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Unbelief: Those Who Say “It is Not Necessary to Believe . . .”

December 27, 2010

From listening to S. Lewis Johnson teaching through Matthew 4, the temptation of Jesus in the Wilderness, comes the following gem:

You’ll notice also as you ponder ways in which men have attacked the faith, when they are guided by Satan, they do not, as a general rule, attack point blank the revelation that is found in the word of God.  They usually come with some kind of questions that suggest doubt concerning the Scriptures.  Ordinarily, you do not have a man who does not believe in the virgin birth stand in the pulpit and say, “I do not accept the biblical accounts of the virgin birth; the Lord Jesus was not born by a virgin.”  They do not normally say that.  They usually will say, “There are those who believe the Lord Jesus was born of a virgin, and there are those who believe the Lord Jesus was not born of a virgin; it is not necessary that we believe this doctrine.”  That is the usual way in which unbelief appears.  It is the kind of expression that casts doubt upon the word of God:  “it’s not necessary.”

How true this is:  the real enemy of biblical Christianity is not the overt anti-Christian message of atheists — it is those who come in among the church and take issue with some of the doctrines of the faith.  Where the scripture itself is clear and to the point, such individuals will come in and declare that belief in such-and-such a doctrine is optional — “not all Christians believe this,” and “Christians can believe this other way…”  It goes back to Satan’s word to Eve in the garden — questioning God; did God really say thus?

I can especially relate this to the so-called “second order” doctrines — truths clearly revealed in Scripture, part of God’s overall revealed word yet not part of soteriology — nonetheless doctrines that all true believers will love because they are in God’s book the Bible.  “God’s people are not offended by God’s word.”  Yet how many professing believers will come forth and proclaim that, because such doctrines are not “necessary for salvation” therefore these are really fringe issues and thus we can treat these as optional.  I have in mind specifically the doctrine of biblical creation, something clearly taught (not at all vague or unclear language) in Genesis 1 — and explicitly affirmed again in Exodus.  Yet I still recall the satanic words of a local church preacher on this point:  that not all Christians believe in a young earth, and we can still be Christians even though we don’t believe this.

Some might object to my calling this “satanic words.”  But what else can this really be called?  How is this any different from the example quoted above, or from the spirit of Satan’s words to Eve?  Even Peter once said the words of Satan, and Jesus rebuked him appropriately:  “get thee behind me, Satan.”

ICR’s (Institute for Creation Research) recent devotional also addressed the matter of “fringe issues” as compared to secondary doctrines that are revealed in scripture, observing that “Perhaps the rule might be, if it’s an essential doctrine, teach and defend it at all costs; if it’s a secondary doctrine, teach it in “meekness” and love (2 Timothy 2:25).” and concluding:

Is creationism a fringe issue? No! Few doctrines are so clearly taught in Scripture. Is it crucial to salvation? No! But it is essential to adequately understand the great primary doctrines for it is foundational to them all. Furthermore, it is the subject of origins which the enemy has identified as a major battleground, vowing to destroy Christianity over this issue. Here we must stand, if we are to guard our faith.

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