DOES IT MATTER WHAT PREACHING WE HEAR?
A very interesting article appeared in a recent issue of “The Banner of Truth” written by J.C. Ryle under the above title. I think it important enough to share with our readers. It touches upon an issue of grave concern in our day of spiritual lethargy and apostasy.
I warn every one who loves his soul, to be very jealous as to the preaching he regularly hears, and the place of worship he regularly attends. He who deliberately settles down under any ministry which is positively unsound is a very unwise man. I will never hesitate to speak my mind on this point. I know well that many think it a shocking thing for a man to forsake his parish church. I cannot see with the eyes of such people. I do believe, if false doctrine is unmistakably preached in a parish church, a parishioner who loves his soul is quite right in not going to that parish church. To hear unscriptural teaching fifty-two Sundays in every year is a serious thing. It is a continual dropping of slow poison into the mind. I think it almost impossible for a man willfully to submit himself to it, and not take harm. I see in the New Testament we are plainly told to ‘prove all things,’ and ‘hold fast that which is good,’ I Thess. 5:21. I see in the Book of Proverbs that we are commanded to ‘cease to hear the instruction which causeth to err from the words of knowledge,’ Prov. 19:27. If these words do not justify a man in ceasing to worship at a church, if positively false doctrine is preached in it, I know not what words can.
There are not a few parishes in England where the religious teaching is little better than Popery. Ought the laity of such parishes to sit still; be content, and take it quietly? They ought not. And why? Because, like St. Paul, they ought to prefer truth to peace.
There are not a few parishes in England where the religious teaching is little better than morality. The distinctive doctrines of Christianity are never clearly proclaimed. Plato, or Seneca, or Confucius, or Socinus, could have taught almost as much. Ought the laity in such parishes to sit still, be content, and take it quietly? They ought not. And why? Because, like St. Paul, they ought to prefer truth to peace.
Divisions and separations are most objectionable in religion. They weaken the cause of true Christianity. They give occasion to the enemies of all godliness to blaspheme. But before we blame people for them we must be careful that we lay the blame where it is deserved. False doctrine and heresy are even worse than schism. If people separate themselves from teaching which is positively false and unscriptural, they ought to be praised rather than reproved. In such cases separation is a virtue and not a sin. The old saying must never be forgotten, “He is the schismatic who causes the schism.”
Controversy in religion is a hateful thing. It is hard enough to fight the devil, the world and the flesh, without private differences in our own camp. But there is one thing which is even worse than controversy, and that is false doctrine tolerated, allowed, and permitted without protest or molestation. It was controversy that won the battle of Protestant Reformation. If the views that some men hold were correct, it is plain we never ought to have had any Reformation at all! For the sake of peace, we ought to have gone on worshipping the Virgin, and bowing down to images and relics to this very day! Away with such trifling! There are times when controversy is not only a duty but a benefit. Give me that mighty thunderstorm rather than the pestilential malaria. The one walks in darkness and poisons in silence, and we are never safe. The other frightens and alarms for a little season. But it is soon over, and it clears-the air. It is a plain Scriptural duty to ‘contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints,’ Jude 1:3. I am quite aware that the things I have said are exceedingly distasteful to many minds. I believe many are content with teaching which is not the whole truth, and fancy it will be ‘all the same’ in the end. I am sorry for them. I am convinced that nothing but the whole truth is likely, as a general rule, to do good to souls. I am satisfied that those who willfully put up with anything short of the whole truth, will find at last that their souls have received much damage. Three things there are which men never ought to trifle with—a little poison, a little false doctrine, and a little sin.
