Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Modern Church Doctrinal Ignorance

I'm becoming increasingly alarmed at the level of biblical/doctrinal ignorance that is so rampant in the modern church. As I've said before, as an ex-Fundamental Baptist it was almost encouraged to not pursue extensive amounts of bible education. Now I'm not saying that all IFB folks are like that...but people often raised their eyebrows when I bought another book or took another class.

I decided to start doing some investigating on the matter and specifically I'm wondering how much young adults who regularly go to church really know about theology and doctrine. I did a quick search on the internet prior to this post and searched on "church interviews on doctrine." One link got my attention.

When I clicked on the link and went to their main website I found that this is the home of the "Cooperative Baptist Fellowship." Here is what they have to say about themselves:

"Made up of individuals and approximately 1,900 affiliated churches, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is an organization that serves a larger renewal movement among Baptists. Partnering with 15 theological schools, 19 autonomous state and regional organizations and more than 150 ministry organizations worldwide, CBF has an annual budget of $16 million."

It sounded pretty impressive....1900 churches, $16 million dollar budget. What do these people believe? You'd expect a robust and pretty clear doctrinal statement, right? Not that I could find. Now it's possible that I've missed it on the website but here's what I could find so far:

In their Frequently Asked Questions you find most of their "doctrinal statements"-
  • Regarding the Bible- they say it's "inspired" but not inerrant? Wow!
  • Women pastors- they say it's OK and use Galatians 3:27-28 to prove it!
  • Homosexuality- no official position from the "fellowship" since it is a "social issue"- gee, I thought it was a biblical one and the Bible has an official position on it?
If you download their "Who We Are" brochure ( here is what it says doctrinally:
  • "We affirm the freedom and responsibility of every person to relate directly to God without the imposition of creed or the control of clergy or government." Uh...isn't that a creed? They go on to say that interpretation is totally between the individual and the Holy Spirit...the idea you get here is that anything established as a formal doctrinal statement, creed, confession is get the impression that Scriptural interpretation is a free-for-all of those who have never studied the Bible. WHat about church leaders- pastors, teachers, professors?

  • Now here is the closest they've come to a comprehensive doctrinal statement, sorta:
    We believe the Bible teaches that …
    - God is the one triune God, Creator of all people in God’s own image.
    - All people are separated from God by sin.
    - Christ is the Savior and Redeemer for all peoples.
    - The Holy Spirit convicts and converts all who believe in Christ, teaches the church in the voice of the Living Christ, and empowers the church and all believers for the mission of Christ in the world.
    - Christ calls us to minister redemptively to the spiritual, physical, and social needs of individuals and communities.
    - Every believer and every church is responsible for sharing the Gospel with all people.
    - We want to enable believers and churches to work cooperatively with other Great Commission Christians to activate this global missions calling in their
    communities and throughout the world.

Pretty weak and not very thorough. I think it's on purpose though...they don't want to pin anyone down with anything...interpretation is a private matter and theology seems to slow down the focus on missions.

Here is what really saddened would they interview someone to see if they were qualified to be in their ministry? Do they ask lots of doctrinal questions? Here is the interview guidelines I saw on their site-

Please click the link and read it...what you will find are lots of questions about leadership, ministry goal, how you fit in, etc, etc...but NO doctrinal quesitons.'s churches are a mess...can your church teenager group tell you what imputation is and what it means to them? Can they define repentance and tell you if it does/doesn't have anything to do with salvation? Do they know any relevant church history? Do they know what justification is? Can they give a biblical defense of the deity of Christ or the existence/nature of the Trinity? If you think these are silly questions then you're part of the problem.

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> posted by Jim Leavenworth at


Anonymous Nathan W. Bingham said...

Doctrinal ignorance is a major problem in the church. I recall the White Horse Inn doing some interviews with pastors about doctrine, biblical language, and how they communicate theology to their congregations. The responses were truly upsetting.

Can I just say I really think you hit the nail on the head with you final remark:

"If you think these are silly questions then you're part of the problem."

May 27, 2009 at 8:02 PM  
Blogger Cm said...

