Today the church is beset by the presence of much false teaching on the one hand and narrow minded bigotry on the other hand. False teaching creeps into the church because of our unfamiliarity with the Biblical text and its implications for Church. Let us look at some of the factors promoting false teaching in the church.
Postmodernism: An umbrella term which covers a variety of perspectives all which deny that there is any meta-narrative that gives meaning to life. Postmodernism can be seen in much of the emerging church movement, it is interesting to see how the Biblical doctrine of hell can be dismissed and liberal theology introduced in the name of evangelicalism by authors like Brian Macclaren and Rob Bell. These teachings undermine biblical authority and Christianity is adapted to suit the age.
The Ecumenical Movement: Plays down the significance of doctrine seeking a very minimal definition of what it is to be a Christian, in practice this leads to just affirming the Trinity. The great doctrines of the bible which show that salvation is by grace alone are played down. Many Christians think that because a congregation calls itself Christian it must be ok. Some whole traditions deny the new birth and yet somehow we accept them as Christian. The word of God is quite clear about how we are saved and true Christian unity can only be between those who have been born again. I have seen the ecumenical movement as a something that obscures truth for many years now, and the longer I live the more convinced I become of the dangers of the ecumenical approach to doctrine.
Subjectivism; We live in a culture which promotes the myth that if it feels good, it must be good, this attitude has crept into the church with a greater emphasis on spiritual experience. When the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement began there was a true hunger to not only know God intellectually but also a desire to relate to God and this can only be good. But the problem became when people started seeking experience for itself. In ministry times people were expected to fall or tremble, or some such thing and people began to concentrate on the experience and the phenomena instead of seeking the Lord himself in accordance with the word of God. I feel that both subjectivism and an arid intellectualism are threats to the church. We must learn to be open to the Holy Spirit and the gifts that he imparts in such a way that recognises that the Bible is the book that we must test all experiences against.
Bigotry: Also leads to false teaching because it tends to emphasise certain teachings as absolute in a distorted way, sometimes when you listen to the bigot speaking you find that only those that agree with them are true Christians, it can be amazing how many fine Christian teachers are labeled as false prophets. This happens because you must agree with them even on the social implications of the faith or at other times it is some point of prophetic speculation that has been raised to an absolute. I have heard speakers denounce each other because of different views of the rapture or some ethical issue that becomes distorted. The bigot tends to be a legalist you must act just as they say you must and you can’t deviate on any point of doctrine.
Christian Unity; The answer to these problems is not to give up but rather to work for true Christian unity based on the Word of God. We are to seek a unity which emphasises the great doctrines of Scripture.
Biblical Authority will be acknowledged, and we will want to submit all our thinking to God’s word written, The Bible is the only authority that binds our conscience in submission to the Lord.
The Trinity, we will boldly proclaim that we believe in a Triune God, One God in three persons. He is the one and only living God. this means that we acknowledge the sovereignty and Grace of God the Father. We will also acknowledge that the Lord Jesus Christ is truly god and truly man, we will depend on his saving work alone for our salvation. We will also boldly declare that the Holy Spirit is a person who applies salvation to the believer, he truly is the Lord and giver of life.
We will acknowledge that we are saved by the grace of God alone and we will confess that we are those who deserve punishment, but Christ has paid the price for our atonement.
We believe in the church as the body of Christ and believe that Christ has called us to be people on a mission.
We look froward to the return of Christ and the establishment of the new heavens and the new earth.
These are the basic issues that comprise Gospel unity and are better set out in the statement of Belief of the Evangelical Alliance. Let us strive for unity in the gospel and see that our God is glorified in his people.