US May 1998 Newsletter
First published in:
US May 1998 Newsletter
Whether in America, Australia, the United Kingdom, Japan, or most other countries, the secular media were in a frenzy reporting on the accusations of sexual misconduct surrounding the president of the United States.
What has been a huge shock to sincere Christians, though, is the fact that by and large the population in America seemed to ‘shrug its shoulders’ concerning the rightness or wrongness of such misconduct.
Newspapers abounded with statements such as: ‘The whole idea of applying strict legal standards to intimate behavior is odd to many people … So whose standards are we talking about?’, ‘Everybody wants absolutes on this, but there are no absolutes.’
Well, what has happened to this once Christian nation, where the majority of people used to believe in the absolutes of the authority of the Word of God? Generations ago, most people in the US would have had no problem defining marriage as one man for one woman for life, and that the rightful place for sex was within this marriage covenant only. Today, even many in the Church seem to be indifferent concerning these moral issues.
I believe the Church has unfortunately ‘unlocked a door’ that has opened the culture to changing its foundation from the absolute authority of God’s Word to that of man’s opinions determining truth.
How has this ‘door’ been unlocked?
One newspaper article reported on the Clintons attending the Foundry United Methodist Church (in the Washington, D.C. area) in the midst of this crisis. Reporting on the sermon given by the minister, Rev. J. Philip Wogaman, the reporter stated: ‘Wogaman drew a distinction between taking the Bible seriously and taking it literally. Referring to the story of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden, Wogaman said the truths the story illuminates are what’s important, not the facts given in the story.
Now when the Church tells the President of the United States that it’s not important to accept the account of Adam and Eve as fact, then the so-called ‘truths the story illuminates’ are simply determined by one’s opinions. Thus there are no absolutes when it comes to marriage and sex. The reason that Paul in Ephesians 5 and Jesus in Matthew 19 spoke authoritatively on marriage was because they built the doctrine of marriage on the historical fact of the account of Adam and Eve as given in Genesis.
But it’s not just the United States where we see certain church leaders departing from the absolutes of marriage. A newspaper report from England stated: ‘Leading Anglican bishops want the church to end its centuries-old prohibition on “living in sin” and allow priests to bless couples who are unmarried but living together … they no longer believe cohabiting couples are necessarily committing a sin.’
What has happened to cause the Church to unlock this ‘door’ and reinterpret the meaning of marriage?
Personally, I believe men of God, many of whom have been deeply committed to the authority of God’s Word and the proclamation of the Gospel, have unwittingly opened this door that has opened the way for the destruction of the Christian framework in nations.
How could they have done this? In various articles, and through messages at seminars and on tapes and videos, we have clearly illustrated how many Christian leaders have accepted the belief in millions and billions of years of history and have used this to re-interpret the days of Creation, and allowed death and disease before sin, and so on.
One of the challenges I have been giving Christian leaders in recent times is this: ‘You may preach authoritatively from the Word of God, insisting on its infallibility and verbal, plenary inspiration, but then … if you teach people they can accept the belief in billions of years and add this to Scripture, you have then unlocked a door in how to approach God’s Word’ (i.e., undermining hermeneutical principles). The new hermeneutic that is being taught, then, is this: one can interpret God’s Word using man’s fallible opinions. Thus man is put in authority over the Word.
Now if one can start outside the Bible to determine the supposed ‘truths’ of Genesis, then why shouldn’t people consistently do this with the rest of Scripture?
I want you to consider these quotes from Christian leaders. Then take the hermeneutical (interpretive) principles they have used and consistently apply them to other parts of Scripture:
Christian leaders and Genesis
Dr Pattle Pun from Wheaton College, Illinois, does not accept six literal days of Creation, a global Flood, and no death and disease before sin. However, she does state: ‘It is apparent that the straightforward understanding of the Genesis record, without regard to all of the hermeneutical considerations suggested by science, is that God created heaven and earth in six solar days … death and chaos entered the world after the Fall … fossils are the result of the catastrophic universal deluge.’
