Full Confidence

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I was encourged by Carlton's report on the Westminster conference on Scripture (and only wish he'd reported Carl's spicy comments). It made me reflect on my own expereince of the outworking of a deficient view of the Bible's authority.

The first theological book I read as a 12 year old boy living in Scotland was Karl Barth's Evangelical Theology.I can't say I memorized it or even understood it at the time but I made myself read it (it was the first book on the religious shelf of our public library) and I came away with only one impression - 'this man has a dodgy attitude to Scripture.' If you'd
asked the boy what made him think that, he couldn't have told you, it was just a sense (I know, I'm opening myself up to the charge of mysticism). But by the end of my teenage years I was discovering that my homeland was spiritually blighted by the influence of two names - Barth and Torrance - in particular by their view of Scripture. After a sojourn in Canada I came back to minister in Scotland and the effects of these two theologians on the churches (especially the Church of Scotland and the Baptist churches) had been devastating.
I found among colleagues and old friends a loss of confidence in the Scriptures which led to a state of uncertainty on major truths. One senior colleague who loved the Lord, was an effective evangelist and a caring pastor to his people said publicly on more than one occasion that he'd like me to preach at his funeral because, he said, I sounded a note of confidence!

Among those who wished to maintain their evangelical zeal there was often a retreat from the use of the mind, a dislike of theology, and a descent into a warm but sentimental form of evangelicalism which reduced the faith to conversionism and activism.
Others simply dried up in the pulpit or became masters of the grand phrase or an impressive
oratory which was full of sound and fury signifying nothing. There was the missing conviction of one whose heart has been mastered by the word of God. For yet others the pulpit became the venue for a species of entertainment or for moral homilies. It has proved to be but a short step from questioning or downgrading the the authority of the Bible from inerrant to
infallible to limited inerrancy to introducing unbiblical doctrine or practice.

One friend of mine in his teenage years was part of our group and we went round the country singing (they sang) and preaching and seeing evident blessing. After leaving University he worked for some years in the secular world before enrolling as a mature student at a denominational theological college (I can't name it but it was baptist and is still as bad). As well as a having sharp mind he was an effective speaker and showed every sign of the potential to be a useful minister of the gospel. During that period he was infected with the poisonous influence of the Barths and Torrances of this world. On graduation he went back into secular work. I will never forget what he said to me once after hearing me preach -
 'Liam, I would give anything to share you convictions about the bible, but I don't and I cannot in good conscience go into the ministry confused and doubting as I am.' He had lost confidence in the authority of Scripture and felt, rightly, that he had nothing to say, and he refused to go into the ministry. Actually he went on to be an effective worker in his local church and over the years has regained his trust in the scripture for which I am grateful to God.

Would that ministers and seminary teachers had the integrity of my friend, and took themselves out of the spotlight of public ministry where,  without risk to their never-dying soul (since we who teach will be judged the more strictly) or to the church of God (which Christ purchased by his blood), they can take time to reflect, pray and hopefully re-capture their first love, and where the word of God can once again become a fire in their bones.

Posted September 27, 2010 @ 7:29 AM by Liam Goligher

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