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Combatting Error

Our calling as faithful children of God is to maintain the truth in all of our confession and walk in the midst of this world. To do this necessitates more than a passivist attitude toward the various forms of error we unavoidably encounter along life’s pathway. We cannot simply tell ourselves that we will scrupulously avoid all error and leave it go at that. We are called as soldiers of Jesus Christ to fight the battles of faith and that means that we are to openly combat every form of error that besets us.

It would not be difficult to show that such a battle has been fought by the saints throughout the ages. The Lord Himself was continually met in the preaching of His gospel by the hostility of the Scribes and Pharisees whose hypocrisies He thoroughly exposed. The ministry of the apostles was a continual experience of opposition and persecution in which they ably withstood the assaults of the exponents of error. In the early centuries skeptical and subtle pagans focused their attack upon the truth when they wrote numerous clever and witty satires impugning the faith. It was a century of strenuous conflict for the truth, marked not only by the outward martyr conflict with paganism, but by the all-pervading influences of a subtle oriental theosophy which, had it prevailed, would speedily have dissipated historical Christianity into empty phantasies. The controversy with Gnosticism was largely a conflict about Scripture. The Scriptures were the direct object of attack. Such was the test of the church when she was yet young and feeble and her Canon of Holy Writ was still in the process of formation. Yet she could not be crushed. Manfully she overcame sin, the devil and his dominion and the truth emerged once again victoriously.

The Middle Ages witness that gruesome attempt by the Romish Church to suppress the reading and circulation of the Bible among the laity. Ignorance was regarded as a virtue. During the fifteenth century a renaissance of paganism literally honeycombed Europe with new forms of unbelief while the church, which should have resisted it with vigor, appeared to have sunk into deadliest corruption. It looked like a day of triumph for the forces of evil. Error appeared to be on the throne. Truly these were dark ages. Yet, in pious circles the study of God’s Word never wholly died out and translations into the speech of the people were made and circulated, mostly secretly, in the chief European countries. Thus was prepared the way for the grand revival of the Reformation, flinging open once more the gates of the knowledge of Holy Scripture, and great was the joy with which the enfranchised church entered on its inheritance. Once more the church stood as the citadel of truth in the midst of the world surrounded on every side by bitter foes.

It was not for long however. Soon the sky was again clouded. Philosophy and science, especially in the eighteenth century, made rapid advances and ere long the seeds of a new rationalism began to be sown in the very bosom of the church. A rampant Deist in England, a Voltaire-ism in France, and a superficial rationalism known as the “Illumination” in Germany ate into the very vitals of the church and for a time made Christianity almost a name of mockery in cultivated circles. In spite of this, however, the defenders of the faith would not be overcome. This formidable foe must be destroyed and the only effective weapon with which she could be combated was the Sword of the Spirit. With it the faithful remnant went on conquering and still to conquer.

To all of this history our present era is no exception. New and mightier weapons than ever before have been devised by unbelief to lead in the assault upon the truth. Our conflict today is far keener and more deadly than in any previous time. This time the entire so-called “free world” is literally honeycombed by a renaissance of dissipated religion promulgated by religious fanatics and deluded evangelists. And the church, which ought to resist it with vigor, has either been lulled into spiritual slumber or has been wooed by this devilish paramour. She actually prays for and blesses the very work that purposes to destroy her. What will the end of such apostasy be?

As Protestant Reformed Young People we must tenaciously cling to the truth and keep careful vigil against this foe. The call comes to the faithful band of Gideon, who are not afraid of the battle, to don the armour of God and engage this enemy in open combat. Let’s not be passivists toward error. Let’s not try to simply avoid him. Let’s sharpen the weapons of truth and meet him in open warfare. It’s the call to spiritual duty.

In heeding this call we do well to take note of the words of one, Mr. L. Read, a noted economist who, writing on certain social and economic questions, gave expression to a theological truth. We quote his words: “There is no limit to the forms error can take. Fighting error alone is an endless, futile undertaking. Knock down one error and new errors are always on hand to take its place. Error fighting by itself is phantom-fighting for the simple reason that it omits – indeed, it precludes – the presentation of what is right. Mere error fighting by itself, without a positive approach, leaves this problem: Even after convincing a person of his mistake you have given him no place to turn except to some other error among countless errors.”

Error fighting reminds one of the current war being fought in the orient. Thousands of the orientals are literally mowed down with mighty weapons of destruction but again there are thousands upon thousands more to take their place and suffer the same disaster. The leaders of our country have often said that victory in the far east can never be attained through mass slaughter but, to use the oft-heard phrase, “we must sell democracy to these people.” In the spiritual battle of the church there is no end to the massacre of errors. It is like endless slaughter without ever coming to the last ranks until God Himself wipes them all away with fire. They multiply faster than we can wipe them out. Our victory, therefore, is not in phantom-fighting but in “buying and holding forth the Word of Life…the Truth, that men through it may be brought to the knowledge of God in Jesus Christ our Lord. Doing this faithfully the Lord Himself will add daily unto His church such as should be saved. And it is He that puts down all our enemies. Confessing, walking and living the truth we shall emerge from this battle victoriously.

Hold fast, therefore, that which thou hast, that no one take thy crown. (Rev. 3:11)