Dr. James Ach and Senior Editor J/A
I’ve heard it said a million times, “What would Jesus Do?” and, “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it”. Those are admirable quotes and words to live by, but there’s something missing. How do we know what Jesus would do? And if God said it, and you believe it, does that really settle it because you believe it? “I don’t think Jesus would say or do that”: how do you know?
Just what would Jesus do? Whatever happened to: WDBS? What does the Bible say?
I was commenting on another popular forum the other day, and I noticed how so many arguments from others rested on the opinions and quotes from other “scholars”. It was as if the debate had moved to what a particular passage meant to who read the most “authorities” on the subject or who actually holds the belt for the best interpretations. If a tie-breaker was needed, then it depended on what college the scholar went to or if the degree was accredited. Harvard trumps Princeton, so the Harvard scholar wins, and accredited degree means that scholar is smarter than a person holding an unaccredited degree. (Jesus would not have fared well among these “scholars” since He was not “educated”. John 7:15)
But throughout the discourse, something was missing.
On this site I have debated with skeptics, atheists and numerous ignorant ex-Baptists, and the one thing that always stands out is that in their arguments for attempting to define what is right or wrong, they have no absolute standard. Without a standard there is anarchy. Atheism ultimately leads to an antinomian lifestyle that merely swims with the tides of social evolution and its situational ethics. Psalm 14:1, Rom 1:20.
The charismatic will argue, “I know what I saw, I know what I felt and because I know what happened to me, I believe”. Experience is the authority of the charismatic. If the “gift of tongues” sweeps over the charismatic, the experience itself is the justification of the experience. Prov 28:26.
The psychiatrist and the philosopher claim that Christianity simply doesn’t add up, and is not logical. The scientist can’t reproduce miracles in a controlled environment and therefore whatever does not make sense to the mind of the scientist, the psychiatrist and the philosopher can not be true because it can not be reasoned with. Their human wisdom and knowledge is their authority, but again without any absolute standard. 1 Cor 1:20. Jer 17:9
The Roman Catholic church, the Watchtower and all churches that are not independent that maintain some type of centralized governing body and write creeds of doctrine (Matt 15:9) derive their authority on the church. “I don’t know how to explain it, but I know my preacher said…and our church teaches…” The church, or the organization, fellowship, presbytery is the final authority. Jer 7:4.
I have seen pastors and evangelists defending “monarchs” of their denomination as if they were defending God Himself. Now I believe that a good name is rather to be chosen than riches or gold (Prov 22:1), but when you need to spend hours, weeks, months, years writing books to defend the lives of others you believe to be godly, you could be wasting God’s time. Let the critics write their books, because even if they are right on some of what they claim, if you have an absolute standard, and that standard shows sinners how to be saved, who God is, and that standard holds the doctrines that define what morality and godly living are, then you are in the better position to yield fruit for the service of God while they watch the Times for the next juicy bit of gossip for their next “masterpiece”.
The other day I was given a book written about J.Frank Norris, how he “murdered” a man (even though he was acquitted) and I thought, my couch needed to be raised about an inch to prevent its wobbling. Perfect fit!
Now I have no problem with defending a man’s ministry when the critics are clearly wrong. Jesus defended John The Baptist (Matthew 11:9-13). But I also have no problem criticizing a man even though he has passed away if his teachings were erroneous and/or there is convincing evidence of a wicked immoral life (John Calvin, Martin Luther, Augustine, Armstrong, Russel, Eddy, Smith, et al). But whether an influential leader had or has a reputation worth defending, there must be a standard on which a man is measured, and the standard must be the ultimate authority that judges doctrine, a church, a ministry, or any man’s character alive or dead. Opinions will vary about men, and if you hold them as your standard, you will be disappointed.
Some churches want to “get back to the old paths”. Is there a standard for that? Absolutely (Jer. 6:16). I for one, second that sentiment. However, I do not want the old paths back for the sake of the old paths just because that would make me popular by giving me some sort of mantra with which to rally the troops to my battle cry for the sake of a concept. Some of the preachers that are considered part of the “old paths” were not necessarily very sound in their doctrine. If getting back to the old paths means propping up men because they were popular regardless of what they believed in, count me out.
