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The abomination of high doctrine, low conduct


The inexorable slide toward a loss of faith typically begins with a willingness to devalue the Word of God. When some pedigreed religion professor uses his classroom or some animated question mark uses his pulpit to cast suspicion upon the Bible he or she typically does it with the most surreptitious approach.

Some may dare to dismiss the divine inspiration of the Bible with unabashed boldness, but most are subtler. They call the authority of Scripture into question with a “Hath God said?” approach. They advise, “The Bible is not the Word of God, but contains the Word of God; and the Bible is not the Word of God, but it is the words of God.

John P. Jewell, Jr., in his book, The Long Way Home, writes, “The rejection of the Bible as the Word of God has somehow come to be assumed as a requisite of intelligent, thinking people … all this takes place in the name of freedom.”

John MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church in Panorama City, Calif., has stated, “The church in our generation is drifting from the fundamentals [of the faith] and has already begun to embrace post-modern ideas uncritically. Evangelicalism is losing its footing, and the church is becoming more and more like the world.”

MacArthur continued, “Fewer and fewer Christians are willing to stand against the trends, and the effects have been disastrous. Subjectivity, irrationality, worldliness, uncertainty, compromise, and hypocrisy have already become commonplace among churches and organizations that once constituted the evangelical mainstream.”

It was this downward spiral away from the infallibility of the Scripture that prompted Harold Lindsell to write his book The Battle for the Bible in 1976.

Subsequently, a conservative resurgence took place in the SBC and Southern Baptists valiantly contended for the right to be called “the people of the Book.” I am personally grateful for the biblical conservatism that characterizes our Convention.

However, an uncompromising allegiance to “The Book” carries with it grave and solemn responsibilities. Forty years ago I heard a sermon entitled “The Abomination of High Doctrine and Low Conduct.” The preacher avowed that our behavior must match our beliefs; that our conduct should measure up to our convictions; that a profession without a performance equals a pathetic pretense.

Yet, when I read the Bible I am made painfully aware of my own wretchedness, and I am constantly resolving to let the transforming power of Christ change me so that my faith is not betrayed by my footsteps.

Gallup and Barna polls continue to show that evangelicals live just like the world. Born again Christians and evangelical Christians get divorced just as often, if not more often, than the general population. Studies show that physical and sexual abuse in theologically conservative homes is about the same as elsewhere.

Regarding racism, a Gallup poll discovered that when they asked the question, “Do you object if a black neighbor moves in next door?” the least prejudiced were Catholics and non-evangelicals. Evangelicals and Southern Baptists were most likely to object to having black neighbors.

Evangelicals are apparently gripped with the stranglehold of materialism. Only nine percent of evangelicals tithe and the average church member gives about 2.6 percent of his or her income to the church. If the average Christian tithed, we’d have another $143 billion for missions and ministry.

We have also lost our passion for the things of God and allowed the world to impose its preoccupation with temporal things upon our personal agenda so much that “the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches” have caused us to replace a fiery, dynamic Christian life for a dispassionate, mediocre substitute.

In spite of a weakened witness, it would appear that evangelicals still have a great opportunity to raise the standard concerning moral values in this society, but unfortunately, we have forfeited much of our influence and power by lacking the integrity to be taken seriously.

Ron Sider, in his new book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience, writes, “The Lord doesn’t take hypocrisy and disobedience lightly. He punishes, and there’s an inevitable kind of decline that sets in if you are hypocritical and don’t practice what you preach.”

It is time for God’s people, and Southern Baptists in particular, to put an end to the charade, stop playing church, and having renewed our commitment to the principles of the Bible, become doers of the Word.