John O'Sullivan is a British columnist and political commentator of no small reputation. He has known and served with Margaret Thatcher, worked as an editor for the National Review, and was director of The Danube Institute, just to name a few accomplishments. One of the things he is best known for is O'sullivan's First Law, which states:
"All organizations that are not actually right-wing, will over time become left-wing."(1)
In other words, any organization that is not actively maintaining its conservative principles, will eventually become liberal. Of course, O'Sullivan is a political commentator, and his law refers specifically to political organizations, but I think it applies equally well to what we have seen steadily happening in the life of the Christian Church. Here's my twist on the same principle, but applied to Christian churches and organizations:
"Any Christian, church, or Christian organization that does not actively and consistently maintain a view of Scripture as being totally authoritative, inerrant, and infallible as the source of our doctrine, will eventually become compromised."
We live in an age when well-known church leaders with thousands of followers have been known to go on television and radio where they have preached ideas that are contrary to Scripture, an age where local church pastors often do the same, an age where church membership standards have been so whittled away that anything goes and little is questioned, and an age where worship is more about what I get out of it and how well I've been entertained, than it is about honoring the One we claim to follow.
Mainstream Christian bookstores now often stock volumes of books containing dangerous and questionable theology. Major denominations are falling as a whole, one by one, into the pit of compromise. In one church of a major denomination, a church I have been close to over the years, it has become perfectly acceptable to claim submission to Christ and at the same time claim outright denial of significant aspects of His Word. In many evangelical circles, sin has become some vague intangible idea that people are generally guilty of doing, but there is little understanding of what sin is, where it comes from, and the eternal consequences of it. Many pastors have become impotent as preachers of righteousness.
Character is often no longer a criteria for consideration when it comes to local church leadership. Unrepentant sexual immorality of various kinds is not uncommon, and largely left unmentioned, even among leaders. The list goes on.
In most cases I am aware of, when a church has fallen to the state of affairs I mentioned above, it is because these churches and organizations have not maintained a high view of Scripture. Oh, they say that they do, but for them it has become reasonable, and acceptable, and even wise to 'reinterpret' Scripture as necessary.
"After all," they say, "no one can really claim to have the one answer to what a Scripture passage means. It can mean many things to many people, and so we can take it as we feel led."
The truth is, most of the time, interpretation is not necessary. Scripture is, for the most part, plainly written, with plain meaning and instruction. I have found many times in my own interactions with people who compromise on Scripture, that when they talk about interpreting (or reinterpreting) Scripture, what they are really saying is that they would rather look past the plain meaning of the text and insert other meanings into it in order to suit their own beliefs and desires.
One argument often used to defend various interpretations of Scripture is in relation to the meanings of words. Take the creation/evolution debate, for example, and the commonly heard argument about the word day. "If the word translated as day can mean a single day as we know it, or a longer time period (i.e. in my grandfather's day)," the argument goes, "then who are we to say that Genesis is speaking of a literal day in the creation narrative? Maybe it means an age." But we have to remember that just because a word can mean something other than the plain meaning of it, it does not mean that it does mean something other than the plain meaning of it.
Compromise in the church will always lead to destruction: Compromise with regard to Scripture, will always at some point lead to wrong teaching, preaching, and doctrine. Wrong teaching, preaching, and doctrine will ultimately lead to the destruction of the church.
In Peter's second epistle, he warned,
"But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction." (2 Peter 2:1)
Interesting that he warned not of false teachers from outside the church, but of false teachers from within the church, who look like Christians, talk like Christians, perhaps even say they are Christians. Yet, because of them,
"many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed."
Paul, likewise, warned Timothy that he should be on guard, because he saw the day coming when not only would wrong things be taught as right doctrine, but the congregations would call such leaders forward to preach things they desire to hear:
"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables."
This very kind of thing has been playing out for years in one mainline denomination. It is a denomination that employs parliamentary procedure and uses the votes of the people of the church to determine the doctrines, social principles, and rules of the church. Sin attracts sin. For years, the people of this compromised denomination have heaped to themselves more and more liberal teachers, who bring more and more liberal theology, which leads to more liberal doctrinal proclamations... and the cycle continues. It is a self-perpetuating and self-affirming system, yielding ever more such teachers, therefor ever more such disciples, and therefor the drifting from the truth continues, all comfortably couched in happy, Christian-sounding jargon.