April/May 2019 - Vol. 103
attack on
                  God's Word in Scripture, by Kevin Carden
The Attack on God's Word – And the Response .
. by Ralph Martin
This article first appeared in 1983 in Summons to Faith and Renewal, by Servant Books, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. It has been lightly edited here with permission of the author, Ralph Martin. - ed.
The Christian people today are facing many serious challenges to their integrity. I would like to examine four passages in Scripture that indicate some of the spiritual forces that are at work in the present situation, passages which identify the problems that God's people face today.

The first passage, Genesis 3:1-6, is a key to understanding the satanic strategy that is undermining God's word. The second passage is Romans 1:18-32, which vividly describes the effects of this satanic strategy on mankind. The third is Luke 19:41-44, which provides us with a glimpse of God's provision for our situation today. The fourth passage is Isaiah 55:6, which guides us to one of the main ways of responding to this situation.

Satan's Strategy for Human Destruction
In John 8:44, Jesus identifies the satanic strategy for destroying the human race. Satan's strategy is clear: he uses lies to lead mankind to death. "The father you spring from is the devil,” Jesus tells those who reject him, "and willingly you carry out his wishes. He brought death to man from the beginning, and has never based himself on truth; the truth is not in him. Lying speech is his native tongue; he is a liar and the father of lies." In Genesis 3:1-6, we see this father of lies in action. This passage not only reveals the reason for the fall of the human race, but also the satanic strategy which has operated throughout history and continues today.
Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the animals that the Lord God had made. The serpent asked the woman, “Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?” The woman answered the serpent: “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, “You shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die." But the serpent said to the woman: "You certainly will not die! No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is bad." The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
Satan's first move was to sow doubt in the woman's mind about whether she heard God correctly: Did God really say that? Are you sure you heard him right? Are you sure you properly interpreted his message to you? Are you sure that it was God who said that? By using such tactics, he made the woman experience God's word as narrow and restrictive, keeping her from something that she deserved to have. She lost confidence in God's goodness.

I believe this satanic strategy is at work today in the lives of millions of people, causing them to doubt whether they have heard God correctly, to feel that Christianity is narrow and oppressive, and to believe that the only way to fulfillment in life is to break out of the confinements of God's word and reach out for an autonomy and a fulfillment apart from God. As a result, the lives of millions of people are headed for disaster.

Unfortunately, this satanic strategy is also at work in many of the churches. The authority of God's word is being undermined in our midst.

Direct Denial of God's Word
First of all, the power and effect of God's word is being undermined through the direct denial of its authority. Several years ago, I read the text of a convocation address that a prominent professor from a major Protestant seminary in the United States delivered. His words were startling:
What does ancient Christian tradition, with its archaic language and individualistic ethos, have to do with the necessarily social and secular expression of Christianity today? What is the point any more of teaching or studying the classical disciplines when the bases for our action are given with sufficient clarity by contemporary ethics and the adjunct studies of sociology and psychology? I suspect that many of us here, if our back were against the wall, would honestly have to answer, “Very little indeed.” We may have some aesthetic interest in tradition, but we are no longer in any danger of confusing aesthetic with normative judgments. There is thus probably a widespread, intuitive acceptance of two affirmations: (1) the New Testament and the creeds are no longer in any way authoritative or canonical for us; (2) the Christian today can find sufficient guidelines for his faith and action in contemporary statements and solutions.

We are thus in no secure place. We have found no single authoritative standard from the past of what to say or how to live. Neither have we a secure self-understanding erected on the basis of our immediate experience. We in fact find ourselves in the abyss of continual uncertainty, but we are kept from falling into chaos by the very tension between past and present. Our specific spot over the abyss is the result of our own individual dialogue. We have no assurance that where we happen to be is the best or final place to stand.
Many of God's people are in an abyss of uncertainty. They no longer know whether they can trust God's word, and, consequently, they do not know where to turn for direction. What a place for God's people to be – cut off from God's word and in an "abyss of continual uncertainty," able to be blown about, as scripture says, by every wind of doctrine!