I may be going out on a limb here, BUT they say they do not believe the bible is inerrant because the bible doesn't say it is inerrant. I will quote from their site:

"The Bible neither claims nor reveals inerrancy as a Christian teaching. Bible claims must be based on the Bible, not on human interpretations of the Bible."

I guess I want to know what non-human told them how to interpret what the bible says about itself. Isn't their statement a human interpretation?

May 27, 2009 at 8:43 PM  
Anonymous Nathan W. Bingham said...

@Cm: If they use that logic, then the Scriptures never say God is a trinity either...

That's frightening logic.

May 27, 2009 at 9:20 PM  
Anonymous Jim Leavenworth said...

Thanks for the comments. Not 100% sure I follow you though so please shoot back and correct me if I missed the point (It's late & I'm tired!).

I know they say the Bible doesn't claim to be inerrant. If it was a human book then it would be error-ridden. Of course when I say it's inerrant I am referring to the original manuscripts...and I believe we have the preserved copies of the originals for us to look at today. Can a translation have an error in it...of course! Bottom line...God wrote the book and it was written in Hebrew, Aramaic (tiny bit) and Greek words...they are perfect and inerrant.

Here is a clip from the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy that I hope you read:

1. God, who is Himself Truth and speaks truth only, has inspired Holy Scripture in order thereby to reveal Himself to lost mankind through Jesus Christ as Creator and Lord, Redeemer and Judge. Holy Scripture is God's witness to Himself.

2. Holy Scripture, being God's own Word, written by men prepared and superintended by His Spirit, is of infallible divine authority in all matters upon which it touches: it is to be believed, as God's instruction, in all that it affirms: obeyed, as God's command, in all that it requires; embraced, as God's pledge, in all that it promises.

3. The Holy Spirit, Scripture's divine Author, both authenticates it to us by His inward witness and opens our minds to understand its meaning.

4. Being wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching, no less in what it states about God's acts in creation, about the events of world history, and about its own literary origins under God, than in its witness to God's saving grace in individual lives.

5. The authority of Scripture is inescapably impaired if this total divine inerrancy is in any way limited or disregarded, or made relative to a view of truth contrary to the Bible's own; and such lapses bring serious loss to both the individual and the Church.

You can go to this link also to read the whole thing. Bottom line- the Bible claims to be the inspired (God-breathed) Word of God in many, many passages, right? The Bible says that holy men of God were moved by the Holy Ghost to write down everything just as God wanted them to. 2 Sam 23:2, 2 Tim 3:16-17, etc.

Are you saying that God inspired errors?


May 27, 2009 at 10:50 PM  
Blogger Cm said...

clansJim, I am NOT saying God inspired errors, we know the implications of that!!

What I am saying is: strictly based on their view that "Bible claims must be based on the Bible, not on human interpretations of the Bible." They violate their own position. Why do they violate their own position you ask?

I would say that they have interpreted from the bible in order to arrive at their conclusion, the very thing they say you can't do. For example they interpreted the bible in such a way that they believe females can be pastors.

At some point we do make interpretations about the Holy Scriptures, but then the next question must be 'how do you know your interpretation is correct?' Well if it is only between you and The Spirit as they believe then it does not matter, right? So then then you must ask 'how can anybody preach" after all don't we preach based on interpretation?

I hope this makes sense, I'm a bit rushed but I wanted to respond.

May 28, 2009 at 6:59 AM  
Anonymous Jim Leavenworth said...

THanks for the clarification, I think both Nathan and I misunderstood what you were saying.

You're right...if it is just between us and the Spirit then truth depends on how we know the Spirit is speaking to us. To me, believing in Sola Scriptura, I believe the Spirit speaks to me through God's Word alone...and so when I make an interpretation it must be based on the fact that my interpretation comes from the text and matches the totality of Scripture...after all, God won't violate His revealed Word.

I agree that their comments leaves me believing that they don't think there is a wrong other words "Truth is relative and subjective".

Thanks for the clarification!


May 30, 2009 at 11:25 PM  

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