September 20, 2017

A Struggle with the Faith

A Struggle with the Faith

by Craig Smith

I want to share a bit of my personal testimony, not to
push our denominational bias down your throats, but to
illustrate how struggle and patience in the struggle
helps growth, both in ourselves as parents and in our
children. Barbara and I both personally struggled with
issues of the Faith when we saw or felt inconsistencies
or hypocrisies. We are particularly sensitive to these
because we know how prone each of us is to being
both inconsistent and hypocritical…being this way was
standard procedure when we were unbelievers, and old
habits die hard. We made no secret of our struggles
around the family meal tables, and we believe our
openness and honesty about these things with our children
was helpful, allowing them to see our frustrations
and disappointments with situations and with people
(but without the usual character assassinations that go
with this kind of thing…we had to be particularly careful
of this, for it is so damaging to our own credibility
in our children’s eyes). We all rejoiced together in our
excitement at new discoveries in the Scriptures. We
struggled together in our efforts to obey and conform
to the Scriptures, including our fears and excuses of
not wanting to go through with it. We shed tears of facing
the implications of what being Biblically consistent
would cost in terms of status in the eyes of men, in being
shunned by people who were our best friends. At
the end of the day, because of these struggles with issues
of the Faith, we can say that we know what we
believe and why we believe it. More importantly, so do
our children! We are all much stronger for it.
When I first got converted in Christchurch in 1974 and
first began to read the Bible on my own to learn for
myself what it said, and having never before heard the
words “dispensa tional ism”, “covenant”,
“Arminianism”, “Calvinism”, “Pre-, Post- or A- millennial”
or any such theological terms, I came to some
interesting conclusions. First, that Jesus is Lord. Not of
some, but of all. He is sovereign over all areas of life,
over every square inch of the universe and over every
human being and every human institution. Second, that
the devil is a liar and the father of lies. So when he
says to the Lord in Matthew 4:8-9 that he (the devil)
will give Him (Jesus Christ) all the kingdoms of the
world, I simply laughed at the whopper of a lie the
devil just told and at what a complete idiot he obviously
was (and is) to try and tempt the Lord Jesus with
kingdoms over which He already rules!! (See Psalm
24:1). (OK, we don’t think we see the Lord ruling over
them presently, but nothing happens without His say so,
and He will come to claim them one day.) Third, I
learned that, as Romans and Galatians make clear, we
Christians are the real Jews (because we are Jews in-
wardly, not outwardly – Romans 2:28-29), the real descendants
of Abraham (because we share the faith of
Abraham – Romans 4:9-12, Galatians 3:6-7)), the real
inheritors of the promises (Romans 9:6-8, Galatians
3:27-29). And fourth, I learned that the promises include
inheriting the whole world in Christ, (see Romans
4:13, Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1:8).
Barbara and I were both discipled by the Navigators in
Christchurch for several years. The training we received
with the Navigators, to take the Scriptures seriously
and to study as did the Bereans of Acts 17:10-11
to see if what any speaker said was so, and especially
to apply what the Bible said to our personal lives…
these things set us up to be true disciples of Christ, not
just SMO Christians (Sunday Morning Only). Even
with the general evangelical emphasis on personal
evangelism, the Navs were not popular. I guess it was
because they took the Faith far more seriously than
most. They did not stop at conversion, but wanted to
see new believers firmly established in the Faith.
After getting married, we made our home and raised
our children in a well-known, evangelical, Biblebelieving
church denomination. This was our first and
only spiritual home for the first 14 (fourteen) years of
our married life. Since they did not see it as good stewardship
to polish the brass on a sinking ship, they
thought Christian schools were nutty and that home
education was simply madness …. after all, the Lord
was coming back any day now, maybe this afternoon…
but certainly in our children’s lifetimes. And besides,
our taxes paid for these lovely schools we have all
around us, and shouldn’t our (unconverted) children be
in the schools to evangelise the lost there?
I always wondered why these things never seemed to
harmonize with the conclusions I had come to in my
own Scripture reading when I was first converted. But
