Cold water to splash in Despair’s face over Apostasy
Of late many high-profile apostasies have rattled evangelical Christianity. Some of the men who have departed from the faith were much admired and loved for their earlier writings and teachings. After all, they were pastors and Christian leaders. News of their exodus from the Promised Land back into Egypt exploded on social media.
Fear and anxiety is sometimes the result of hearing such news. Or even, for some, nagging doubts arise over the truthfulness of Christianity. Some wonder, “What did these “pastors” know about Christianity that I don’t?”1
I don’t want to address the specific apostasy of any one individual. Instead, I want to remind us of some important facts that tend to get lost in explosive, scandalous nature of such stories, especially when they happen in a string.
#1 There is still a remnant. God always has a remnant. Let’s say (God forbid) all the celebrities comprising T4G apostatized tomorrow. The Scriptures teach that God still has elect chosen by grace (1 Kings 19:18). Even today, there is not only a “remnant” of Gentile believers throughout the world, but there is even a remnant of Jewish believers as well, members of the church of Jesus Christ, throughout the world (Rom 9:27; 11:5).
#2 Apostates have no secret knowledge. Christianity is an open book. The Bible’s teachings are perspicuous. Pastors do not have some secret knowledge. Skilled pastors grow in knowledge of God’s Word and its truth. They grow in faith in what Scripture has revealed. Seminary training is very important to this end. While seminaries do offer in-depth teaching of Scripture, seminaries don’t impart secrets. Your pastor doesn’t have some kind of cryptic code or insider knowledge. The teachings of Christians throughout the history of the church are not under some guarded lock and key. Everything we believe is right there in Scripture, for us to receive by faith. All Christians have a responsibility to grow personally in their knowledge of divine truth. As the old catechism question goes:
Q. May all people use the Bible?
A. All people are not only permitted, but commanded and exhorted to read, hear, and understand the Holy Bible.
Ideally, the believing ministerial student will grow both in the knowledge of God’s truth and in his own faith in what that word declares. Sometimes that doesn’t happen for a whole host of reasons (sin of some kind is always involved).
The bottom line is that the Christian faith is a public faith. Furthermore, the Christian faith is sound; among the plethora of objections nonbelievers have raised throughout the centuries, there are no “defeaters” for orthodox Christianity.2 Indeed, there are many sound reasons to believe the faith once for all delivered to the saints.
#3 There are still many faithful churches filled with many faithful believers. Not only does God have a remnant, there are many faithful churches all over the world. This may sound like #1, but I really want to emphasize the point specifically with respect to faithful Christian churches. These churches have many humble, unknown believers striving to live faithfully for Christ. In these churches, the Word of God is still preached and believed. The Father still hears and is still answering the prayer of Jesus in John 17: “Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me” (John 17:11). Some believers are weak, some are strong. Yet the great many of the folks in the small, local evangelical churches throughout the world are genuine believers.
Some of you are reading this article right now. And you can probably think of many within your congregation right now.
Such believers get no press coverage. No ‘Joe-Schmoe” layman in a church gets a big write-up blog post in the Religion News Service or Baptist Press for being faithful to his Savior. There’s nothing scandalous about these folks, so Pulpit & Pen has no interest in doing a click-bait hit piece on them.
These believers are growing week upon week, through the ministry of God’s Word and prayer. We have assurance of this in Scripture (Phil 1:6). Though sometimes they regress spiritually, the graces and obedience of these obscure men and women to Christ is slowly but steadily growing day upon day and week upon week.
#4 There remain many faithful pastors humbly doing God’s work. God not only has a remnant of faithful believers, he still has many pastors faithfully holding to God’s Word and proclaiming it weekly from their pulpit. Some of these men are not well known outside their congregations or their association of churches. In my little circle of acquaintances, I can think of many examples of such men: Matt Walker, George Stiekes, Phil Siefkes, Rick Schuurmans, Steve Thomas, Ralph Warren, Dan Leeds, and Dave Rogers–just to name a few. These men–and hundreds like them–have been faithfully ministering for decades. They want to be faithful to their Lord. They’ve preached God’s truth without compromise. They’ve weathered many a church storm. These men are not in the limelight. They’re not posting on “The Gospel Coalition” website. They don’t have a powerful social-media presence. Yet they continue to work for Christ.
#5 Our faith rests in the Word of God, not in men. We believe because God has spoken. God uses men as instruments to bring us to himself, but our faith rests not in the instruments, but in God himself. Our faith is not in the hammer, but in God who wields the hammer to build his temple.
About Ryan Martin
Ryan Martin is pastor of the First Baptist Church of Granite Falls, Minnesota. Prior to that, he served as the associate pastor of Bethany Bible Church in Hendersonville, North Carolina. He is on the board of directors of Religious Affections Ministries. Ryan received his undergraduate degree at Northland Baptist Bible College, and has received further training from Central Baptist Theological Seminary of Minneapolis, Minn. (M.Div., 2004; Ph.D., 2013). He was ordained in 2009 at Bible Baptist Church of Elk River, Minn. (now Otsego, Minn.). He has a wife and children too. Ryan is the associate editor of Hymns to the Living God (Religious Affections Ministries, 2017). He contributed to the Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia (Eerdmans, 2017) and is the author of Understanding Affections in the Theology of Jonathan Edwards: "The High Exercises of Divine Love" (T&T Clark, 2018).
- If you are looking for some specific treatment of the Joshua Harris situation, Al Mohler’s piece is a good place to start. [↩]
- I’d go so far as to say that the novel dogmas of the sexual revolution are probably the most pathetic objections to orthodox Christianity ever raised by nonbelievers in human history. [↩]