Prominent evangelical scholar Dr Gleason Archer (Professor Emeritus, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Illinois) does not accept the six literal days of creation, but states: ‘From a superficial reading of Genesis 1, the impression would seem to be that the entire creative process took place in six twenty-four-hour days. If this was the true intent of the Hebrew author … this seems to run counter to modern scientific research, which indicates that planet Earth was created several billion years ago.’
The late Charles Hodge of Princeton Seminary fame also rejected the six literal days of Creation. In writing about the days of Creation, he stated: ‘It is of course admitted that, taking this account by itself, it would be most natural to understand the word [day] in its ordinary sense [literal days]; but if that sense brings the Mosaic account into conflict with facts, and another sense avoids such conflict, then it is obligatory on us to adopt that other.’
These quotes (and many more could be cited from other famous Christian leaders) all have one thing in common: the admission that taking Genesis by itself (letting the words of the language speak to us) makes it obvious that God created in six literal days. However, the reason the authors don’t accept the literal days is not because of what the Bible states, but because they have used another hermeneutical principle: that one can start outside the Bible with man’s fallible theories, and use these to interpret God’s Word.
But then, why restrict using this method of interpretation only to Genesis? Why not be consistent and apply this method in other areas? Using these same hermeneutical principles, we could consistently claim the following:
It is apparent that the most straightforward understanding of the Resurrection account, without regard to all of the hermeneutical considerations suggested by science, is that Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the third day, appeared to His disciples and ascended in His glorified body to the right hand of God.
From a superficial reading of Luke 24, the impression would seem to be that Jesus Christ rose from the dead after three twenty-four hour days. If this was the true intent of the Hebrew author, this seems to run counter to modern scientific research, which indicates that once people die there is no literal resurrection.
It is of course admitted that, taking this account of Jesus’ Resurrection by itself, it would be most natural to understand the word resurrection in its ordinary sense; but if that sense brings the Gospel account into conflict with facts, and another sense avoids such conflict, such as a spiritual resurrection rather than literal, then it is obligatory on us to adopt that other.
Locking the door!
The older generation of Christian leaders grew up in a culture that accepted the absolutes of marriage based on Genesis. But they were influenced to accept the billions of years and thus reinterpreted parts of Genesis.
However, the younger generations in the Church have grown up with the belief in billions of years and a non-literal approach to Genesis. Thus they have no basis whatsoever for absolutes concerning marriage, or any other Christian doctrine for that matter (as all doctrines are ultimately founded in Genesis 1-11). They are consistently applying this ‘non-literal’ approach through the rest of the Bible.
The ‘door’ (i.e., using man’s beliefs/opinions to interpret Scripture) has been unlocked! This generation has pushed this door open even wider! The ministry of Answers in Genesis is involved in shutting this door and rebuilding the Christian structure (the absolutes of God’s Word) on the correct foundation.
‘God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged’ (Romans 3:4).
Dr Wright earned many academic honors in his life, but the most significant moment occurred when he was to start his academic career in medicine. He was invited to a social event run by a Christian youth group, and after hearing the speaker, recognized (in his own words): "Whatever I had by way of sporting prowess, of academic achievement, and even of superficial respectability, the one thing I didn’t have was Jesus Christ living in my life. I quietly prayed, acknowledging my guilt, seeking the pardon that Christ had died to procure, and owning Him as the Risen Lord who would control my life."
From this flowed a life full of Christian service, not only with the ministry he co-founded (United Beach Missions), but also by serving as chairman and president of Young Life in the United Kingdom, and as president of the Creation Science Movement in that country.
Throughout his numerous lectures, Verna Wright often peppered his presentations with humor, but at the same time confidently demonstrated that Creation was good science. He also promoted the belief in a literal Genesis as a firm foundation for understanding man’s physical, mental, and spiritual dimensions. He was a prolific writer as well, with over 1,000 publications to his name.
Nationally, he was well known for his work as the chairman of the Arthritis and Rheumatism Council (his main study was in the understanding of the nature of human joints). In our acquaintance with this dear servant of God, AiG staff recall as a fond memory not just the immense Christian and professional achievements of Professor Wright, but his remarkable ability to communicate with the ordinary person, and with his professional colleagues, the truths of Scripture.