Everyone has their own opinions about everything under the sun, including politics and religion. Dare I say that these are still the most disagreed upon subjects ever!
The main thing that sparks so much of the disagreement is inaccurate information. Our political world is adrift in opinion, rather than set laws. The same can be said about religion. Much of religion, like politics, has been fueled by the humanistic tendencies, from the mind of men, rather than facts based on the Truth of the Bible.
Today, unfortunately, even in the professing church, humanism has replaced Biblical reasoning. Feelings have replaced rational thought, based on the Bible – There is much human rationalism in the church, rather than Biblical reasoning.
While many in the church would agree on the reality of the Word of God, there has been an all-out attack on the reliability of the Bible. The undermining of the authority of Scripture takes place in individual, seminary, Bible college, and denominational level, where your persuasion is formed by those in charge, rather than on conclusions based on the context of Scripture.
From the Introduction to ” The Strategic Grasp of the Bible,’ by J. Sidlow Baxter:
“I have always advocated unfettered, individual freedom in the interpretation of the Bible. With every fiber of conviction, I subscribe to that original Protestant tenet, “the right and duty of private interpretation”. That liberty has resulted in a basic doctrinal unanimity of free men which is a distinguishing merit of Protestant Christianity and is infinitely preferable to the Roman church’s dictatorial imposition of ecclesiastical dogma upon a hitherto gagged laity. The sorry-looking internecine disunity of latter-day Protestantism is not due to freedom in the interpretation of the Bible, but to a breakdown of belief in the inspiration of the Bible. Until more recent times, among the main bodies of Protestant Christendom, there was a healthful “diversity in unity”; a useful denominational diversity on matters non-fundamental, going with a recognized oneness of conviction as to the Bible itself and the foundation truths of the evangelical faith. The deadly disruptions of today are due to the rationalistic spoliation of the Bible by the German-originated “higher critics” and their successors, issuing in the “New Theology”, then “Liberalism”, and then “Neo-Orthodoxy”. Much as I believe in freedom of interpretation, I aver that Protestant Christianity in general will never regain its lost initiative and dynamic force until there is a re-avowed unity of conviction that the Bible, solely and wholly, is the plenarily inspired, inerrant, and utterly authoritative Word of God.”
Baxter’s main point was that if there was agreement regarding the reliability of Scripture, it would be a good starting point to agreeing on key issues.
Doctrine through Theological Tradition
Many people, be they scholars, theologians, or laymen, carry with them some former doctrines, for good, and bad into their current studies. They get in a comfort zone of sorts, and rest on their blessed assurance, when it comes to Bible study.
I’m thankful for many Bible teachers that have come before. However (a word of caution), many of these teachers never really left their former way of thinking.
Just like the Reformation! Many teachers may have left their old theologies, but those theologies never left them. Hence, many protestants still maintained much of their Catholic teachings.
Many major “isms” use the Bible, but add other writings to go along with it:
Catholicism – Roman Catholicism esteems the Bible highly. Yet the Bible is not sufficient. One needs the seven sacraments, the Catechism of the Church, and a huge compendium of church rules and regulations called the Code of Canon Law.
Mormonism – The “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints will actually bring a King James Bible to your door. But, just like the Catholics, the Bible is not enough. You’ll need the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. These are all books that teach Mormon doctrine. Besides the books, one also needs to listen to the voices of the prophets, and elders, today.
Jehovah’s Witnesses – I think you are getting the point. They have a “bible,” the New World Translation, or as I like to call it the New World Mistranslation! But what holds more sway, with the average member of this cult, is the authority found in the printed works of the Watchtower Organization, and the authority of the teachers.
Freemasonry – I actually have a copy of a “Masonic Bible.” This is a King Hames version, printed by A. J. Holman Publishing, of Philadelphia. Yet, the Bible is, once again, not the source of Truth for the Lodge member. Truth for the Freemason is found through a large volume called, “Morals and Dogma,” by Albert Pike.
Lutheranism – Luther, like many of the reformers, may have left the Catholic church, but much of Catholicism did not leave them. They kept much of the Augustinian views on eschatology, as well as a view that scholars were needed. As a matter of fact, no Lutheran training is complete without the Lutheran Catechism, and the Book of Concord. Again, the Bible was / is not enough.
Calvinism / Reformed Theology – Like Luther, most of the reformers did not continue to reform, but kept many of the same beliefs, with a veneer of the Grace of God. One is not complete without the “Institutes of Calvin,” and the Westminster Confession.
Early Prominent Dispensationalists – Many, including prominent teachers, like Lewis Sperry Chafer, and Charles Ryrie, remained Presbyterian ministers, holding onto most of the tenets of Calvinism. In fact, Lordship Salvation, popularized by John McArthur (A Dallas Theological Seminary graduate) was also taught by Charles Ryrie (this is indeed a topic for another day).
Many people believe that a dispensationalist cannot be a Calvinist, and vice-versa. Yet, this is clearly not the case.
The Modern Church – The “EvanJELLYcal” church (Thank you Pastor Randy White for coining the phrase) has totally left the authority of the Bible out in the cold. Scripture is used only as an ornament, rather than the chief source of doctrine. In place of the Bible are the surmisings of the church leader, who’s “God given” words can elevate the hearer’s life to a life of purpose.
So, we can see how throughout the history of the “Church, man has continued to add to the Word of God.
How are we to respond?
The Scriptures are THE source of Truth for the Believer. They are to be received and believed. The duty of the Ambassador of Jesus Christ is to preach the Word – no matter what else happens.
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (2 Timothy 4:1-4)
Yet, we ought to treat everyone graciously, through the Grace of God:
Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man. (Colossians 4:5-6)