By Mark Dunagan
The Last Generation to be indoctrinated?
One advocate of the New Hermeneutic argues, "Mine was the last generation that would tolerate indoctrination." The inference is that the Churches of Christ, that stress book, chapter and verse preaching, are indoctrinating their members. The word "indoctrinates" means, "To instruct in or imbue (permeate or inspire) with doctrines, theories, or beliefs, to instruct or teach" (Webster p. 717). But the word has also acquired a negative meaning, that is, propaganda and prejudices are being imparted rather than unbiased knowledge. In response to the above charge, note the following:
Everyone Indoctrinates: The advocates of the New Hermeneutic preach sermons, speak at lectureships, write articles and publish books. For what purpose is all this done? To teach, instruct, and convince people of a particular doctrine. So how does one avoid being indoctrinated in prejudice or propaganda? If the Bible is not the Word of God, then there is no way to avoid believing prejudiced teachings. For all views, theories, beliefs, and convictions would only be the inventions of fallible men and women. But if the Bible is the Word of God, then propaganda and prejudice can be avoided if I simply believe what God has said, and allow myself to be "indoctrinated/taught" by the Master Teacher (John 6:44-45). Paul viewed preaching the Word as the only sure way to avoid being sucked in by myths and fables (2 Timothy 4:2-4).
Their View of Christ-Centered Preaching
"Would it not follow then that anyone who proclaims Jesus as the risen Christ and the Savior of the world is preaching the good news of the gospel, all of the gospel? Granted, the likes of Billy Graham may err in not properly instructing people how to respond to the good news by repenting of their sins and being baptized for the remission of their sins like Peter did on the day of Pentecost, but if one preaches Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world he is preaching the gospel, apart from what he might or might not say about baptism" (Restoration Review. Leroy Garrett, May 1992 p. 288).
This is nothing more than the old denominational argument of "preach the man, not the plan". Many in this movement are somehow under the impression that when I preach on such subjects as "What must I do to be saved', that I have departed from preaching Christ". Jesus didn't distinguish between "the man and the plan?" He viewed teaching on baptism and repentance as part of preaching the gospel (Mark 16:15-16; Matthew 4:17,23). In fact, Jesus said that preaching the gospel includes preaching "all that He taught" (Matthew 28:18-20).
When the apostles preached Christ, they preached baptism (Acts 8:12; 8:35), the kingdom of God, and God's authority. When Paul stood before Felix he preached on the topics of righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come (Acts 24:25). Was Paul preaching the gospel on this occasion or not?
In the same article, the writer said, "Did any New Testament evangelist ever preach baptism?" The answer is "Yes!" In Acts 8:36, where did the Eunuch get the idea that he needed to be baptized? Someone had to tell him, instruct him, and preach to him! The inference is clear, "preaching Jesus" (Acts 8:35) included preaching on subjects such as baptism (8:36). In addition, if a preacher is commanding you to be baptized, isn't he preaching it? (Acts 2:38; 10:48; 22:16)
Without the "plan", the message about the "man" is meaningless: "A gospel which tells men that they can be saved without telling them how to be saved is useless!" The apostles instructed people concerning the question, "What must I do to be saved", and preached on this subject (Acts 2:37-41 "With many other words he ..kept on exhorting them". Exhorting them to do what? Acts 16:31-34 "and they spoke the word of the Lord to him").
What is true Christ/Cross Centered Preaching? The mistake being made by the advocates of the New Hermeneutic', is that they only see one side of the cross, that is, Jesus died for our sins. But the ramifications of the death, burial, and resurrection also include the fact that Jesus is "Lord" (Acts 2:36; Matthew 28:18).
True Cross-Centered/Christ-Centered preaching involves preaching a message that demonstrates respect for the word of the Lord revealed through His apostles (John 16:13; 1 Cor. 14:37). Any time that I preach a lesson that uses the Word of the Lord to teach truth, expose error, and so on, that lesson is Christ-Centered. It is interesting to note what an inspired writer considered to be foundational topics among Christians (Hebrews 6:1-2 Faith, repentance, baptism, heaven, hell) Such subjects are called "the elementary teaching about the Christ", that is, Christ-centered lessons (6:1).
Remember Jesus did preaching after He ascended (Revelation Chapters 2-3): What is the subject matter of these two chapters? The advocates of the New Hermeneutic complain about lessons that expose denominational error, claiming that such are not Christ-Centered lessons. In fact, Randy Mayeux, preacher for the Preston Road church in Dallas, said, "In the 1990's, diversity will be the only game in town." Well what does the Lord say? We should note that Jesus preached against various First Century religious sects. (Revelation 2:6 "..the Nicolaitans, which I also hate"; 2:15,20 "who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray"). He also mentioned "false apostles" (2:2), and called a Jewish synagogue, "the synagogue of Satan'"(3:9).
