Editorial: Insidious “isms”

Every generation has its philosophies by which it lives. Often these are touted as the latest and greatest, even though they are effete, recycled ideas from past centuries. G. K. Chesterton wryly observed in 1930, “We hear much about new religions; many of them based on the very latest novelties of Buddha and Pythagoras.” Nonetheless, philosophies, insidious “isms”, have a way of filtering down through every stratum of society and, sadly, affecting even the people of God. The second and third chapters of Revelation bear testimony to the deleterious effect the surrounding society can have on the minds of the saints and on the testimonies. One of the dangerous and worrisome creeds of our day is pluralism. Under the guise of tolerance and broad-mindedness, the adherents of pluralism shrilly trumpet that it is inappropriate to state that there is absolute truth, truth that, because it comes from God, is distinct, authoritative, and eternal. Thus, in our purportedly “tolerant” age, it is totally unacceptable to claim that Christ alone can save, that there is only one way to God, or that the Bible (alone) is the word of God. There is, of course, a vast difference between saying that each one is free to practice the religion of his choice (or no religion at all, if he chooses), and insisting that all philosophies, creeds, and religions are equally valid. In an extremely subtle way, pluralism is leading toward the marginalizing of Christianity because it is a faith that points to Christ alone as the Savior for all mankind.

In evangelical circles, this attitude has already caused some to question whether the “heathen” really need to be born again and whether missionary work is even proper, let alone necessary. On the home front, attempts at evangelization are viewed as unwarranted intrusions into the lives of other people whose beliefs should be accepted as being as equally valid as the Gospel. An attempt to “convert” another human being (unless you mean converting him to pluralism) is considered the action of a bigoted person to unjustly influence another. Will the next downward step be the ostracizing of Christianity and outright persecution?

If we begin to subscribe to this line of thought, it will become impossible to speak with certainty about anything. How will it affect our opinion of Divine truth? What about the Scripture’s teachings on assembly order? Will we begin to feel that we need to qualify our statements or issue public disclaimers when teaching that it is only assembly testimony that is recognized in the New Testament?

The same apostle who, under the controlling power of the Holy Spirit of God, wrote about “speaking the truth in love,” also wrote about a believer “holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught,” (Eph 4:15, Titus 1:9). Because it is based on “the scriptures of truth,” the Christian faith is distinct from all others. Bigotry, smugness, pride, stubbornness – none of these should ever characterize the child of God. But faithfulness, steadfastness, humility, and grace should mark us as we attempt, by God’s grace, to present His Word to a needy world, being fully persuaded as to its authority and veracity. May God help us to “be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life” (Phil 2:15,16).