A reader read my post below about the issues within conservative churches (Slice Archive Update) and asked what I meant by my references to dead orthodoxy, dead textualism and so forth. I think that the reader thought I had been sipping emergent Kool-Aid. I want to assure them and everyone else that nothing could be further from the truth. I am posting my response comment to the reader to clarify my concerns.
“For most of my childhood I attended conservative churches that had the right biblical doctrine, hymns and Gospel songs, Sunday school, and so forth but the churches we were in were not spiritually healthy. Two were actually in the process of dying. They had the form of godliness but the members were grossly complacent, largely prayerless and there was no power in the lives I witnessed. These are churches that would never have an Elvis impersonator or other foolishness. They would inveigh against such things. They were dedicated to doing things right. But there was a lukewarmness and a coldness. “Lifeless textualism” is a term used by A.W. Tozer to describe those in his denomination, the Christian Missionary Alliance, who would never compromise on the infallibility of Scripture, but for whom the Scriptures never seemed to penetrate into the reality of their lives. Pastor Noblit referred to these passionless Christians in his sermon when he was here. These are people who will go to the guillotine over whether the Bible is inspired and infallible but yet the Scriptures have no place in their everyday lives other than a cursory devotional reading. Often the fruit of these churches is found behind the scenes, in fractured relationships, in deeply troubled families, in gossip and conflict. These are churches where there is often a lack of love and concern for others. Please read Revelation chapter 2, verses 1-7. Scripture very clearly describes such churches. They may even have a discernment ministry to warn others. Christ is speaking here. Verse 2 reads,
“I know thy works, and thy labor and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil; and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars; And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake has laboured, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless, I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.”
These are the dead textualists. They have the Word. They have their doctrinal ducks in a row, they are really good at discernment, but they are lifeless because they have lost their first love. We must have the Scriptures and hold them high, but we must also have life through daily fellowship with the author of the Scriptures. Life is in the Vine. It is not optional. Additionally, such churches actually serve to scatter the sheep of Christ’s flock who are desperate to find life somewhere. Young believers can be seduced into believing that the emerging church down the street is more “real”, has more passion and more interest in others than the orthodox church they just left. This is the danger.
I hope that answers any questions that I raised. Without the Holy Spirit’s enlightening power, the Word is a dead letter to us. How we need the Holy Spirit of God to fill us and empower us. Without Him, our lamps will soon flicker and go out.”