I figured I had a lot to learn yet, and the people around
me were as godly and as serious about the Faith as any
I knew of, and many had themselves come to Faith
through struggles.
And here was one of our first struggles: is the Lord
coming so soon that I need not care too much about the
raising of my children, for they will surely not see
adulthood; or is it possible that He may tarry a bit? We
came to the conclusion that we need to be prepared for
Him to return tomorrow but to train up our children so
that they can train up their children to train up their
children and so on, in order that they all be overcomers
and conquerors of the world through the Faith (I John
5:4-5, Revelation 2 & 3, the message to each church).
So it was not an either/or approach but a both/and.
Anyway, after about 7 of those 14 years we noticed
some discrepancies between the orthodoxy and the orthopraxy
of the saints at this church (between what
they said they believed and what they actually did in
practise). Now, lest I appear harsh and critical, we have
since found that this is a universal and common problem
with all churches and with all believers. But we
were new Christians, newly married, with rose-tinted
glasses and thought all Christians would at least desire
to be consistent if not perfect. We found it isn’t so.
I’d been studying the differences between a consistent
Biblical worldview and a worldview directed by purely
secular or humanistic thought, such as one would find
in the average unbeliever. The disturbing fact was that
many of the brethren at church thought and acted like
humanists…that is, their vocabulary was different than
an unbeliever’s, and they went to church on Sundays,
but much of their everyday lives were indistinguishable
from the way unbelievers thought and acted. By that I
mean their politics were all over the field; their economics
were heavily socialist; they had no problem
about being in debt; their standards of (im)modesty
were not quite the same, but followed at a respectable
5-year distance; virtually anything was allowed in the
name of entertainment on TV (including immorality,
nudity and blasphemy); and apparently the Scriptures
had nothing to say in the areas of law and justice, education,
economics, social welfare or medicine, especially,
I was told, since our taxes to the secular state
took care of all these things. I was shocked at my fellow
believers for holding such ideas, but the fact is, I
too held them and was only becoming aware of how
closely they matched the worldview of secular humanism,
which is anti-Christian to the core. I was shocked,
in other words, at how close my worldview was to rank
unbelievers. Surely the Scriptures call us to something
entirely different. Doesn’t Romans 12:2 say not to be
conformed to this world? Doesn’t James 4:4 say that if
we get into a state of cosy friendship with the world
that we make ourselves an enemy of God? I was worried
and spiritually dissatisfied. I began to seek for a
deeper understanding of the Scriptures.
One day I listened to a tape by an old buzzard with a
terribly dry monotone voice who nonetheless said the
most exciting things I’d ever heard: that Scripture is
God’s word, that God’s word is eternal, that God
(being God) speaks to every area of life. That is, the
Bible is relevant – nay, is essential – to me as a believer
to guide me in all that I do: my politics, my economics,
education, journalism, music, entertainment,
family life, relationships, ethics, philosophy, history,
mathematics, my calling, my vocation. He also
unapologetically proclaimed that Jesus is Lord of all
things, both visible and invisible, and that He and the
Gospel will have total victory over all things in human
history as well as at His return. His bottom line was
that the answer to all problems in the world, both the
macro and the micro, were found in Christ, in His
Word. His wisdom and righteousness and salvation and
redemption are to be made effective on planet earth by
the REGENERATION wrought by the Holy Spirit, in
lives sanctified by living in obedience to the King of
kings, and not, emphatically not, by any REVOLUTION
wrought by man, whether that revolution be by
bullets or by the ballot box. Now this is the kind of
Saviour/God worth worshipping, I reckoned, One Who
really did have the whole world in His hands. And it
matched the Saviour/God I read about all the way from
Genesis to Revelation, Who is active in human history,
raising up and bringing low, and Who always gets the
victory – I Corinthians 15:57-58, II Corinthians 2:14.
This old buzzard was Rousas John Rushdoony of Chalcedon
Institute in California: Calvinist, Reformed,
Post-Millennial, Theonomist, Reconstructionist. I soon
found out that in my church, these were dirty words!
