We preachers are assuming some burdens that the Lord never meant for us to carry. Trying to make the Bible acceptable to the world is one of them. Much preaching today is not the preaching of the penetrating, Spirit-hot truths of the Bible, but rather is an attempt to prove to the unregenerate mind that the Bible is true.
God never asked us to carry this burden. And without the accompanying Spirit which God sent to make the Word convincing, it is a hopeless task. Still much that is written and spoken today by our preachers must be interpreted as an attempt to bolster up God's Word and so to interpret it that the unregenerate and skeptical mind will accept it. There seems to be a contest between the ministry and the skeptic as to whether or not the Word is true. In such an engagement the ministry loses the battle if he depends merely on human wisdom for support.
Some are depending on archaeology. Now there are few more fascinating or more enlightening studies than archaeology, and we welcome every confirmation of Scripture it brings. Much support is coming through this channel. More and more archaeologists are unearthing evidence that the Bible is true in the very letter. And it seems that many leading scientists are becoming friendly to the trend of confidence which these evidences seem to prove.
Others are depending on a "reasonable" interpretation of Scripture, which will yield enough ground to bring them into harmony with the world mind. The psychology of Jesus is emphasized, and the fanciful interpretations are made of His facts as recorded in the Bible. The interpretation of the life of Jesus becomes the central theme of preaching. If you quote from Paul or from other writers, the opposition will say: "I am not so much interested in what Paul says. I do not have as much confidence in him as I do in Jesus. Paul was somewhat beside himself, a radical in many ways. I want to know what Jesus said or did about it."
As if Jesus and Paul were divided! But many preachers are becoming intrigued with this as a way of making the Bible "reasonable," and have thus turned to fanciful interpretations of Jesus' attitude toward things of the world. The LIFE of Jesus, they say, is the important thing. By which they mean that His death is not important. This is exactly what the Devil wishes to be preached. You can be as perfect as Christ, if possible and still satisfy Satan, provided you say nothing about His redemptive death.
Thus, eliminating the problem of the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, and the sacrifice of the Cross, these would-be pleasers of the world mind center attention on the earthly LIFE of Jesus as being the whole Gospel. This is the "gospel" chiefly employed by the "social gospelites." It demands no dying, no regenerating, no humility, no repentance, no godliness. Only the self-righteous approval of the world mind. It seeks to make Jesus and the Bible acceptable to the world mind.
Another way of making the Bible acceptable is to provide in the Bible an interpretation that will take in everything the skeptic may cling to. For example, the skeptic demands seven indefinite ages of creation, which admits the theory of evolution. Scholarship, through geology and biology, has made it so clear that we are wrong about the present creation being a few thousand years old, that we have become ashamed, in the light of such manifest scientific research.
So, we "scholars" of religion, not desiring to be considered by worldlings to belong to that "gang" of Corinthians who were "not many mighty, not many noble," go them one better. We provide a place between the first and second verse of Genesis for them to pour all the infinite ages they want to, and put our Bible history and civilization down here on the tail end of the whole thing. I do not know whether those millions of years are in there or not. They may be, and — they may not! If they are, it is alright with me. What I am presenting here is an instance of our efforts to make the Bible acceptable to the world mind. We found that God was "up against it" on this score and had failed. So we propose to help Him out of a jam to save His face and ours — especially ours.
Another way of making the Bible acceptable to the world mind is to eliminate all the passages we cannot prove acceptable to the world. If the Virgin Birth is a problem, just admit that it is not necessary in order to believe in Christ as Divine. Then dig into the archives and "prove" that the Gospels which teach such a thing are not authenic. You can do it if you are good at plausible utterance and have enough books of up-to-the-minute destructive critics. Few of us know much about who was an authority in the first few centuries. So the rationalist can usually get away even with murder in his use of material from obscure sources that take hold of the distant past.
So with the Resurrection. Discredit all the Gospels which teach it, and ignore the whole thing. The story of Jonah has been broadly handled tat way. Many of the miracles of the Old Testament are dispensed with merely by the subjective presumptions of the unbelieving scholar. Similarly the New Testament miracles. And what can not be thus done away with, can bd discredited by alleging that the writer of the account was a radical, or that the people who were involved in the event — for example, Penecost — can be shown to be in an "abnormal state of mind," due to pent up feelings for ten days. Here the naturalistic psychologist shines — with his light of darkness.