I am quite aware that when a man expresses such opinions as those I have just brought forward, there are many ready to say, ‘He is no Churchman.’ I hear such accusations unmoved. The day of judgment will show who were the true friends of the Church of England and who were not. I have learned in the last thirty-two years that if a clergyman leads a quiet life, lets alone the unconverted part of the world, and preaches so as to offend none and edify none, he will be called by many ‘a good Churchman.’ And I have also learned that if a man studies the Articles and Homilies, labors continually for the conversion of souls, adheres closely to the great principles of the Reformation, bears a faithful testimony against Popery, and preaches as Jewel1 and Latimer used to preach, he will probably be thought a firebrand and ‘troubler of Israel,’ and called no Churchman at all! But I can see plainly that they are not the best Churchmen who talk most loudly about Churchmanship. Let men say what they will. They are the truest friends of the Church of England who labour most for the presentation of truth.
Although written many years ago and in the fellowship of the Church of England, these words are highly applicable today to the sad situation in our own country.
HERESY APPROVED IN NEW ZEALAND
We were under the impression that there was a strong conservative Church in New Zealand, especially among the Presbyterians. This impression had to be considerably altered when we read of recent decisions of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church concerning the heretical teachings of one of their professors, Prof. L.G. Geering.
According to the R.E.S. Newsletter
In a 90 minute speech to the Assembly, Prof. Geering answered the charges brought against him, which included the denial of personal life after death and of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Belief in personal life after death, he said, was “Neither essential doctrine nor Biblical.” We have no infallible source of knowledge, he claimed. Prof. Geering saw the main point between him and his hearers to lie the different premises on which they started to talk about the Christian faith. “Underlying the remarks of both of my accusers is the premise that faith consists of the holding of certain beliefs. I do not hold this premise, and draw a fairly clear distinction between faith and a set of beliefs,” he added. “Faith is not primarily what you need in creeds, confessions, and books of theology. Faith is what exists in people.” The Westminster Confession of Faith, he added, can no longer express the faith of the church today in clear and unambiguous terms. Prof. Geering admitted that many of the things he believes are at variance with the Confession, as also are some of the deliverances of the assembly.
The accusations against Prof. Geering were brought by a layman who also announced that, because of the decisions of the assembly, he would resign from the church. He predicted that a large number of people would follow his example and leave a church which departed so radically from the confession of the truth.
The Assembly itself had little problem with this heresy and doubletalk of the professor. It never really argued the substance of his views but rather spent the two hours of debate wondering whether the charges should be dismissed in a short ‘legal’ document or by means of a longer pastoral letter. Its decision declared that no doctrinal error had been established. It dismissed the charges to applause from the galleries and ordered the case closed.
Once again it becomes evident that it is almost impossible to declare any views a man may hold to be heretical.
ONCE AGAIN FEDERAL AID TO SCHOOLS
The issue of federal aid to parochial and private schools is by no means settled. The United States Supreme Court took two, apparently contrary actions on the issue recently. On the one hand it decided not to review a lower court decision which favored a Pennsylvania law providing bus transportation to nonpublic school children. It rejected this case because it found no Constitutional question at issue.
But on the other hand, it agreed to hear a suit filed by six New York residents who claimed that the First Amendment defining a separation between Church and State was being violated by the 1965 Federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act. This Act provides for the use of federal funds to finance instruction, textbooks, and library materials in parochial and private schools.
The argument made in favor of the Act was that there was no violation of the First Amendment involved since the aid was given to the pupil rather than the school.
What will be the final decision of the Court on this question remains to be seen. And we shall reserve comment on it until that decision is made public.
We conclude this article with a brief quotation under the above heading taken from Christian Economics.
Recent testimony before a Senate committee charged that 72 confessed felons in the State of Maryland alone will not be prosecuted. Law enforcement officials feel that there is no chance, of conviction under the so-called “Miranda” decision of the Supreme Court, virtually banning the use of confessions in such cases, and preventing the questioning of suspects unless a lawyer is present to represent them. The dropped cases include those accused of manslaughter, murder, rape and other major crimes. Seventy-two such cases in one small state indicate that thousands of hardened criminals have been set free in our country, to continue their outrages against the American people.
It seems strange indeed that there is more sympathy for these criminals than for their victims. The thousands of crimes already committed will be repeated over and over unless and until public opinion demands that we give our law enforcement officials the backing necessary to make them effective against those who would destroy our society.