Exposing Error is Looked Down Upon
But everyone exposes what they consider to be wrong: The very people in this movement that complain when a gospel preacher exposes denominational or any kind of error, practice the same type of preaching themselves. Beware of the myth, "We only preach positive sermons", nobody does that! In fact, some of the biggest proponents of "only positive lessons", end up rebuking a lot of people in their lessons. As noted previously, Randy Mayeux , a strong supporter of this doctrine, delivered a sermon on the campus of Lubbock Christian University that was nothing more than a tirade against what the Church of Christ has preached for years. He claimed that the well-known tract, "Can we all understand the Bible alike", represents an ignorant viewpoint. He charged that the Scriptures couldn't be uniformly understood. Which of course makes 1 Cor. 1:10 rather meaningless. Note, if the Scriptures cannot be uniformly understood, then why is this preacher rebuking someone that claims they can? You see, no toleration is given to the view presented in the tract. But if the Scriptures cannot be uniformly understood, then all views should be tolerated! The above preacher is contradicting himself, for, "We cannot understand the Bible alike", is a uniform doctrine that he believes all must understand alike, and if they don't then they are ignorant.
The Apostles Exposed Error: Paul repeatedly answered false teachings in his letters (Romans 3:8.."as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say...whose condemnation is just". There's positive preaching for you! 6:1; 1 Corinthians 15:12; Galatians 3:1) The same advocates condemn debating. And yet Paul debated (Acts 17:2-3; Acts 15:1-4), and so did Jesus (Matthew 22), in fact, Jesus even took the offensive in this debate (Matthew 22:41 "Jesus asked them a question").
Positive preaching and negative preaching go hand in hand: Titus 2:11 "For the grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men". That's a positive statement, and sounds good. 2:12 "Instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires", now that is a negative statement! There are some things that grace says we cannot do (2Timothy 4:2).
Jesus and the apostles preached negative sermons: The entire sermon preached by Jesus in Matthew 23 was negative, contained arguments, strong statements, severe rebuke, clearly defined wrong actions, made a distinction between truth and error and left a feeling of condemnation upon those to whom it was addressed. Paul instructed Titus that he needed to reprove the members of the church on Crete in a severe manner (Titus 1:13 "reprove them sharply"-"speak to them as sternly as necessary" (Tay).
The fear of getting into a Theological Rut
"There seems to be a terrible dread among some, that they will do something which brethren have done before and therefore will fall into some theological rut" (GOT. Connie Adams 10-7-93 p. 4). This is the opposite extreme of those that don't want to do something scriptural for the simple reason, "Well, we have never done that before". Those in this movement seem to want to discard all traditional ways of doing things. They ignore the following facts:
Some traditions are good (2 Thessalonians 2:15): The word tradition means "a handing down", that is, something that has been handed down. Solomon at this point would argue that really nothing is entirely new (Ecclesiastes 1:9-11). So in reality everything, even new innovative forms of worship and church organization, have come from somewhere in the past. In fact, all the unscriptural changes that the New Hermeneutic is trying to bring into the Church are nothing more than denominational traditions. Hence everything is a tradition. The crucial issue is, "Who first handed down this particular practice or belief?" Did it come from God or men? (Heb. 1:1-2). We need to keep those teachings handed down from the apostles.
Jesus was in a rut according to their definition (Luke 4:16): While Jesus was upon the earth and living under the Law of Moses, He habitually met with other Jews every Sabbath Day, and went through the same synagogue routine every week. Likewise, the Lord's Supper that Jesus instituted for the New Covenant involves frequency, that is, doing the same type of thing every week (1 Cor. 11:25-26; Acts 20:7; 2:42). So does giving (1 Cor. 16:1-2).
Everything and anything has some form of habit or pattern: Various religious groups try to worship God differently every Sunday, less, God forbid, someone gets bored. But even such unstructured worship, performed week, after week becomes the "rut" entitled, "We must do something entirely different each week".
