There’s a big problem in America’s churches, as the first two chapters of Ken Ham’s coauthored book Already Gone demonstrate (you can read the chapters on our website). Two-thirds of young people are walking away from the church by the time they reach college age, and many aren’t coming back. As Already Gone has shown, many of these young people are leaving because they have unanswered questions about the Christian faith that led them to doubt God’s Word.
Watering down the Word’s Authority
Churches have offered many different solutions to combat this growing exodus. One popular so-called solution is to water down the authority of God’s Word. Proponents of this view argue that most people in today’s world don’t believe the Bible, so we shouldn’t treat it as if it were the absolute truth because this will drive people away. Instead we should simply focus on the gospel or perhaps social causes such as combatting homelessness or the sex trade.
One proponent of this view is popular preacher and pastor of North Point Community Church, Andy Stanley. In 2016 Pastor Stanley made this statement in response to the question “What would you do if you were the ‘Pope’ of the entire evangelical church?”
I would ask preachers, pastors, and student pastors in their communication to get the spotlight off the Bible and back on the resurrection. Let’s get people’s attention back on Jesus as soon as possible, that the issue for us is always who is Jesus, [and] did He rise from the dead? And that we would leverage the authority we have in the resurrection as opposed to Scripture, not because I don’t believe Scripture’s inspired in terms of reaching this culture.
Earlier, in 2014, an article in Christianity Today stated,
It’s time to stop saying, “the Bible says.” At least according to Andy Stanley.
At Exponential, a church-planting conference attended by 5,000 in late spring (with another 20,000 watching via video), the senior pastor of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia, said pastors should instead use phrases like “Paul says” and “Jesus says” when citing Scripture.
Scripture Claims to be Authoritative
Is this an effective strategy for reaching the lost or keeping this skeptical generation worshipping in church? Well, as I pointed out earlier, the research for Already Gone found that many young people left because they had questions that caused them to doubt God’s Word. And if God’s Word can’t be trusted, then why should we trust the gospel that comes out of the Bible?
Ultimately these supposed solutions, such as Pastor Stanley’s, sidestep the issue of the trustworthiness of God’s Word. We play into the desire for man—not God—to be the authority by picking and choosing which parts of the Bible we want to believe. But the Scriptures always treat God’s Word as powerful and authoritative.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3:16)
Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:20–21)
And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. (1 Thessalonians 2:13)
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17)
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
And Jesus considered the writings of Moses (the Old Testament Law) more persuasive than someone rising from the dead:
And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house—for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’ (Luke 16:27–31)
Scripture claims to be the very Word of God and to hold the authority of God himself. How can we treat it any differently?
Did God Really Say?
We won’t see a return of committed believers who think, act, and believe what Scripture teaches if we water down the authority of God’s Word and place ourselves in the position of God over his Word. This will lead to us compromising on biblical teaching with worldly values and diluting the message of the gospel. We are seeing this happen throughout the church, and it will only get worse if we don’t treat the Bible as the authority for life.
What we’re seeing is no different from what we read in Genesis 3:1:
He [the serpent] said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”
Through the serpent, Satan tempted the woman by getting her to doubt God’s Word. This very same attack is being used today. Actually, the Bible tells us in advance that Satan will use the same attack on us he used on Eve.
But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:3)
Are we leading people’s thoughts away from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ by causing them to doubt the Word of God?
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Always Be Prepared
Instead of allowing man to be the authority over God’s Word, we must allow God’s Word to be the authority over us, and must teach this mindset to our children in our homes and in our churches. We must thoughtfully engage the skeptical questions of our age with answers from God’s Word so we can “always [be] prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).