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Faith: God vs. history and culture

As a pastor my flock expects me to keep watch on what affects their spiritual health. Do you expect the same? Have you asked, for instance, why so many today believe God's Word should be reinterpreted to fit our culture's desires? Have you asked ...

As a pastor my flock expects me to keep watch on what affects their spiritual health. Do you expect the same?

Have you asked, for instance, why so many today believe God's Word should be reinterpreted to fit our culture's desires? Have you asked why it's seen as being so plastic man has the right to stretch it into whatever shape he wants?

If not, here's an example to provoke your thoughts. Last June the Supreme Court voted in favor of same-sex marriage. The justices gave this reason: History proves marriage may be interpreted apart from God's Word, and so as our culture mandates, we are setting a new course of action.

Culture now, not God's Word, determines what marriage is. This is a noteworthy change that our state Supreme Court has also adopted when in the '70s they cited Genesis as their legal foundation to uphold the estate of marriage being between one man and one woman.

These decisions, we might say, are at the tip of the cultural iceberg that express how man rejects the wisdom of God in favor of his sinful desires.

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Sadly enough, this is taking place close to home when church bodies criticize God's Word based on history and cultural mores. Here's an example from a commentary on Isaiah published by Fortress Press where this statement is made about the author's work: "There is simply no better historical-critical commentary on Isaiah."

It's true; the author's work epitomizes the wholesale criticism of God's Word used to rewrite truth. In this case, he claims the virgin birth of Christ did not take place as Isaiah prophesied. He writes, "The crucial line in Is. 7:14 should be rendered, 'Look, the young woman (not "virgin") is pregnant and will soon bear a son, and she will name him Immanuel.' One is dealing here with a traditional announcement of the birth of a child promised to particular individuals. Nothing, however, in the Hebrew text suggests that the conception lay in the future."

"Precisely who this woman was is a subject of debate, but two suggestions seem most probable. Either Isaiah was referring to the wife of Ahaz or to his own wife."

"If one is correct in identifying the young woman in Isaiah 7:14 as Isaiah's wife who was pregnant with her second child, in what does the sign actually consist? It does not consist in a miraculous birth."

As Christians, we are going to see more and more of this type of criticism of God's Word, which holds God's truth up for debate, but then favors man's criticism of it. We will see it used by our courts to deny God's authority, and we will see it used by those who call themselves Christian to undermine fundamental Christian truths such as the incarnation of Jesus' virgin birth.

The question is, do you accept such things or do you reject interpretations like that of the author who also believes that the Old Testament stories are myths? Will you reject the claims of so many that St. Paul's Epistles that provide Jesus rich doctrines for the church must be readjusted to fit our cultural context when they are Christ's words, not simply St. Paul's?

As a pastor, I believe my concern is legitimate when man criticizes Scripture in relation to our culture since it spells danger for the faithful. Especially, when it teaches that God's truth is no longer absolute, and that sin is no longer to be considered sin, and thus repentance before Christ is no longer needed in the face of sin, which is not seen as our real trouble in relation to our heavenly Father and His incarnate Son Jesus who He sent to be our Savior.

Of course, pitting God's Word against man's desires is nothing new. Jesus foresaw this when He told the disciples His Holy Spirit was coming; "And when the Helper comes, he will convict the world of sin and of righteousness and of judgment."

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As Christians, let's not forget that the Holy Spirit comes to us through the Word to convict us of our sin so that we might cling to the righteousness of Jesus our Savior. So I fear for folks when the historical-critical line of thinking is adopted that denies the Holy Spirit's work to convict us of our sin but rather argues this lie: If we love we can sin without consequence, we can cohabitate outside of marriage, we can live out any sinful desire as long as we love.

This is how man is deceived when he criticizes God's Word and then teaches all we have to do is love and this will make us acceptable to God.

But no matter what man does, the Holy Spirit's work remains timeless and changeless as He convicts men of their sin in order to reveal the righteous Christ who defeated sin, death and the devil for them.

For this is Christ's purpose in history as He graciously teaches, repent, be forgiven and sin no more.

Related Topics: FAITH
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