The American Vision: A Biblical Worldview Ministry

The Appearance of Truth

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When error comes, it always rides in on the wings of truth.[1]

Nikita Khrushchev (1894–1971), Premier of the former Soviet Union, described a time in the Communist republic’s history when a wave of petty theft was sweeping through the government-owned plants. To curtail the stealing, guards were placed at factory entrances to watch the laborers as they entered and departed. At the Leningrad timberworks, one of the guards spotted Pyotr Petrovich leaving the yard with a wheelbarrow filled with a bulky sack. A guard became dutifully suspicious.

“Come on, Petrovich,” said the guard. “What have you got there?”

“Just sawdust and shavings,” Petrovich replied.

“Come on,” the guard said, “I wasn’t born yesterday. Tip it out.” Out it came--nothing but sawdust and shavings. So he was allowed to put it all back again and go home.

The same thing happened every night all week, and the guard was getting extremely frustrated. Finally, his curiosity overcame his frustration.

“Petrovich,” he said, “I know you. Tell me what you’re smuggling out of here,
and I’ll let you go.”

“Wheelbarrows,” said Petrovich.[2]

Error has been smuggled into the church under the pretense of truth since the beginning of time (Gen 3:1–7). Jesus warned His disciples not to be led astray by traditions that have the effect of setting “aside the commandment of God” (Mark. 7:9). Paul cautioned the “elders of the church” at Ephesus that after his departure “savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:17, 29–30). It’s no less true today than in John’s day that “many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1), many of whom “went out from us” (2:19).

Keep in mind that false doctrines most often arise from within the church, “from among your own selves,” as Paul warns. Jesus saved his harshest criticism for the religious leaders of Israel for the simple reason that they are religious leaders who carry the weight of authority with their words (Matt. 21:23–46; 23:2–3; James 3:1). Jesus told Nicodemus, who was “the teacher of Israel,” that he should have understood basic theological truths (John 3:10). While a false doctrine has the outward appearance of orthodoxy, in terms of what the Bible actually tells us, it is rotten to the core (Matt. 23:25–28). Heresy most often enters the church under the cover of some orthodox position. Irenaeus, a second-century Christian writer, describes the insidious nature of error wrapped in a veneer of truth:

Error, indeed, is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in an attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to be inexperienced (ridiculous as the expression may seem) more true than truth itself.[3]

The claim is made by well-meaning Christians that the world and the things in the world are off limits to Christians; that the best way to live the Christian life is not to get involved in “the world.” Holiness is defined as an escape from this world, if not physically through some cataclysmic eschatological event like a pretribulational rapture,[4] then certainly by being separated from the affairs of this world by an unwillingness to acknowledge that God has made us stewards of His good creation. Instead of following the directive of Abraham Kuyper who said, “there is not one inch of creation of which Christ doesn’t say ‘Mine,’”[5] we often choose, “there is not one inch of creation of which Satan doesn’t say ‘Mine.’” Historically, the church did not divide the world into two opposing realms, consisting of sacred/secular, spiritual/ material. More importantly, the Bible does not divide the world this way. The Bible is concerned about the distinction between good and evil, right and wrong, moral and immoral wherever such distinctions can be made.

The biblical doctrine of creation tells us that the created order is an arena for Christian activity and ministry. God put Adam and Eve in the midst of the garden to “cultivate it and keep it” (Gen. 2:15). The authority to rule was also given to man. While God reserves ultimate authority and sovereignty for Himself, He delegates a subordinate authority and sovereignty to man as a steward and vice-regent over the created order. God also sets the rules by which man is to exercise that delegated stewardship and sovereignty. In fact, it was the breaking of these established creation laws that got Adam and Eve exiled from the garden. Even so, they were still called upon to live and work in what is now a fallen world (3:22–24).

Endnotes:

[1] A. Wilson Phillips, “Seeing the Future Clearly,” Hidden Manna (March 2002), 6.
[2] Os Guinness, “The Christian and Society,” in James M. Boice, ed., Transforming Our World: A Call to Action (Portland, OR: Multnomah Press, 1988), 52.
[3] Irenaeus, Against Heresies (1.2). Cited in Harold O. J. Brown, Heresies: The Image of Christ in the Mirror of Heresy and Orthodoxy from the Apostles to the Present (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1984), 6.
[4] See Gary DeMar, Last Days Madness: Obsession of the Modern Church, 4th ed. (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 1999) and End Times Fiction: A Biblical Consideration of the Left Behind Theology (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2001).
[5] Douglas Groothuis, “Revolutionizing our Worldview,” The Reformed Journal (November, 1982), 23.

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