Monday, May 04, 2009

The Church Has no Business Dealing With Issues

by Tim Nichols

This (the title of this article) is an ambiguous statement that we have heard many times over the years but have never once understood. These sentiments have been proclaimed from pulpits, whispered in conversation, and parroted in pews so many times for so many years that one might assume that it is a restatement of some Bible principle. It is not (unless the term "issue" is redefined so as to mean something not reflected by the dictionary). No passage of inspired scripture is as vague as this oft-repeated statement. What does it mean? As we look over the various options offered by the dictionary for the noun, "issue", we are unable to say for certain which option is meant and what is meant by the phrase. As we carefully study the Bible in search of some parallel phrase or similar sentiment we are unable to find a passage that would seem to say anything like this. I cannot help but suspect that many of those who say such things also have a poorly defined sense of what they are saying and an equally obscure notion of where it is taught in God's book.

I suppose that the most likely meaning is that we should not deal with matters in our teaching and preaching that are disputed or about which there are questions, but I cannot understand how anyone could say, and mean, such a thing in light of the Biblical injunctions to preach the word and in light of the realities that are around us.

People are lost in sin all around us. False doctrines are leading them further and further away from the source of the salvation offered by the God of heaven. Confusing conceptions of God, truth, and righteousness are destroying the faith of many.

Divine truth is the answer to absolutely every enduring human problem (Hebrews 4:12). It is God's means of guiding and directing us from here to heaven. Every truth that He has delivered for our benefit is precious and worthy of our diligent study and application. We have a duty to contend for the faith because it is so invaluable (Jude 3) and because it cannot be readily received by those who tenaciously hold onto competing ideas that are false (Titus 1:11). Every faithful child of God has a yearning to learn more and more of what God has to say to us in His inspired book (Psalm 119:103). No faithful Christian desires to remain ignorant of any part of what God is attempting to reveal (Hebrews 12:25).

Try to think of a Bible truth that has not been disputed. You cannot do so. The existence of God is a disputed question. The divinity of Christ is rejected by a majority of the world's population. Relatively few believe in the inspiration of the scriptures. These are the most basic truths on which Christianity is based. No right-thinking Christian would have us neglect these "issues." Abortion, the identity of the church, how to become a Christian, how to worship God, and all other "issues" addressed by truth are issues that we must address if we are to be faithful to our position as the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15). When the church abandons its post by refraining from teaching what the people of the world (and worldly "members") do not wish to hear, it ceases to be the salt of the earth (or at least it becomes worthless salt that has lost its savour -- Matthew 5:13). If we were to attempt the impossible task of dealing only with "non-issues" we would have no reason to exist, no message for the world, no truth to teach, no correction for those who need it (all of us), and no edification for the hearers of our delicate little, feel-good sermonettes who would be left without a word from God.

By the way, Truth edifies (1 Corinthians 14; Romans 14:19; Ephesians 4:11-16). Fluff does not. Opinion does not. Titillating tidbits and amusing anecdotes do not. Being pacified, mollified, or electrified is not the same as being edified. Your faith is built (edified) of only one material (Romans 10:17).

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