The most destructive thing it is possible to do to a believer is to make them doubt. It is a form of “making one of these little ones stumble” that Jesus spoke so strongly against. Yet this is what began to happen to Christian leaders with great speed in the twentieth century. First among educated elites, then in time at some of the academically rigorous seminaries, then at almost all of them, then in the churches. And as we said last week, it began by undermining the confidence of simple believers in the historicity of Genesis, but it ended with the rejection of much of the New Testament.
From the earliest of records, the best biblical commentators had distinguished between different literary types in the Holy Scriptures. It was not necessary to hold all of them to a “literal test,” but it was believed that all of them were given to God’s People by his divine sovereignty. They were “written for our learning,” they could “not be broken,” and they were God’s Word. For all Christians the first phrase of Genesis, “In the beginning God created,” was enfolded in the first phrase of John, “In the beginning was the Word.”
There was only one way for the creature to know the mind of God, and that was if the Creator spoke. To believe the Scriptures were true was an article of faith.
When widespread criticism of the historicity of the Pentateuch had prevailed, by the mid 1930’s, it was not long before the same critique was leveled at parts of the Gospels, but especially at the Apostle Paul. Perceived differences in grammar and style were said to be evidence that a “lover of Paul” had written some of the letters attributed to him. This was especially thought to be so of the Pastoral Letters (I & II Timothy, Titus) and Ephesians. What was widely argued was the theory that “pseudonymous authorship” was common in the early centuries, so it was to be expected in the church. Unfortunately, in time, this was to make a lie acceptable.
From the beginning of God’s call to Israel, to lie was considered to violate one of the most sacred of trusts. To lie, to be a false witness, was to violate the Moral Law of God.
Among the followers of Jesus his teaching that Satan is the “Father of lies,” was at the heart of the life of the community. From the earliest of times Paul was aware that there were liars among the churches, and that the godly should be very careful to distinguish between what was true and what was false. To claim that a “lover of Paul” would violate so central a doctrine of the one who had discipled him, and pretend to write in his name, would have been contrary to all that true believers held dear. To falsely write in Paul’s name was to lie. The church believed that all Paul’s letters were genuine and true.
Those who reject the canonical writings of Paul place themselves against “the apostle’s teaching,” and have departed from the faith of the Christian Church by doing so. They have been led to doubt by the Enemy. The true church believes the Holy Spirit guided the writers and the selection. The faithful echo their Lord when tempted: “It is written.”
Those leaders, and churches, that have departed from this path must repent.
Next Week: Rejecting the Sabbath.