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I suppose it’s a fault. I’m sure that my wife who remembers every name, place, and date for the last fifty years thinks so. But, for some reason, I find it difficult to recall details of the past. If I say to myself at the time, “remember this,” I probably will. Otherwise, only the big lumps remain in my mental sieve. I’m saying this because I want you to understand the phenomenon isn’t the result of old age — I’ve always been that way. But so, too, I have always looked toward the future. And that’s exactly what I want to do here.
As a seventy-nine-year-old geezer, I want to do a bit of forecasting about what you’re likely to face in the future, and how to handle it. I’m thinking primarily about you, the new generation, who are now taking the helm of the church into stormy seas. I don’t fancy myself as a prophet, but there are some things that seem inevitable — apart from a gigantic divine upset of the course that the world is now following.
To begin with, if you haven’t already, you’d be wise to learn some Spanish. Of even more importance, you should become thoroughly acquainted with the tenets of Islam. The first, because you’ll probably need it; the second, because if God doesn’t intervene, you’ll be up against warfare with Muslims. No Christian should live under a rock to avoid either of these issues. But I don’t want to discuss them directly.
My concern is with the softening of the church. For you to make a future impact for Christ, and to be able to withstand hard times ahead, this trend must be reversed. There is a deplorable softening of doctrine, of attitudes, of courage, and of language. And it is all justified under the rubric of “love.” But there is a vast difference between a loving and a concessive spirit. Let’s examine each of these.
There is a softening of doctrine. Not only is this obvious from the failure to accept and teach robust Reformation truths, but also in a hesitancy of those who believe it to espouse it openly. Christians soft-pedal the glorious doctrines of grace. Instead of rejoicing in the truth of limited atonement — which means that Jesus Christ is a personal Savior — they talk only about the other four aspects of TULIP. It’s as though they will readily eat the two halves of the bun, cautiously consume the tomato on one side and the lettuce on the other, but trash the hamburger in between. Yet this doctrine is the meat of the Tulipburger. To face the future, there must be a forthright return to explicit, well-reasoned, exposition of the seemingly “hard” doctrines of the faith.
There is a softening of attitudes. This accounts in large measure for soft teaching. Rather than glorying in the grandeur of God’s eternal plan of gracious redemption before Arminian friends, they hem and haw about it, trying above all else to “get along.” Assuming that their consciences are not yet seared, they harbor a sense of guilt, knowing that they should defend truth against weak, unscriptural teaching that exalts man by lowering God. Yet, for the sake of “peace” they never speak out.
There is a softening of courage. Obviously, this lies behind the fearful attitude that leads Reformed believers to suppress their faith. Throughout the book of Acts, one word occurs again and again — the apostles spoke “boldly.” There are two New Testament words for boldness. The one permeating Acts is parresia, which means “to speak forthrightly without fear of consequences.” That the courage to do so is lacking may also account for much of the ineffectiveness of the witness of the church in our time.
There is a softening of language. Current cowardly attitudes spawn weak, insipid language like, “I feel,” when one ought to boldly say, “I believe” or “declare.” They account for soft talk about “sharing” the Gospel — as if one is reluctant to give it in its entirety (if I “share” my pie, you get only a slice).
If this softening of the church continues, there will be more merging of groups that care less about truth and more about kumbaya. But a church that puts fellowship above truth is a weak church that will be unable to meet the challenges that lie ahead.
It is too late for our generation to correct these matters. Some of us have attempted to, but failed. We must confess that we are leaving you a church that, unless God graciously intervenes, cannot meet the enormous challenges that your generation must face. Perhaps God will use you to help make the necessary changes, before it’s too late. Look around you. Ask yourself, “Could the church in its present condition endure terrorist persecution? Could it withstand a tide of Roman Catholicism that might in time — your time — take over the country? In its confused, weakened state, it is ready prey for these, or other adverse happenings. Don’t take my word for it — go ahead, open your spiritual eyes. What do you see?
Will you contribute to a further softening, or will you stand firm and courageous for the truth? I’m not suggesting crudeness or rudeness, but I am advocating drastic changes to firm up the four areas mentioned above. Participate in the solution rather than perpetuate the problem!