If getting back to the old paths means attempting to get believers to stand on an absolute standard that is quick and powerful, that is sharper than a two-edged sword and pierces to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart, then count me in. If it means getting back to a time when men held this standard in regard above their opinions, experience, and human wisdom, sign me up.
There is no question that today we live in a society without a standard. A standard that is uncompromising and flawless in it’s description of the Creator and instructions for man. Today men are lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof (2 Tim 3:2-4). Every man does that which is right in his own eyes (Prov 21:2) and fundamentalists and other professing Christians sure are not exempt from this.
Christians have stopped depending on the absolute standard of truth. We have allowed the peripheral to become primary, civil rights over Biblical precepts, and the Holy Spirit has become merely a chevron on our sleeve that permits entrance into the fellowship of militant fundamentalist platoons marching in cadence to the opinions and teachings of fallible men instead of the absolute authority of the word of God.
I am not opposed to holding preachers in high regard (1 Cor 1:11, Phil 3:17, “I will get me unto the great men, and will speak unto them; for they have known the way of the Lord,..” Jer 5:5), or reading other sources. I have read hundreds of other books outside of the Bible and for a time, after reading my Bible in the morning would listen to J.Vernon McGee’s “Back to the Bible” (until I got fed up with “a better translation would be..”), but one thing I have disciplined myself on is to never let the opinion or influences of another man dissuade me from checking that person’s life and teaching according to the Bible. Acts 17:11. No mortal man is above reproof and no church member should be harassed or criticized for asking questions about a man’s teaching if they are desirous of the truth. Some of the qualifications for a minister are being patient and apt to teach. 2 Tim 2:24. If you don’t have the time to field questions about your beliefs or the beliefs of other preachers, and get agitated when someone questions the pastor with an honest inquiry, then you are not fit to be in the ministry.
One story that has always inspired me was that of Walter Martin’s trip to a money printing mint. Walter traveled with a class of banker students to the mint to handle fresh money printed off the press. After several hours of touring the building, the tour guide led the students to a room full of counterfeit bills where they spent only a few minutes inspecting the fakes. Walter asked the tour guide, “Why don’t the students spend more time studying the counterfeits?”. The tour guide replied, “We want them to be so familiar with the original that they will recognize a counterfeit right off the bat”!
I spent 20 years memorizing the New Testament. I have developed a program to memorize it in five years now. What prevented me from doing that 15 years ago? Studying counterfeits more than the “original”. Most Jewish children entering into full-time service have the Torah memorized at age 12 (Boys have a ‘bar mitzvah’ at 13, Girls [bat mitzvah] at 12). Muslim children have the entire Quran memorized by the time they are teenagers as well. Most Christians I know have about 50-100 verses memorized (out of 31,000). They have more baseball and football statistics memorized than they do the Bible. The average Baptist today can tell you who the top 100 most famous IFB preachers are, but can’t tell you the names of the 12 tribes of Israel. If the average Christian spent half as much time with the Bible and prayer as they did on the internet, and television, there would be much less corruption, apathy, false doctrine, depression, and criminal activity among church members.
The very first thing God did for the people of Israel after He used Moses to lead them out of Egypt, was gave them a standard before they began their journey into the promised land.
O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever! Go say to them, Get you into your tents again. But as for thee, stand thou here by me, and I will speak unto thee all the commandments, and the statutes, and the judgments, which thou shalt teach them, that they may do them in the land which I give them to possess it. Ye shall observe to do therefore as the LORD your God hath commanded you: ye shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. Ye shall walk in all the ways which the LORD your God hath commanded you, that ye may live, and that it may be well with you, and that ye may prolong your days in the land which ye shall possess. Deut 5:29-33
Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. Psalm 119:9
Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. Psalm 119:11
My son, keep my words, and lay up my commandments with thee. Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye. Bind them upon thy fingers, write them upon the table of thine heart. Proverbs 7:1-3
Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. 2 Tim 4:2
God said it, THAT SETTLES IT, whether you believe it or not. Would to God that we would get back to the Bible and instead of engaging in speculative fruitless debates about what Jesus would do based on the “authority” of good godly “qualified scholars” and start reading and memorizing the Bible.
The Bible stands though the hills may tumble,
It will firmly stand when the earth shall crumble;
I will plant my feet on its firm foundation,
For the Bible stands.
~Dr. James Ach and J/A