachers are now hiring psychologists. Pastors that once would go to seminary or Bible college and learn the Word of God are now going to schools of psychology to study human wisdom. Seminaries are hiring psychologists and psychiatrists to teach. They’re adding more psychology courses in many places, diminishing the biblical content of their curriculum. Colleges are doing the same thing.
This again is a way of saying, “When addressing these deep-seated emotional anxieties of man, we cannot expect the Bible to speak in any sophisticated way.” The world has been saying the Bible cannot help, and now, sad to say, the church is chiming in and agreeing.
In fact, I would go so far as to say there are many advocating today a psychological salvation in place of the new birth. This is nothing more than a pseudo-evangelical humanism. This preoccupation with self-esteem, self-love, and self-actualization that psychology has brought into the church knows no biblical counterpart. And the church inevitably buys into these things.
I am absolutely amazed at the inroads of mysticism, science of the mind, occultism, psychology, and these other things into the church, the college, the seminary environment, along with the pooh-poohing of biblical theology and biblical sufficiency. All of this is not some small problem. I believe it is a serious and sinful view of the Word of God.
J.I. Packer, in his book on the Word of God, puts his finger on the problem. “Certainty about the great issues of Christian faith and conduct is lacking all along the line … Unlike the first-century Christians, who in three centuries won the Roman world and those later Christians who pioneered the Reformation and the Puritan awakening and the evangelical revival and the great missionary movement of the last century, we lack certainty.”
And the reason we lack certainty is because we do not any longer seem to believe that the Bible is sufficient for the life and conduct of the church. That is a sin of monstrous proportions.
This post is based on a sermon Dr. MacArthur preached in 1985, titled “The Sufficiency of Scripture, Part 1.” In addition to serving as the pastor of Grace Community Church and the voice of Grace to You, Dr. MacArthur is the chancellor of The Master’s University in Santa Clarita, Calif. You can learn more about TMU at www.masters.edu.
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