Thus we bring the Bible to a right harmonious agreement with the world mind, and thus we can "make religion popular."
There are many other ways, but I mention only one more. Dig into the root meanings of words and get a translation that is not so hard to harmonize. Many times this method brings forth fruit, if handled by God-fearing preachers. But it is terribly abused by those who want to make the Bible acceptable to the world mind.
I would like to re-state God's call to the ministry. God never calls anyone to prove by any of these methods that His Word is true. He never had one thought of thus convincing the world mind that He was even God, or that the Bible was His Word. He knew men would not believe it on the basis of reason. Some of us have not found that out yet, although God makes it very plain.
Over and over we are told in the Scriptures that the world mind can not see the things of the Spirit, and that we need not expect to make the Bible an acceptable thing. Just as Adam did not want to see God after the first sin, no man of the world mind wants to get into the light of that Word. And just as Adam wanted to dispose of God's presence, the unbelieving world will try to get rid of the Bible. Do not expect them to accept it through the natural mind, for God has told us and proven to us that they will not do it.
God's call to the ministry was a call to preach the Gospel — that men are lost and Jesus is the only Savior, and He has died for them and is willing now in this day of mercy to forgive their sins if they will believe in Him.
He issued that Gospel Himself. He told the world they would be judged by it. Mind you, judged by THAT GOSPEL, not by SCIENCE. We must preach the Gospel for IT — not science — "is the power of God unto salvation."
It looks as if we have taken on a rather heavy burden — to make the Bible acceptable to the world mind — a thing God could not do Himself, except in a special chosen way. And that is the way I would like to mention before I close.
God had a special "prescription" to make the Gospel effective. There is a deadness in the letter which can never make alive. All the Word can do alone is to condemn. It can only bring death and judgment. To preach the Word will kill men, condemn them, and leave them there, if that Word is preached alone. But the Word, preached by a man in whom the Spirit of God fires the Word into a buring message, — that is different. That will make alive. That will quicken dead men.
We do not need a better Gospel. We need better men to preach the one we have. Let me remind of Dr. Skinner's message at the Kentucky minister's meeting in Harrodsburg in November. He said, "God can beat us preaching any time." The deadness that has resulted from our preaching in recent years is the deadness that is in us preachers.
I had a difficult sermon to preach this morning in my pulpit. It had some hard statements in it, which, if I had delivered it out of my deadness, would have offended half my congregation. For I was showing their guilt in sin. But I had prayed God to come in. He lit my words with fire, and they burned tears out of the heart of my hearers, and made them bow before God in submission to His rebuke. A preacher can tell when he has offended.
That sermon hurt my hearers, but I could see they did not get offended. They heard God speak, not me. I trust my readers to forgive this personal reference. My plea is that I feel it burn in my heart. Something awful is this presence of God. The words we utter under His power cut their way through to the heart of the hearer. Those we utter without it are spiritually futile.
That is the way God meant to make the Bible acceptable to the world mind. Your scholarship, research, psychology, and intricate interpretations are all well enough. They give a good deal of satisfaction to the fleshly, self-sufficiency in us. But what we may gather from these sources will never convince the world mind that God's Book is true.
We may make ourselves more popular this way, but we will never make God and His Bible more acceptable. These Epistles of the Bible must become living epistles in us. These Gospels of Jesus Christ must become living, fiery things within us. When and if they do there shall be no need for the intricate mechanism of scholarship to give our messages spiritual power.
IT IS NOT LEARNING THAT AFFLICTS US. IT IS DEPENDENCE UPON THAT LEARNING INSTEAD OF UPON GOD. IT IS NOT AN OVER-DOSE OF WISDOM THAT AFFLICTS US. IT IS OUR FAILURE TO FIND OUT, PRACTICAL DISBELIEF, THAT THE WISDOM OF MEN IS FOOLISHNESS WITH GOD. HOW HE MUST DESPISE OUR EFFORTS SOMETIMES!
The crying need of this hour is Spirit-filled prophets of God, who fearlessly break with the world and turn to the God of Israel. Our people will become what the miracle of God's power, manifest in us impels them to become.
O, brothers, let us go to the Cross again, and die once more, that we may arise in a Christ-sufficiency that will shake this world with a kind of preaching this age scarcely knows.
===========[Western Recorder, December 14, 1939, pp. 4-5. The Western Recorder is the Kentucky Baptist State paper. - jrd]
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