Subscribe now

Article

More in this category:

Dying of niceness

September 1998

We have received the following correspondence from Mr Peter Wick of Cambridge which, while too long for our ‘letters’ columns, we felt was worthy of printing in full.

It is not often that I am provoked to write ‘a letter to the editor’. I have only done so on one previous occasion. My usual approach has been that there are others better equipped and more eloquent to express views over matters of concern and, perhaps to my shame, I have left it to them to do so. I am, by reason of geography and historical association, a member of a Baptist Union church, a situation, which for reasons not relevant to this letter, is unlikely to change in the near future. My theological convictions however are planted firmly in the interpretations of Scripture applied in the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith.

Churches together

With this in mind, I am sure you will understand my frustration, concern and great sadness of heart, in relation to Baptist Union participation in Churches Together, and my special dismay that a Roman Catholic should be invited to address the Annual Baptist Assembly. This is deeply disappointing from the leaders of a denomination that claims to be evangelical. (Of course, the term evangelical has been ‘hijacked’, and even a cursory glance reveals that it embraces a whole box of ‘liquorice allsorts’, whilst the term ‘fundamentalist’ has been cleverly marginalized.) One cannot help but be suspicious of the motivations sustaining the current drive for false ecumenism in this country and in my denomination in particular. Why is there so little attraction in staying with the glorious gospel of grace as laid out for us in the pages of Holy Scripture?

I do thank you for giving space to this matter of grave concern in your August issue. While there is a natural tendency to view so-called negative articles with sadness, because of the unwelcome news they often bring, it is a depressing sign of the times that it is necessary for so many of them to be written. I also thank Eric Sleightholme for his excellent and concise letter (August) expressing related concerns. Let us pray that the sentiments he expresses in his final paragraph may come about in these needy days, namely that the Lord will give his people true understanding of the times, and a willingness to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints.

Ignoring God

So far, I have said little which would be new to readers of Evangelical Times. What, then, has provoked my letter? Well, it is a report in the Daily Mail of Monday 3 August which has been brought to my attention, headed ‘Churches’ millennium message ignores God’. It refers to the intention by Churches Together in England to avoid imposing the Christian message on the nation in the main thrust of their millennium message. They are planning to send a candle and a resolution to every home in the country to spread a spiritual message amid the celebrations! The report stated that the resolution will make no mention of God, Christ or any other Christian symbol. It will say, ‘Let there be respect for the Earth, peace for its people, love in our lives, delight in the good, forgiveness of past wrongs and from now on a new start.’

It appears that this is part of a seven-million-pound campaign, and the organizers say that it is important not to force Christianity on those who would otherwise be pleased to light a candle in their windows before midnight on 31 December 1999. Rev. Stephen Lynas, one of the group’s leaders, is quoted as saying, ‘We do not think it is right to impose on people something with which they do not feel comfortable.’ This is hardly an endorsement of the ‘great commission’ — more akin to the work of Satan — pandering to the intellect and inclinations of the natural man! It is cowardly, and a shameful waste of an excellent opportunity to present Christ.

Martin Luther
see image info

Of course people will feel uncomfortable if the gospel is faithfully communicated. There will be opposition, as there has been to the presentation of God’s truth from the beginning of time. As Luther said to Philip Melanchthon, ‘Always preach in such a way that if the people listening do not come to hate their sin, they will instead hate you.’ That may sometimes be the cost of faithful gospel preaching — you will not often be popular amongst unbelievers and, if you are, you need to be cautious.

The widespread quest to make the Gospel more palatable and more intellectually respectable has much to answer for. Although there are a limited number of areas in which Anglican Tony Higton and I would agree, I much admire the stand he has taken on a number of matters. I was very struck by a statement attributed to him, to the effect that the modern church is ‘dying of niceness’. It is polite when it should be prophetic! Today’s obsession with popularity, its appeal to men’s egos and intellect, and the general dilution of the fundamental gospel message, runs contrary to Paul’s position whereby he says, ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.’

God’s eternal purpose

To revert to a more positive theme, what is needed is a return to that gospel which reveals man’s hopelessness and God’s wonderful answer; which elevates the saving of souls above the saving of lives, instead of vice versa; and which highlights the urgency of the situation (‘as a dying man to dying men’). The weakness of the Arminian position is so clearly displayed in all these areas of difficulty. What a joy it should be for the preacher to know that ‘out there’ are those who the Holy Spirit will bring to repentance and faith, because God purposed it for them before the very foundation of the world, and the Lord Jesus secured it for them by his death on the cross! I do appreciate that by stating my views so plainly I am open to the charge of bigotry by some. However, what I write I do so in love, and through concern as well as frustration. We live in dangerous days in which many who stand for unvarnished Bible truth, and oppose the so-called consensus views and trends, are marginalized, particularly by false ecumenism. ‘New Labour’ is not the only spin-doctor culture with us today!

In summary, I am ashamed that my denomination is party to Churches Together. I will be further disappointed if its leaders do not make every effort to quash this millennium proposal and put the special opportunity for witness to better use, preferably on a ‘go-it-alone’ basis.

I can understand how Spurgeon felt!