Scriptural Illiteracy, False Teaching, the Apologist, and You
by David Russell
Welcome friends and family, to Stones from the Stream, where we engage in apologetics and theology. I hope you have been enjoying the article series on apologetics and that my goals have been reached in placing a desire deep within you to examine the arguments for the existence of God. In this article I am going to side step our current series and touch on a topic that really hits home for me; this is an in house topic that I think all my believing viewers and the body as a whole should take into account. This article I have named “Scriptural Illiteracy, False Teaching, the Apologist, and You.”
“May grace and peace be multiplied to you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” (2nd Peter 1:2)
First things first, how in the world do you expect this multiplication of grace and peace through knowledge if your not in the word? It’s not a hard question, and I don’t think I need to answer it. I am not big on statistics, but I think to use them here will drive home my point. In 2000, a George Barna study showed that 92 percent of Americans own a bible while only 37 percent read it. We are twelve year hence then; is it still a crisis?
Another report came out in 2009 that claimed that less than 1 out of every 5 self identified “born again” believers has a Christian world view, so you tell me. I am not going to bore you with these statistics, but I think it’s important to highlight the crisis facing the church and the general public we are engaging.
I can speak to this on a personal level. I have engaged many people who will tell me what the bible says, or claim that things are in the bible that are not actually there. In my early walk I had this problem myself. This is a real problem, and we are experiencing the fall out from it. Today, we learn that children fall victim to faith crises once entering college due to an underdeveloped world view and scriptural illiteracy. A recent survey concluded that half of them lose their faith after their first year of college. Personally, I think this is one of the biggest crises facing the church today; one that if not addressed will greatly weaken the faith as a whole. This was also a problem for the early church, although a bit different we can draw some striking parallels, and we have no excuse because we have something they didn’t; the whole bible.
This really hit home for me when my underdeveloped world view was brought to light. I sat facing an atheist in a small debate; I got creamed, as Bart Erhman would put it. Unlike some, this was eye opening and not faith crushing. This stirred my hunger for the truth and brought me out of the false teaching and illiteracy that I had been in. I dove into the text, and began my trek into apologetics. This was no easy task, but my hunger for truth just kept increasing, so deeper down the rabbit hole I went! The hardest part was the discovery of how illiterate I actually was and having to rework false ideas and bad theology. This also ignited a passion in me to pass what I had found on. So, I began debating and discussing all that God illuminated in my life. I had found doing this also brought a new found desire to build relationships through the dialogue and gave me an opportunity to be a better witness for the faith.
The reason I bring this to light is there are so many people that remain committed only to what their Pastors say (I am not saying what the pastor says isn’t important), personal interpretations, and sayings that they grew up with; yet when something like this dominates the church body, it is a problem for the whole of the body as the scripture teaches. The solution begins with reading the word yourself, jumping in to the fight so to speak; and why wouldn’t you want to? We are made in the image of God, nothing else in the universe is. We were made to understand his speech; so why not hear what the God that spoke and the whole universe leapt into existence is saying? I believe we have reached a point of urgency in this current crisis and need to be instant in season and address this at every opportunity. This is why apologetics needs to be in every church. We don’t just defend against atheists, but as Titus 1:9 points out, we are to rebuke false teachers within our own environment as well.
I was 8 years in a church that promoted false teachers, allowed underdeveloped laity to give incorrect messages, and gave way to prosperity preachers pumping their fist in the air shouting “show me the money, now”. Bad teaching accompanied with bad doctrine can be the death of a church or cause it to become totally stagnant! I heard recently, a pastor of a large local church in my area claim that doctrines are what cause division, but in truth it is bad doctrine, false teaching or philosophy, and bad hermeneutics that lead to incorrect inferences and the abuse of scripture causing all the division. The heart of all spiritual attacks begins at distorting the word of God; we can see that all the way back in Genesis, and we must be aware and counter such ideas, because ideas have consequences. As an apologist, the very heart of giving a defense starts with something we strongly believe in; how did we get there? We studied rigorously, we poured our passions into it and we would be negligent of the talent we have if we didn’t offer to implement our apologetic within our local body. I will conclude with a quote from C.S. Lewis, an author our website knows well, he says “Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.”
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