Recently, a dear Austrian friend gave me a copy of “Der Spiegel”. “Der Spiegel”, German for, “The Mirror”, is a newsmagazine roughly equivalent to Time magazine in the United States. Since my friend knew that I am somewhat familiar with the German language, he thought I might find this edition frustrating and interesting—all at the same time.
The magazine had a picture on the front of what appeared to be Jesus—arms stretched out and rising into heaven.
The scene seemed to depict the ascension of our Lord. Written across that picture, in bold letters were the words, “Wer Glaubt Denn Sowas?”, or, “Who then believes such things?”. In smaller words underneath, it appeared to answer the question: “Warum selbst Christen ke inen Gott mehr brauchen—Why even Christians realize they don’t need a God anymore.”
The article went on to point out the various things that Christians no longer need or believe in. There were many things the article brought up, but a principle concern was the statement that among Roman Catholics in Germany, only 75% believe in a God, and that number was only 67% among protestants. With that came a headline: “Der Himmel ist leer”, or “Heaven is empty”. Fascinatingly enough, the article explored beliefs within the United Church of Canada!
“the future of the church depends on it!”
I was reminded of a very similar article recently published in “USA Today”. This particular article began with the words, “Churches will continue hemorrhaging members until we face the truth: Being a faithful Christian does not mean accepting everything the Bible teaches.” But of course, as you might suspect, that article dealt with the need for Christians to admit that they got it wrong about homosexuality. According to this article, even though the Bible clearly teaches that all sex outside of heterosexual marriage is sin, it is time to reject that teaching. “After all”, says the article, “the future of the church depends on it!”
Of course, all of this is simply another case of not reporting the news, and about wishing the news looked like this. In truth, every single denomination that has jettisoned biblical authority has hemorrhaged its members. Denominations like the United Church of Canada or the Anglican Church of Canada have been in such rapid decline that they face dissolution. And those evangelical churches that have accepted a literal reading of the Bible, and have overtly instructed their people in it, have not only survived, but have continued to grow. That’s the real news.
I am reminded of Paul’s words to Timothy, recorded in 1 Timothy 6:20-21: “O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called ‘knowledge,’ for by professing it some have swerved from the faith.”
The image in 1 Timothy is that of a deposit placed in a recipients account. That deposit is the Gospel, the content of the entire Bible. In loving mercy, God has given us this most precious gift. Our task then, is to guard it.
It should then not surprise us that irreverent babble that seeks to undermine the deposit is not unique to our times.
But of this we must be sure; Whenever we give the deposit away, there is nothing left. The reality of our times is this: unless we accept all the Bible teaches, we have no movement at all. Liberal Christianity has proven itself to be a massive failure. But Bible-believing Christianity continues to prove itself to be amazingly robust, withstanding even the most vicious attack. This should not surprise us, for this truth is a reflection of the power of God.
Dr. John Neufeld
Bible teacher, Back to the Bible Canada