The direct denial of God's word is not restricted to certain liberal seminaries; it is increasingly becoming an attitude of the ordinary person on the street. A while ago, I read a letter to the editor of a Catholic diocesan newspaper from a housewife who wrote in regard to the regular reading in church of the passage in Ephesians that relates to husbands and wives, parents and children.
I'm sorry, dear Editor, but I don't believe that the excerpt from Paul to the Ephesians is the word of the Lord; and if believing is living what we believe, neither does anyone else, be they husband or wife! Paul's words are fossils, to be kept in libraries for scholars to read and remark to each other about how primitive people were in "Bible times," how uncivilized. Furthermore, if these readings are so difficult to understand, and their occurrence in our liturgy is the cause of people losing faith, then those people in Rome are saying, "It is better to insist that Paul's words are the word of the Lord and lose souls than it would be to strike Paul's archaic language from the liturgy and use something meaningful in its place."
...The books of the Bible were put together as one book by men; let wiser men take them apart.
It is interesting to read what some of the Fathers of the Church had to say about people who, in their day, took a similar approach to scripture. St. Hippolytus saw only two explanations for the problem: there was either a problem of faith and unbelief, or a problem of satanic activity.
They [i.e., people who are undermining the authority of God's word) have not feared to lay hands upon the sacred Scriptures, saying that they have corrected them. Nor is it likely that they themselves are ignorant about how very bold their offense is. For either they do not believe that the sacred Scriptures were spoken by the Holy Spirit, in which case they are unbelievers, or if they regard themselves as being wiser than the Holy Spirit, what else can they be but demoniacs?"
A few years ago, I happened to pick up a copy of a national Catholic magazine devoted to parish renewal and read the following from an editorial that issued a ringing call to abandon God's word and give ourselves to bisexuality.
Persons - young and old, Hollywood beauty and spiritual beauty-have all become sex "objects" for me.
So why not male and female?
The law of God, you say? Come on, let's grow up theologically too. We say we don't hold an anthropomorphic God, a kind of great puppeteer, old, male (and heterosexual may one suppose?), so let's really not hold one. No, God works the wonders of his providence, of his love, and his laws right down inside the concrete, living, individual natures he creates and sustains.
Basically, the editor proposed that we simply throw out God's word and replace it with our individual desires. His editorial brought these words from St. Augustine to mind:
It is necessary that we become meek through piety so that we do not contradict Divine Scripture, either when it is understood and is seen to attack some of our vices, or when it is not understood and we feel that we are wiser than it is and better able to give precepts. But we should rather think and believe that which is written to be better and more true than anything which we could think of by ourself, even when it is obscure.
How different were the attitudes of the Fathers of the Church, who held God's word in high regard, from the attitudes that we increasingly encounter today.

Ambiguity Towards God's Word
Even though the direct denial of the authority of God's word is becoming more and more common, I believe that the indirect denial of the authority of his word is having an even more damaging effect. Indirect denial occurs when people ostensibly honor God's word by saying that we do need to take scripture into account when making decisions in life, but then add that we also need to take into account what the latest opinion polls say, what psychology and sociology tell us, the direction in which the signs of the times are leading us, and, of course, our own particular needs in the situation. Such people encourage us to decide what is right for us on the basis of all these factors. However, this approach often places God's word on the same level as majority opinion or theological speculation. Although such people do not directly repudiate God's word, they relate to it in such a way that its real authority is drained away and it becomes one opinion among many-and usually the losing opinion.

Many people today are undermining God's word by fostering a certain ambiguity towards it. Preachers, teachers, and counselors, who themselves are uncertain about the authority and the meaning of God's word, continue to use the words but not to communicate the conviction or enthusiasm that helps people know that it is a word they can trust and base their lives on.

