By Reese Currie, Compass Distributors
Many denominations suffer greatly from a disease called "rationalism". Many Bible truths are rationalized away by many denominations; men of limited faith and understanding dismiss doctrines such as the virgin birth of Christ, the Genesis creation account, the flood, Jesus' walking on water, and other Biblical events. Men that rationalize away the truth are the sort of false teachers Jesus described in Matthew 23:13 when He said, "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in."
Is it really necessary to believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, that He walked on water, that He was resurrected, that God created the world in the manner documented in Genesis, or that there was a "Noah's ark"? Is it worth fighting people who claim that these things are not true? Not only is it worth it, but it is our Christian duty to fight those who attempt to dilute the message of the Bible.
I understand when people debate over doctrines difficult to understand in the Bible, but plainly stated doctrines should not be debated. For one example, the virgin birth of Jesus Christ is undebatable by anyone who claims to believe in Him. It starts in the Old Testament at Isaiah 7:14, which says, "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel." Matthew 1:23 quotes Isaiah: "'Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,' which is translated, 'God with us.'"
Luke 1:26-27 verifies again that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a virgin when she conceived: "Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virginís name was Mary." Gabriel told Mary that she would conceive and give birth to Jesus.
Mary didn't know how this would be possible, her being a virgin. "Then Mary said to the angel, 'How can this be, since I do not know a man?' And the angel answered and said to her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.'" (Luke 1:34-35) (To "not know a man" is an idiom meaning that she is a virgin.)
So, if you believe the Bible at all, you have to believe that Jesus was born of a virgin.
It should be noted that the Revised Standard Version and some others render the Hebrew word almah as "young woman" rather than "virgin" in Isaiah 7:14. "Young woman" is one possible meaning of almah; like English words, Hebrew words can sometimes be taken a few different ways. This Hebrew word appears in the Bible seven times and is translated as "virgin", "maid" and "damsel" in the King James Version. It means "marriageable young woman", which in Hebrew culture certainly implies virginity. Matthew 1:23 quotes the Septuagint, an ancient, pre-Christian translation into Greek of the Hebrew Scriptures, and here the Greek word used is parthenos, which clearly means "virgin", conveying the intended sense of the Hebrew word almah in Isaiah 7:14.
From the perspective of a liberal denomination, rationalizing away the Bible is done in order to make the Gospel message more accessible to those who are not believers. Unbelieving people may find something like the virgin birth unbelievable, but rather than simply tell them the truth, that a virgin birth really did take place and is in fact a necessary part of the Christian message, they tell them they don't have to believe that part. They may want to cling to their old immoral lifestyle, so they are told they don't have to repent or believe the moral teachings of the Bible.
What this practice results in is the conversion of an unbeliever into an unbeliever who calls himself a Christian. More important to the liberal denomination, it fills one of the many empty seats in the pews and adds a few dollars to the collection plate. Of these types, Peter commented, "Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock;" (1 Peter 5:2-3)
Liberal denominations do not feed the flock of God with good doctrine, they starve them with "social gospel". Liberal denominations water down the Bible's message to make it compatible with unbelief, in order to make more money. Finally, liberal denominations, with their homosexual ordinations, prove they are not good examples to the flock, but are the perfect example of what not to do!
They are lukewarm, and this is not acceptable to Jesus, who said, "And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, 'These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.'" (Revelation 3:14-16)
The Roman Catholic Church's leader, John Paul II, declared in October 1996 that evolution is not incompatible with the way God created life. In other words, the pope is saying that the Bible account in Genesis is not accurate; to his thinking, God must have used evolution to perform His creations rather than the account He gave in Genesis.
This is actually not the first time the Roman Catholic Church has traded a Biblical belief for the latest and greatest scientific knowledge. Last time, the effect was disasterous and the story highlights many unfortunate aspects about both the Roman Catholic Church and science.
Job 26:7 makes this interesting statement: "He stretches out the north over empty space; He hangs the earth on nothing." The writer of Job knew that space was an "empty place" and that the earth was hung upon nothing, with nothing propping it up. This belief was impossible to know for man, and therefore was unquestionably a revelation from God. It was also unique among all the world's religions. Hinduism, for one example, teaches that the earth rests on four elephants which stand on an enormous turtle, which stands on a giant, coiled serpent, which floats on "universal waters".
Job 26:7 was also utterly rejected by science. Aristotle's theory, which was accepted as science, was that the sun, moon and stars were attached to transparent spheres, all of which revolved around one another, with the earth at the center. As the spheres revolved around one another, the sun, moon and stars moved across our sky. It may help you visualize this theory to think of the movement of gears inside a mechanical clock.
The Roman Catholic Church accepted Aristotle's scientific theory over Job 26:7. It even became heresy to say that this was not true; Galileo was imprisoned for claiming that the earth revolved around the sun and not the other way around. Of course, time proved that Job 26:7 was correct, and Aristotle's scientific theory was as much a work of baseless conjecture as Darwin's theory of evolution.
Today, scientists scoff that the Roman Catholic Church once believed that the universe revolved around the earth, conveniently forgetting that this was a scientific theory advanced by a physicist who had no connection to Christianity (Aristotle lived from 384-322 BC). The Church has taken the full blame historically speaking, and the witness of the Bible has been damaged; it is commonly maintained by many people that the Bible claims the earth is the center of the universe, but the Bible makes no such claim. The whole fiasco was merely the product of a rationalistic church denying Biblical doctrine to appease science.
It is shameful to note that, 400 years after this embarassment, the Roman Catholic Church has repeated their error by validating a "scientific theory" for which no real scientific proof exists, the theory of evolution. If the Lord allows the world to go on until the theory of evolution is disproven, perhaps a few years or some hundreds of years from now, one must wonder: Will science eventually refer to evolution as another ridiculous "Christian" theory, shifting the blame from themselves once again?
Our instructions about this are very specific: "Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward. Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds." (2 John 8-11)
I believe that God deals with individuals as well as churches, but if you stay in a faithless, rationalistic denomination, how can none of its guilt be upon you? You are paying for its programs, and by your very attendance you are expressing your approval of the doctrine. Does this not make you a partaker in its evil deeds?
If there are more true Christians in your church than false ones, you can stay and fight for the truth, and perhaps win. However, in these liberal denominations, in which the whole church hierarchy is suffused with disbelief, there is no hope: the organization is doomed, and you must go out from it. Just as Lot left Sodom in Genesis 19, so too you must leave a false church. Though written about a city, Revelation 18:4 applies to a false church as well: "And I heard another voice from heaven saying, 'Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.'"
Do Mysteries Really Matter? is Copyright © 1997 by Compass Distributors
All Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.