By Dr Paul M Elliott
Part 7 of a series. Read part 6.
In our current series we’re addressing these questions: “My church is no longer true to the Word of God on essential Christian truths. What should I do? Should I leave? Should I stay and try to fight error? Will I be guilty of schism if I do either one?”
Presently we’re dealing with some of the un-Biblical responses that are common today. In this installment we focus on the position of those who want to adopt a “wait and see” attitude in the face of clear apostasy in their churches.1
It Is Way Past Time
“My church isn’t preaching the Gospel or Biblical morality anymore, and our pastor mostly tells stories and doesn’t teach from the Bible. But I don’t think I’ll leave. I’ll wait and see. Maybe things will get better.”
I didn’t make up that quotation. I’ve been amazed to hear many people, whose nominally Evangelical and Reformed churches have descended into apostasy, actually utter those sentences or very similar words. The wait-and-see attitude is one of several responses to apostasy that rests on the false assumption that separation from error is somehow always premature.
On the contrary, when a church is no longer committed to the one true Gospel because it either doesn’t preach it or preaches a false gospel; when a church is no longer committed to Biblical morality because it tolerates un-Biblical divorce and remarriage (the Bible calls it adultery) and cohabitation outside of marriage (the Bible calls it fornication); when a church is no longer committed to Biblical preaching because the pastor is a great story-teller but he (or increasingly and un-Biblically today, she) either neglects expository preaching or simply doesn’t know how to do it — it is not simply time to leave, it is way past time.
Just What Are Your Waiting For?
I have asked some who hold the wait-and-see position, “Just what is it that you are waiting for?” The answers are vague, and usually reflect a hope for some sign of “movement in the right direction.” But this is not a situation where mere movement in the right direction is by any means sufficient. Souls are at stake — including your own, your spouse’s, and your children’s.
Often, in conversation with wait-and-see folks, it becomes apparent that they don’t want to leave their friends. They find it difficult to face these questions: Are you really being a friend if you remain in a church that is steeped in error? Wouldn’t a true friend set the example for his friends by taking a Biblical stand? And if your “friends” are actually part of the problem in your church, don’t you realize that the Bible says that friendship with the world is enmity with God, and the one who wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God (James 4:4)? Don’t you realize that your own presence in your current church is complicity with error? As we quoted Charles Spurgeon in an earlier article in this series:
Complicity with error will take from the best of men the power to enter any successful protest against it. If any body of believers had errorists among them, but were resolute to deal with them in the Name of the Lord, all might come right, but confederacies founded upon the principle that all may enter, whatever views they hold, are based upon disloyalty to the truth of God.2
Biblical Examples Abound
There must be a clean and uncompromising break with error, and a clear and unequivocal condemnation of heresy and the heretics. With neo-liberals in control through the aid of the doctrinally indifferent, and “go along to get along” as their operating principle, the majority of Evangelical and Reformed churches today demonstrate by their inaction that they have no stomach for the fight for truth, despite the fact that the Bible clearly tells us the only course that is acceptable to God, over and over again. Let me mention once more a most dramatic case that we cited earlier in this series. Christians whose churches have descended into error need to follow the example that we find in Numbers chapter 16:
So the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the congregation, saying, ‘Get away from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.’ ” Then Moses rose and went to Dathan and Abiram, and the elders of Israel followed him. And he spoke to the congregation, saying, “Depart now from the tents of these wicked men! Touch nothing of theirs, lest you be consumed in all their sins” (Numbers 16:23-26).
Next: The Exit-Strategy Response
1. Material in this article is adapted from Christianity and Neo-Liberalism by Paul M. Elliott (The Trinity Foundation, 2005), pages 351-352.
2. Charles Spurgeon, in “Notes,” Sword and Trowel, October 1888. Reproduced at http://www.spurgeon.org/s_and_t/1088nts.htm.
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