This purposeful ambiguity and vagueness about the authority of God's word is even nibbling at the edges of evangelical gatherings. For example, at the 1982 Convention of Evangelical Youth Workers in Detroit, a workshop leader, speaking on sex education for junior high school students, recommended that teachers preface their remarks on values with a qualified "in my opinion." Do not give an "overlay" of the Bible, teachers were told; it turns students off. In effect, teachers were discouraged from teaching with authority what God's word says about this area of life. Instead, they should invite sex education experts from public schools and from the county family planning office to educate evangelical youth groups on sexual matters.

Sometimes ambiguity and vagueness are rooted in a fear of being considered naive or foolish because of what the next scientific article might reveal. People suspend their commitment to God's word since they no longer envisage it as a clear and certain word. They become addicted to the latest scientific findings in a way that saps their ability to commit themselves definitively to God's word.

Sometimes ambiguity and vagueness is rooted in an actual hostility to the very notion of certainty. In many ways our society has been so deeply affected by the notion of 'searching" that the searching becomes an obstacle to finding. The desire not to find can very easily disguise itself as a search.

Silence on God's Word
A third way in which people are undermining God's word is through silence. Preachers, teachers, counselors, and ordinary people experience tremendous pressure from today's society to talk only about those parts of God's word that are least offensive to contemporary culture. In my own church, the Catholic Church, this has meant that for the last 40 years or so we have heard a lot about God's love but little about his holiness; a lot about how important it is to fulfill ourselves but little about the need to take up the cross and deny ourselves to follow Christ; a lot about what beautiful people we are but little about the need to repent, change, and be conformed to the image of Christ; a lot about how important it is to express our thoughts but little about the need for every thought to be submitted to Jesus Christ. Over a period of years, silence on important aspects of Christian revelation produces a distortion in the life of God's people.

Many passages in scripture starkly and boldly reveal the differences between the divine perspective and the views of our culture. One of them is Matthew 5:29-30: “If your right eye is your trouble, gouge it out and throw it away. Better to lose part of your body than to have it all cast into Gehenna. Again, if your right hand is your trouble, cut it off and throw it away! Better to lose part of your body than to have it all cast into Gehenna." Yet the prevailing spirit of our culture says, "Pay any price you can to be totally whole, even if it means going to Gehenna. Whatever you do, be fulfilled. Whatever you do, protect yourself."

Another passage which flies in the face of the spirit of our age is 1 Corinthians 15:19: "If our hopes in Christ are limited to this life only, we are the most pitiable of men." In spite of what scripture tells us, there is tremendous pressure today to present Christianity only in terms of what it can do for me here and now. But Christianity is not concerned only with what it can do for me today; it is also concerned with the life to come. Christianity is not only about this world; it is also about the world to come.

Note, too, the passage from Matthew 7:13-14: "Enter through the narrow gate. The gate that leads to damnation is wide, the road is clear, and many choose to travel it. But how narrow is the gate that leads to life, how rough the road, and how few there are who find it!” What a different picture this passage presents from the attitude, prevailing in many of our churches, which says that everyone is basically a good person and is going to make it to heaven. The spirit of this age tries to blot out the reality of sin, the truth of God's judgment, the need for redemption, and the fact that you do not simply drift into the kingdom of God; you need to make choices and changes in order to enter his kingdom. As the attitudes of the world work to fog our perception of the divine perspective, the realities of sin, Satan, heaven, hell, judgment, and eternity need to be clearly proclaimed, that the nature and reality of God might be truly revealed.

Reinterpreting Scripture
A fourth way in which people undermine God's word is by reinterpreting it so that it corresponds to causes and desires they are already committed to. Today many people approach God's word with certain preconceptions because they have already made certain ideologies, certain values, into absolutes.

