―” …And remember, brethren, we are drifting.” With that ominous catchphrase, J.D. Tant closed the many articles he wrote in the early twentieth century for the Firm Foundation and for the Gospel Advocate. He also often used this warning to close sermons in gospel meetings.
Tant was applying to his day the warning of Hebrews 2:1, ―Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things that were heard, lest haply we drift away from them‖ (ASV).
A study of Church History highlights the continual cycle of apostasy and restoration. Religion is always on the move – either aligned with the revealed will of God or adrift in the currents of human opinion.
In his day, Tant saw many budding trends among churches of Christ that later would go to seed in the Progressive movement. As congregations focused more on social acceptance than on biblical fidelity, Tant saw the church leaving the secure mooring of God’s truth; he saw them drifting away from the distinctiveness of simple New Testament Christianity. Seeing this danger he sounded an alarm.
In our day, Phil Sanders has sounded the same warning in his book Adrift and in its companion volume, A Faith Built on Sand. These books will help church leaders and concerned Christians make sense of the kaleidoscopic transformations embroiling churches of Christ.
Sanders’ analysis is important because the world in which we live is quite different from the world of the early twentieth century. Our society has lost confidence in the truth and seeks to find meaning through life’s experiences.
This shift away from objective truth into subjective experience explains the rampant materialism and blatant sexuality overwhelming our culture. People are seeking for meaning in momentary pleasure rather than in eternal truth. This shift in Western culture has affected every religious group, as well.
In this setting, churches of Christ have faced questions concerning the boundaries of the acceptable work, worship, and fellowship of the church. We face doctrinal challenges concerning male spiritual leadership and the inspiration and authority of the Scriptures. Most tellingly, Progressives even question the Lord’s way of salvation revealed in Scripture.
Rather than fighting each battle on its own, the central question posed by Tant and Sanders settles them all. Are we going to remain faithful to the revealed word of God, or are we going to launch out on a course of our own choosing? Every conflict facing the Lord’s church begins at this point. We can either remain moored to the faith once for all delivered to the saints, or we will be adrift in a sea of uncertainty. ~~ Gregory Alan Tidwell, Bulletin Digest