People would back away from you as if you had the
plague if you mentioned them in any tone of voice that
was not dripping with contempt. (After reading Rushdoony’s
monthly publication and listening to his tapes
for 20 years, I have also learned that he is hated and
feared by a number of evangelicals, some of his fellow
Calvinists, also by atheists, New Agers and other assorted
heretics….and that his teachings and writings are
shamelessly misrepresented by people who do not
agree with him.)
As for me and my house, we would go where the Lord
led. For the next seven years we investigated these
things. We did not want to simply go somewhere else
because it was the flavour of the month. We needed to
do what was best, what seemed most consistently Biblical
to us, as far as we could ascertain it. That’s why we
took seven years: I had to know why we would leave
the church we were currently in (if we needed to leave
at all), and we had to know why we would go to whatever
church we ended up going to before we made any
move at all. Seven years of struggle.
In the meantime, listening to Rushdoony, Al Martin,
Gary North, Greg Bahnsen, David Chilton, etc., and
reading the Chalcedon Report, I must say that Christianity,
the Faith, Christ and His Word the Bible
increasingly became the most relevant, exciting and
challenging things in our lives! God’s love became infinitely
deeper and higher and broader. His Grace
was more unbelievably immense. His Mercy toward me
so much more unmerited as to be humanly, logically,
rationally unjustifiable. The richness of the Christian,
Biblical Faith, we learned, was so much more vast and
superior than we’d ever before understood: Christianity
alone is fully able to present a worldview that is comprehensive,
coherent, consistent and complete. And my
sins! Oh, as I read and listened to these preachers listed,
my sins were so much more horrendous, so totally
abominable, and God’s holiness and righteousness
and grace and mercy in redemption were so supremely
fantastic and so utterly and totally undeserved that I
was and am continually driven to the foot of the Cross
for cleansing, for forgiveness. I cannot neglect prayer,
fellowship and the reading/memorising/meditating
upon the Word, for if I do, the world, the flesh and the
devil so resonate with my old nature, that they would
soon have complete sway over me, deceive me and
make me a disgrace to His Name.
Rushdoony also said something that really grabbed me:
that most of us have a “smorgasbord theology”. We
pick and choose according to our personal likes and
dislikes. This is essentially what Eve did in the Garden,
with Adam’s silent assent, the DIY mentality that condemned
all mankind to hell. This was so obviously true
of me and the folks I worshipped with, I determined to
find the opposite to that, whatever it was. At last I discovered
“systematic theology”, one that takes every
line of Scripture seriously, from the opening of Genesis
to the closing of Revelation. It is a theology that believes
that the Scriptures are an organic whole, like the
robe of Christ, woven from top to bottom without
seam. It is one that believes that man shall not live by
bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the
mouth of God, and that includes both the Old and the
New Testaments.
The result of those seven years of research was that we
left the only church family we had ever known and
joined ourselves to a church with a systematic theology,
to a bunch of mostly strangers. We worked our
way through a couple of other big issues by reading
widely on all sides of the arguments. We’d heard it
said that “doctrine divides, but love unites,” and at first
we wondered if we’d fallen victim to that very thing,
for some of our old friends turned cold shoulders to us,
people for whom we still had the greatest of feelings.
We now see that it is having a love for Christ Himself,
for His doctrines in the Bible and for His people that
truly unites.
So please let me encourage you to tackle things of the
Faith that bother you. If Christianity is worth believing
and following, it can stand the hard questions. Do not
be afraid to investigate things that don’t seem right,
even when you can see it could make you unpopular
simply to investigate it. Some of you know what it’s
like: you didn’t want to look into the home education
option for fear that you’d become convinced about it…
and sure enough, you got convicted, started home educating,
it has been costly in terms of friendships and
lifestyle and other plans and dreams that were shelved.
But it’s all been worth it, hasn’t it? ?

From Keystone Magazine

November 2007, Vol. XIII No. 6
P O Box 9064
Palmerston North
Phone: (06) 357-4399
Fax: (06) 357-4389
email: craig@hef.org.nz

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