This reinterpretation of God's word is expressed in many areas of life. Often it occurs in the realm of politics. A few years ago, a French Catholic priest, who was the secretary of his local section of the Communist party, reinterpreted Christian freedom in this way:
I fail to see why it would be absurd and contradictory to be both a Christian and a Communist. I will go further: I see no contradiction between being a Marxist and being a man who questions his faith and the ministry he has received from the hands of a bishop. I even dare ask myself and others this question: if Marxist analysis led me to atheism, would this evolution not in fact express the very freedom of the movement of which I am a part? and would this freedom not be the freedom of the Gospel?
Another area where reinterpretation occurs is sexual morality. For example, in one of the workshops at a meeting of the Evangelical Women's Caucus, a number of evangelical participants openly defended homosexual practices as compatible with scriptural teaching. (Once again, we see how attacks on God's word are already nibbling at the edges of evangelical groups.)

Another instance of the reinterpretation of Scripture in regard to sexual morality comes from a priest who was a moral theologian and who taught at the main seminary that the Catholic Church had maintained in the United States for preparing missionaries. In an article on homosexuality for a national Catholic magazine, he stated:
But doesn't the Church teach that active homosexual persons are sinning? Yes and no. The Church teaches that sex is for having children. This part of the Church's message rings as true as it ever did, and as it always will. The Church also teaches that sex is for loving. It's for loving in marriage, and nowadays, the Church is not so sure that all sex-for-love outside marriage is sinful. Surely it is when new life is likely to be generated. People who play around with sex, and then find themselves with unwanted pregnancy, often get abortions. This is the reason the Church opposes sex outside of marriage - family stability for the security of offspring. It's a good reason. Let's hold on to it, you and I who are the Church. But this is not a problem in sex with two people of the same gender. . . . But doesn't the Bible condemn homosexual acts? That it surely does, and roundly. Genesis condemns the men of Sodom and Gomorrah for wishing to have sex with Lot's male guests – by raping them. It is not the homosexuality of mutual respect and self-sacrifice the Scripture condemns here.

But what about Leviticus and the Epistle to the Romans? Do they not call homosexuality an "abomination to the Lord?" Yes, but the outcry is heavily culturally conditioned. ... Well, we've multiplied and filled the earth, and Jesus the Messiah is already here. Can it be that childless sex is no longer an abomination?
In the last few decades dozens of articles like this have been published in Catholic publications, and similar articles have appeared in other Christian publications as well.

Even the area of ecumenism is not immune from reinterpretation of scripture. Unfortunately, we are often confronted with a false ecumenism and indifferentism that few of us would want to be part of. For example, the chaplain of an American college had written a series of articles in which he called for Christianity to become more relevant to modern man. In the first of these articles, he proposed that “Christianity deemphasize its claim to uniqueness in favor of a vital universalism, advocating a creative and positive relationship among the religions of the world."

In a second article, he offered the thesis that the churches should play down their historical, creedal affirmations - the Trinity, number of sacraments, apostolic succession, the deity of Christ, and so on-and work for the abolition of racism, a renewed dedication to human justice and freedom, and greater understanding among the peoples of the world."

Then 20 years later, he assessed the progress that had been made in realizing these proposals:
Almost 20 years later these predictions which raised so much protest seem mild, and most of them have been realized. We've seen a burgeoning of interest in the religions of the East, and even Harvey Cox has belatedly moved in that direction. ... Except for a phalanx of conservative rearguard figures, I know of no mainstream theologians today, Catholic or Protestant, who are brazen advocates of the uniqueness and once-for-allness of the Christian revelation...
Later in his article, he made some proposals for the future:
In the days ahead we should put less emphasis on the historical Jesus. Since Vatican II, Catholics and Protestants have increasingly stressed their agreements. A similar movement is gaining strength between Christians and Jews, as both Catholics and mainstream Protestants are renouncing efforts to evangelize Jews. We are in increasing contact with other religions of the world, and an insistence on the uniqueness of the historical Jesus can only be a hindrance. Christians should never have made a God out of Jesus. It is just too preposterous to believe that God gave his/her world embracing love uniquely through Jesus. We Christians may use such phrases as "anonymous Christian" and "the cosmic Christ" in our attempts to universalize Christianity, but then we should empathize with such terms as "the universal Buddha" or "the plurality of avatars...." I suggest that we leave him (Jesus) alone for a while. Just as Jesus said to his disciples, "It's best for you that I depart. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you," so, too, must we have the courage to say that it's best for Jesus to depart for the sake of the love of God.
God forbid that there would be an agreement on such apostasy! The same spiritual force that has tried throughout the ages to destroy our confidence in God's word and in Jesus Christ, the Word of God, is at work today to destroy our confidence once again.

