We are in great danger not only from the mighty forces outside our country but from something far more dangerous within our own ranks. The deep convictions that drove our founders from the shores of Europe have been distinguishing this land of ours. These same deep convictions, perhaps intensified by hardships and sacrifices, projected themselves through the newer generations born on this soil. For more than a hundred years after the establishment of this government, the average American was characterized by his personal convictions, specifically in religion and government. America grew some of the tallest giants of all times in these two fields. Our hearts are stirred as we turn the pages of history to read the daring and deeds of these stalwarts of church and state. It was not simply following alluring personalities but of reaping from those who had well-founded faith in God, the Bible, and the saving grace of Christ. Our citizens sounded out great fundamentals of freedom. We are not in any sense forgetting that there have always been foolish, evil, and corrupt men in private and public life; nor are we overlooking the fact that standards have changed in the changing generations, but we are asserting that our fathers had enough conviction of soul to give this nation a worthy beginning and a glorious adventure in the right direction. Their rugged convictions and their simple faith inspired such assurance in the hearts of the people as stabilize the religion and government. We had great religious controversies, and often feelings ran high, but there was a healthy and growing spirit—people believed something rather than nothing.
Changes in the Land
We have come upon a new day. “Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph.” New notes have been struck in our national life. Strange and devilish doctrines have been openly taught. Ideals and teachings utterly foreign to the foundations of this country have been brazenly taught in our public schools, our colleges, our pulpits, and our publications. They are not merely an advance in the fields of human endeavor; they are wholly contrary to and destructive to our very foundations. They are wholly foreign to the American way of life and thought. The espousal of these doctrines in our state and church life can mean nothing but a complete revolution. If these things are generally accepted, the glorious America of our fathers will then become the land of religious and political corruption.
Word of God Indispensable for Right Convictions
The reason so many destructive things have had a place in the thinking of our people within the last few years is because there has been an almost total loss of true Bible-inspired convictions. In making this statement, I don’t overlook the fact that many of these hellish doctrines claim some Bible teaching as a sort of crutch for their systems, but in every case there is a clear perversion of the truth. Men and women have been so possessed with the idea of getting something new that they have forsaken any of the old landmarks on the least provocation. We believers, as a people, no longer stand out as a people of deep and abiding convictions born of long study of the Word of God.
More and more apparent is the fact that the average professor of religion in one of the so-called Protestant churches does not know what he believes, nor does he care what his church teaches. There is such a dearth of convictions as to make it possible for a man to change his religion as easily as he changes his coat. It doesn’t make any difference what church he belongs to; and, in fact, it doesn’t make any difference whether or not he belongs to any church at all. There is frequently a complete lack of any kind of conviction about the Bible, the plan of salvation, the Person of Christ, the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the ordinances, and a thousand and one other things. People tell us that this lack of conviction is broad-mindedness, tolerance, Christian charity, or some other manifestation of a noble heart, but we have the conviction that in just about ninety-nine cases out of every hundred it is pure, unadulterated ignorance of the truth of God or an utter disregard for that truth. We do not mean to say that such persons are ignorant in a general sense of the word, because they are frequently specialists in some other field of thought, but what we do mean is that they have no sort of adequate knowledge of the truth as it is in Christ Jesus.
Many of the false teachers are clever teachers. They fill the minds of their disciples with a clear program and many certainties of doctrine. They teach them that their own doctrines are wholly inclusive and utterly exclusive.
The Believer’s Responsibility
Isn’t it about time that the believers who know their Book wake up and begin to so teach that souls will grow great convictions about the truth? Saul, king of Israel, committed three great sins for which God judged him and from which he was never redeemed. He committed them because he had a “conviction-less” view of what God had declared. The first sin, God said, was that Saul did foolishly in rejecting the clear command of the Lord. In this sin he lost the crown rights for his posterity. The second sin, God said, was that Saul had rejected the word of the Lord. For this sin, Saul lost the kingdom, although he was permitted to clutter up the throne for a little longer. Saul’s third sin had to do with spiritual direction. Saul well knew that God had forbidden him and his people to have anything to do with witches and witchcraft; nevertheless, he consulted the witch of Endor. In this sin he lost his life. All of these sins grew out of one serious failure: thinking lightly of God’s Word. Our national life and church life are both in greatest peril due to this point. We as believers have a responsibility to do whatever we can in fostering a serious attitude toward the Scriptures. Our lives should reflect this attitude in attempting to show unbelievers the seriousness of heeding God’s Word.
We must pray that God will raise up some sturdy, sane, trustworthy, Bible-believing, God-fearing, Christ-honoring, lie-hating crusaders for this critical hour. We need a great revival. But there has never been a true revival apart from a great stress upon God’s Word. A revival of Heaven-sent blessings apart from God’s Word is utterly impossible. We must have a new emphasis upon God’s revealed truth and a new emphasis upon our loyalty to that truth. People are what they think in their hearts.
Robert L. Powell pastored Temple Baptist Church, Tacoma (now Fircrest), Washington, at the time he wrote this article, which appeared in the November 1940 Baptist Bulletin. Dr. Powell went to be with the Lord in 1970. This article has been condensed.