Written by Dawn Rutan
Last week I stopped by the library to pick up an autobiography that had been referenced in another book I was reading. I didn’t know much about the author, but I recognized her name as having written some Christian articles. However, after reading about 80 pages of her book I’d had enough. Yes, at one time she was a conservative Christian writer, and she probably still considers herself a Christian, but she has adopted some very unorthodox beliefs. The book started out with her discomfort with the patriarchal heritage of culture and of Christianity in particular. Some of her concerns are quite valid, and I’ve experienced similar frustrations with figuring out where women are supposed to fit in church leadership. But her solution was one I cannot accept, as she embraced a rather radical feminism. I won’t even dignify her position by sharing her name here. If I’d read the book reviews on Amazon first I never would have picked up the book.
As it turns out, this experience dovetailed nicely with the discussion in our Sunday school class today from 1 Timothy 4:1-5. Verse 1 (ESV) states: “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons.” I’m sure this woman didn’t start out by adopting heresy. She started with the good intentions of questioning what she’d been taught and wondering if that was truth. Her first error came in her understanding of Scripture. She stopped reading the Bible as God’s authoritative Word and started reading it as a collection of stories written by men and full of male dominance. She read it through the lenses of her own feelings and discomfort rather than examining her own feelings through the lens of Scripture. She essentially started defining truth for herself rather than letting God’s truth define her. She also started turning to non-Christian and pseudo-Christian sources to explain her own experiences. Her belief system started to adopt beliefs out of Greek mythology, Native American tradition, mysticism, and various other sources. It seems like her “theology” took in anything that made her feel empowered as a woman, regardless of whether it was Biblically correct or not.
This is the kind of “departure from the faith” that the Apostle Paul was warning about in the first century, and it is increasingly prevalent in our culture today. People are looking for whatever “truth” will make them feel better about themselves and will help them identify their place in the world. Even many who call themselves Christian are only in it for the parts they like. Whenever the teaching gets uncomfortable or convicting, they will move on to something else that makes them feel warm and cozy.
Another book I’ve started reading is Good Faith: Being a Christian When Society Thinks You’re Irrelevant and Extreme, by David Kinnamon and Gabe Lyons. They share many statistics on what U.S. adults think about Christianity, evangelism, and other religious activities. It’s clear that few people want to accept that there is any universal truth at all, much less that any one religion can point to Truth. For most people, religion is only valuable in so far as it reinforces their own desires and feelings. That also ties in with today’s sermon from 1 Corinthians 6:12-20. If pleasure is the goal and master of life then we will be slaves of our bodies, and it’s not surprising that our culture is now legalizing whatever feels good. That is the next logical step when there is no ultimate authority who can tell us we’re sinning with our actions or attitudes.
In a recent sermon, Alistair Begg quoted the old saying “God said it, I believe it, that settles it,” but he rightly pointed out the flaw in that statement. It should say “God said it, that settles it, therefore I believe it.” Those of us who do still claim the Bible as authoritative and who call Jesus our Lord and Savior need to be careful to give God preeminence in all things, not just the parts we like. There are some things in Scripture that make me uncomfortable, but I have no right to remove them. There are also some areas that I think have been misinterpreted by various denominational traditions, but it is not my place to tell them they are wrong. They will be held accountable for their beliefs and actions on the Day of Judgment just as I will be. Some who claim to be Christians have wandered so far from the true faith that they will be surprised to hear Jesus say “Depart from Me, I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23).
May we not be among those who make a shipwreck of our faith (1 Timothy 1:19), but train ourselves for godliness (1 Timothy 4:7), that by testing we may know the will of God (Romans 12:2) through the Word of God.
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23).
© 2016 Dawn Rutan. The views stated may or may not reflect the beliefs of the pastor or leadership of Dulin’s Grove Church.