I do not think that we are merely dealing with human weakness, with honest mistakes, or with isolated infidelities. We are dealing with a massive attempt to undermine the authority of God's word for the purpose of destroying God's people here on earth and leading them to eternal damnation. As scripture tells us in 1 Timothy 4:1-2, "The Spirit distinctly says that in latter times, some will turn away from the faith and will heed deceitful spirits and things taught by demons through plausible liars."

The Condition of the World Today
The satanic strategy is one of lies, false teaching, confusion, and undermining the authority of God's word, and it leads to death. A passage from Romans 1:18-31 provides tremendous insight into what is happening in our society today.
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against the irreligious and perverse spirit of men who, in this perversity of theirs, hinder the truth. In fact, whatever can be known about God is clear to them; he himself made it so. Since the creation of the world, invisible realities, God's eternal power and divinity, have become visible, recognized through the things he has made. Therefore, these men are inexcusable. They certainly had knowledge of God, yet they did not glorify him as God or give him thanks; they stultified themselves through speculating to no purpose, and their senseless hearts were darkened. They claimed to be wise, but turned into fools instead; they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images representing mortal man, birds, beasts, and snakes.

In consequence, God delivered them in their lusts to unclean practices; they engaged in the mutual degradation of their bodies, these men who exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped the creature rather than the Creator – blessed be he forever, amen!

God therefore delivered them up to disgraceful passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and the men gave up natural intercourse with women and burned with lust for one another. Men did shameful things with men, and thus received in their own persons the penalty for their perversity.

They did not see fit to acknowledge God, so God delivered them up to their own depraved sense to do what is unseemly. They are filled with every kind of wickedness: maliciousness, greed, ill will, envy, murder, bickering, deceit, craftiness. They are gossips and slanderers, they hate God, are insolent, haughty, boastful, ingenious in their wrongdoing and rebellious toward their parents. One sees in them men without conscience, without loyalty, without affection, without pity. They know God's just decree that all who do such things deserve death; yet they not only do them but approve them in others.
One of the characteristics of people who themselves have turned away from God's word is that they encourage other people to do so as well. Misery loves company; there is a superficial brotherhood of the damned.

Today numerous groups are dedicated to leading people away from God's word. And in many ways, the most visible signs of this movement are the sexual confusion and disorder that has become more and more prevalent in our society - just as these were the signs that characterized Roman society in St. Paul's time.

We are living in a time of rapid de-Christianization. De-Christianization leads to dehumanization because the only way to be fully human is to be in Jesus Christ. Truly, the wages of sin is death. We are seeing the wages of sin being paid out daily in the environment in which we live, whether it be the thousands of fetuses found in trash containers or the spector of weapons of mass destruction hovering over the entire earth. At a time when the human race is perhaps in the hour of greatest need, God's people are weak, confused, and disunited. This is not accidental; it is part of the satanic plan.

A Time of Visitation
A spiritual war is raging beneath the surface of our society. Yet, in this moment of need, we are also living in a time of tremendous grace and blessing. I believe that we are living in the midst of one of the greatest visitations God has made to his people.

