Yesterday, there was a battle underway, so where do you stand?
I’m not talking about Chargers vs Patriots, or Eagles vs Saints: for too many Americans, those conflicts captured their full attention on the Lord’s Day. We’ve got more nail-biting coverage next Sunday, leading to the Super challenge on February 3rd… but those are merely distractions, set against the backdrop of the Epic Battle of our day. What could be bigger than the annual contests of the NFL?
Today – right now, in our lifetime – the Battle for the Bible is where the action is. The other side – the god of this age (so named by Paul, in 2 Corinthians) – is working overtime to marginalize the Truth and, in the ideology vacuum, replace it with heresy. Am I over-reacting?
If the basis for our faith – the Bible – is under attack, maybe the safe strategy is to head for a place where you can take refuge. If there’s safety in numbers (a common assumption), find a really big church and hunker down.
Right now, the two biggest churches in America are Lakewood Church in Houston and North Point Church in Atlanta. With weekly attendance of 43,500 (Lakewood) and 30,629 (North Point), there are hordes of people hungry for the holy showing up and fighting for parking, confident that they’ve come to a place where they can settle in for a download of spiritual substance. Bigger is better… isn’t it?
The main guys who head those two churches are both sons-of-pastors; their reputation – and audiences – extend far beyond their church campuses and congregations. They speak; they write; they are among the most influential of this generation’s Christian voices. Leaders that prominent must be aware of – and, somehow involved in – the Battle for the Bible. Where are they in this debate?
I’ve met Joel Osteen, and he’s a really nice guy. But where is he regarding the integrity of the Scriptures and the boundaries of orthodoxy? A few years ago, in an interview with the Washington Times, Joel shared this insight: ““I believe that [Mormons] are Christians… I don’t know if it’s the purest form of Christianity, like I grew up with. But you know what, I know Mormons. I hear Mitt Romney – and I’ve never met him – but I hear him say, ‘I believe Jesus is the son of God,’ ‘I believe he’s my savior,’ and that’s one of the core issues.” I don’t expect a volunteer working in the children’s ministry at Lakewood to understand the essential differences between the Christian faith and a worldwide cult, but I do expect the senior pastor to grasp the biblical differences…
I’ve never met Andy Stanley, but his street cred as a founder/pastor has made him a model and mentor for the next generation of aspirational church leaders. He’s done some amazing work in one of America’s most influential Christian hubs… but has created a firestorm because of his call for Christians to “unhitch” from the Old Testament, suggesting that the Ten Commandments are now null-and-void, and the only currently applicable truth for Christians is Jesus’ commandment to “love one another.” So, in the bookstore at North Point, do they only sell New Testaments?
It’s a tough conversation, but crucial for each of us to consider: are we serious about treating the word of God with integrity? Paul counseled his ministry protégé, Timothy: “…from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:15-17). Read the whole chapter. When Paul cited “Scriptures,” he wrote before the canon of the New Testament had been completed: he was referencing the Old Testament. What was his view of its importance?
My friend Roy Peterson has been the president of the American Bible Society – a 200 year old ministry based in Philadelphia – for five years. He started his career life in the marketplace; he has been president of Wycliffe Bible Translators and The Seed Company on his way to ABS. Last year, he framed a requirement for staff members at ABS to maintain lifestyles in keeping with the standards established by the Scriptures they – as a ministry – exist to extend. That mandate has created a virtual firestorm – both inside and outside the organization. How important is it to accept – and, to adopt – Truth, as presented in the 66 books that claim divine inspiration?
It’s time – it’s always time – to take a stand, in this battle. Where do you stand?