What type of worship does God condemn? God condemns worship that involves adding or subtracting from His word (Gen. 4:3-7; Lev. 10:1-3; 1 Sam. 15:22-23). Worship offered by the unrepentant (Isaiah 1:1-15), worship void of the human heart (Matt. 6:7) or from wrong motives (6:1), worship that doesn't give God the best (Mal. 1:8-10). But I never find God condemning people because they haven't innovated enough! And think: Did Jesus, the most Spiritual minded man of all time, ever introduce any new innovations of worship into the Jewish system? Rather, He invented the entire Jewish system Remember, the Lord's Supper was for a New Covenant, and not a new innovation into an already existing agreement between God and Israel. Any attempt to innovate on New Testament teaching is accusing Jesus of being behind the times, for He invented the entire New Testament system, including prayers, singing, the Lord's Supper, preaching and giving.
"They Didn't Have The Bible"
This is the argument that says that we can't use New Testament passages as proof-texts for or against some doctrine, because the First Century Christians didn't have a complete New Testament. They say we must not piece Scriptures together from all over the Bible in order to make an argument.
Of course, they piece Scriptures together to try to prove their points!
The reason that we can piece together passages, if that such passages are simply telling us what God commanded Christians in the first century. No, they didn't immediately have a complete New Testament, but the information they had (given them by inspiration and spiritual gifts) was the exact same information we have in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 11:23ff).
In addition, the New Testament itself tells us that early Christians are the bulk of the New Testament, even before the first century ended (2 Peter 3:16; Colossians 4:16).
Consider the parallel situation that existed with the Old Testament. Early Israelites did not have access to all the Old Testament books, yet Jesus and the Apostles gleaned passages from various locations in the Old Testament in precisely the same way we do from the New Testament. Jesus treated the Old Testament as an entire collection of books, a complete body of truth. Compare with the way that Jesus argues in Matthew chapter 22.
The following is where the New Hermeneutic is really headed. "We cannot equate the authority of the Bible with the authority of God as we can the authority of Christ and God, for the Bible is an earthen vessel. God is perfect, infallible, and infinite. The Bible as a human product is not. If the Bible was brought to us by an angel directly from heaven, having been dictated word-for-word by God Himself, so that its contents would be nothing less and nothing more than the actual words of God, then we could equate the authority of the Bible and the authority of God. But the Bible is clearly not that kind of book" (Leroy Garrett, Restoration Review, March 1987, p. 43).
It is noteworthy that Jesus and the apostles believed that the Scriptures were the Word of God right down to the smallest letter (Matthew 5:17-18; 2 Timothy 3:16). And the person who rejects the Scriptures is rejecting God (John 12:48).
This is the argument that says each one of us have been influenced by our culture and upbringing to the point that we cannot objectively study the Bible with an honest heart. "Underneath much of the discussion is the idea that we cannot ever arrive at the true meaning of a text because our own 'horizon' prevents us from achieving an undistorted perception of the horizon of the biblical writer" (Miller p. 150).
Of course, the advocates of the New Hermeneutic seem to exempt themselves from any cultural conditioning, for them claim to see the truth clearly.
Once again, the New Hermeneutic isn't anything new, for Rudolf Bultmann and others make the same point in their liberal denominational writings. The basic point being made is that truth is unattainable, which allows false teachers to spread their doctrines without challenge.
In fact, it is being argued that the purpose of the Bible is not to inform humans how to please God. Yet the biblical writers, including Jesus, repeatedly speak of man's entire earthly responsibility consisting of learning God's will and doing it (Ecc. 12:13; John 8:32; 2 Timothy 2:15; Acts 17:11; 1 Thess. 5:21; Heb. 5:14).
The New Hermeneutic and the 60's
When you really uncover what is going on here, you find people who don't believe in absolute truth, don't believe in an objective view of reality or the word of God, but rather approach everything subjectively, that is, "How does this feel to me?" Many writers have noted that the New Hermeneutic is nothing more than the double-talk of the liberal thinkers of the 1960's applied to Biblical interpretation. Basically, it is "do your own thing" and "whatever feels good, do it".
A classic example here is their view of "love". In the 1960's fornication was redefined as "love" while marriage was viewed as old-fashioned, traditional, and repressive. The truth of the matter is that marriage involves real love, while fornication is all about lust. The same mis-definition of love is trying to make its way into the church. That is, "love" doesn't talk about doctrine, love doesn't withdraw fellowship from people, and love doesn't expose false teachers, and so on. When in reality, true love does all those things (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). Jesus pointed out that true love cannot be divorced from what He taught (John 14:15). True love involves responsibility, accountability, defending the faith, rebuking those in sin, and speaking the truth in season and out of season.
When people try to argue that the New Testament is a love letter, not a law, remind them that God Himself calls the New Testament a "law" (James 1:25; Hebrews 8:6ff), and that Jesus connected love and "commands" together (John 14:15). Because God loves us, He gives us commands that when obeyed, bring us eternal, and many times, earthly happiness as well.