I have seen many signs of this visitation. First of all, we have had the extraordinary ministries of people like Billy Graham, Oral Roberts, and Kathryn Kuhlman, which have touched many thousands of people in past years. We also have some marvellous evangelism ministries, like Agape (formerly Campus Crusade), Inter-Varsity, and Navigators, which have touched thousands more. Furthermore, Jesus Christ is being proclaimed to millions through various  media ministries.

I think that the Pentecostal movement and charismatic renewal is another sign of this time of visitation. For the first time since the early centuries of Christianity, millions of people are experiencing the signs and wonders of the Holy Spirit in a widespread way.

God is visiting his people for a reason. He is inviting them to turn to him and be saved. He is inviting the church to turn to him and be equipped and empowered because hard times lie ahead. Many people have responded to this visitation, but many more have not. There is a consequence for missing a visitation from God. The consequence is judgment. For this reason, I believe that the destiny of our generation is hanging in the balance.

In Luke 19:41-44, we read about another visitation that God made to his people – the visitation that Jesus made to the people of Jerusalem almost 2,000 years ago:
Coming within sight of the city, he wept over it and said: "If only you had known the path to peace this day, but you have completely lost it from view! Days will come upon you when your enemies encircle you with a rampart, hem you in, and press you hard from every side. They will wipe you out, you and your children within your walls, and leave not a stone on a stone within you, because you failed to recognize the time of your visitation."
Jesus visited his people – walking through the streets proclaiming the kingdom of God and healing them – but they failed to recognize this moment of grace. A critical moment had arrived; God had sent his only Son. Many responded, but many more did not. Forty years later, the Roman armies destroyed the city of Jerusalem and the Jewish nation was dispersed to the four corners of the earth.

The moment of visitation is a moment of choice. One of the things that determines what happens in this moment of choice is the intercession of God's friends. How much God is willing to do for his friends! Remember the generation of Abraham. When wickedness in Sodom and Gomorrah reached such a point that God had to destroy them, Abraham interceded for the few that were faithful to God, and God saved those few. We see what God was willing to do for his beloved and the weight that he gave to Abraham's prayer.

I believe that the destiny of our generation is hanging right now in the balance. I believe that our generation is faced with a choice: repentance or judgment. We who have been touched by this visitation have a critical role to play. In addition to our evangelistic action, our intercessory prayer is vital in resisting the tide of evil that is flooding our homes and cities.

In conclusion, I would like to offer what I believe to be a particularly important element of our response to the situation in which we find ourselves. It is found in Isaiah 55:6:"Seek the Lord while he may be found, call him while he is near." This, I believe, is the word that the Holy Spirit is bringing to our attention. Now is the time to turn to God. We need to do many important things and to receive a great deal of wisdom. But what we face can only be faced in and with and through the presence of God dwelling with his people. We are not simply dealing with flesh and blood; we are dealing with powers and principalities. Only the power of God, manifesting itself in the words, actions, and lives of his people, is sufficient to face what we are facing. I believe the time has come to repent and turn to God in a more profound way than ever before.

Jesus promised not to leave us orphans. He wants to be with us and guide us. There is a way to deal with today's situation, but only God knows this way. We need wisdom from on high. I believe that it is time to turn to God in intercession. The prayers of the friends of God have a tremendous power to change the course of history, to change the fate of our generation.

Article © copyright 1983, 2019 by Ralph Martin.

Ralph Martin is president of Renewal Ministries, an organization devoted to Catholic renewal and evangelization. Ralph also hosts The Choices We Face, a widely viewed weekly Catholic television and radio program distributed throughout the world. Renewal Ministries is also actively involved in assisting the Church in more than 30 different countries through leadership training, evangelistic conferences and retreats, and the publication and distribution of Catholic resources.

Ralph is the author of a number of books, including Will Many Be Saved? and The Urgency of the New Evangelization: Answering the Call. He and his wife Anne have six children and seventeen grandchildren and reside in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.

Top illustration of spiritual attack on God's Word in Scripture (c) by Kevin Carden
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