Steve Maltz is a UK author of many books. The purpose of this blog is to take a closer look into – How the Church Lost the Truth. The title should immediately grab our attention as it is deliberately provocative – what do you mean the Church has lost the truth?! But as we as take a closer look this will be explained.
This is not a chapter by chapter review – we simply want to cover the main points the author raises.
The book starts looking at what he calls, “the Good, the Bad and the Ugly”. God gives His clear instructions to His chosen people but then they are so easily taken in by the pagans religions of the people surrounding them. Even with the miracles God displayed, they still drifted away and embarked on a repetitive cycle of coming back to God before returning to apostasy and unfaithfulness.
Even when the Church was born shortly after Jesus’ death and resurrection the struggles continued, those who taught the truth often are isolated and persecuted by the surrounding people. Almost all the disciples were martyred for speaking the true gospel message and within a very short time this message started to be subtly changing! The overuse of allegory took a grip in theological circles and has been with us ever since.
The approach we take to interpreting scripture (our hermeneutics) is key to understanding its truth. Exegesis and eisegesis are fundamental in this – are we drawing conclusions based on what the scripture says (exegesis), or are we taking our predetermined conclusions and making the text fit around them (eisegesis)? Steve correctly points out that exegesis is “the way we should approach the Bible.” It is also important understand the different “levels” of interpretation in Jewish exegesis called Pardes which Steve details.
The church is steeped in tradition – throughout history, extra-biblical traditions have crept into church life and it can difficult to separate truth versus fiction which can only be detrimental to our relationship with God. By reading into the culture and context Scripture was written, we can determine if these traditions are Biblical or not!
Traditions that have no support in the Bible can only have a negative effect on our relationship with God, yet the church is full of these man-made traditions which the unsuspecting congregations superstitiously adhere to and worse still, often base their salvation on. Church leaders have a huge responsibility to interpret scripture correctly and to test everything against Scriptural truths – they are to be watchman, guarding followers against deception. This is where the church appears to have lost truth – one wonders if the Bible has any authority within church circles when observing some of the bizarre traditions many churches hold to!
The book covers five main areas where Steve feels the Church has lost its truth: Creation, Israel, Salvation, Hell, and End Times which we will look into.
Creation – six literal days or otherwise?
A plain reading of Genesis will lead to an understanding of a six-day creation week, this is confirmed further in Exodus as an example/pattern for the Israelites to follow in a direct quote from God:
For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. (Exodus 20:11)
Steve asks what is our starting point the Bible or science? And this is the main issue – Scripture clearly describes a six-day creation which has been all but abandoned in the majority of UK churches.
This leaves us scratching our heads, wondering why don’t they trust God’s Word? When Greek thinking scholars began introducing unwarranted symbolism and allegory into the early church, this was a dangerous precedent which seems to be the most common way to interpret the creation account. We have vocal evolutionists who mock the six-day creation account and many church leaders, who do not have the Bible as their starting point, are happy to compromise to their arguments. Is the observable evidence really on the side of the evolutionists? We certainly do not think so which we explain in our article Are the Bible and Science compatible?
Steve correctly points out that before God comes into our lives we all have a set of beliefs, we all have a background. Once we have God in our lives, this should cause us to adjust some of these beliefs? This is can be very difficult, we may have to humble ourselves, but if want that close relationship with God we have to be led by Him to the truth no matter what others say.
Israel – a prophetic or rejected entity?
Israel has become a very hot topic with events in the Middle East so it is critical that churches have the correct Biblical understanding on the Jewish people otherwise they could fall foul of media bias and serious theological error. Steve says that in the past people did not have their own Bibles so had little choice but to be led by their church leaders. But now, in the UK at least, Bibles are easily available so there is no excuse for not reading directly from God’s word. Unfortunately many see Israel being thought of as a rejected entity with the false teaching of “replacement theology” being commonplace across a large majority of UK churches. This is a large topic, we look more into this erroneous teaching in our article – Has the Church replaced Israel?
Israel is God’s prophetic clock, the future scriptural prophecies are centred around Israel so if we do not have the correct understanding here, there is a real risk of not being ready when events escalate!
There is an added spiritual element to this, the nearer we get to the End Times the more Satan will be at work (if this could even increase!). We see this now with anti-semitism rising around the globe but, even more concerning, also within the church! The hatred against Israel and the Jewish people will continue to increase, as scripture says. Jesus, the coming King, is returning to Israel, Satan is aiming to turn people away from the chosen land!
Salvation – Jesus, the only way to God?
It is astounding that even this topic has to be discussed in relation to the church! As Steve states “What’s more important, tolerance or truth?” and this is what it boils down to, are we trying to please – the people who attend the church or God?
We live in an age where everyone wants to get along and we have reached the point where many churches have diluted or redefined the gospel message to be more appealing. Steve is correct that we can make the scriptures say anything we want if we inject our own meaning into the text.
God is unfathomably loving and the gospel message of love needs to be told but the message cannot stop there otherwise people will incorrectly assume love outweighs God’s other attributes. God’s love is shown by giving His Son to die for our sins, but God is also just! He cannot ignore the sin in us and ultimately we will all be judged! Many churches are failing to give the basic gospel message, people need to understand why they need Jesus!
Jesus did not compromise in His message so nor should the church! Jesus is the only way, people will disagree with this but the church is not here to please people, it is here to guide people to salvation through Jesus Christ only. The church should not add anything to the cross, we are saved through faith only. The church will be labelled as intolerant but staying true to saving gospel of God and aiming to be Spirit-led when interpreting Scripture should be every churches goal!
Hell – is it really as bleak as we are told?
Jesus Christ is our ultimate example if He spoke on Hell more than Heaven shouldn’t we? No one likes the thought of eternal punishment but that does not mean we should be embarrassed by something Jesus taught! If you are embarrassed by the concept of hell you do not understand the reason for it and why there has to be that eternal separation from God.
Hell is hardly mentioned in UK churches as it seems the thought of upsetting someone is too much and we would not want to risk the precious attendance levels! Keeping silent on the truth is a shocking compromise to popular opinion but all too common, unfortunately.
Steve correctly points out that the thought of hell should cause us all to evangelise with more urgency as we all have family and friends who are not saved. Knowing their destination, if they die without being saved, must encourage us to speak the truth in a loving way.
End Times – how are things going to be wrapped up?
End times prophecy is a hotly debated topic, there are many different views that are all said to be based on Scripture yet future prophecy is hardly talked about in UK churches! With the Bible containing over 20% prophecy, we can tell that God wanted us to know and to be watching. Future prophecies are a very exciting subject and all serious Christians are eagerly waiting for Jesus’ Second Coming, so why is the church silent on this topic?!
Steve goes through the different methods eschatological events can be viewed:
preterism – there is no supernatural knowledge of the future so all biblical eschatological events have already happened in the past.
historicism – the eschatological events in the NT were completely fulfilled by the Church and that the events in Revelation were fulfilled in 70 A.D.
polemicism (an allegorist) – the eschatological prophecies are given to encourage us in times of persecution but not to be taken as actual events.
futurism – eschatological prophecies still in the future and will be fulfilled in the last days.
When looking at End Times everything stems around the 1000 Millennium reign described in Revelation – is it in our future (premillennialism), in the past (postmillennialism), or to be taken symbolically (amillennialism)? As Steve says the majority of British churches are in the amillennialism camp, meaning they do not give much thought for End Times. We are not going to cover all the details here but to simply wash away so many prophecies as allegory is a massive error, and those church leaders are denying their listener’s truthful teaching. Most of them have probably never heard of the rapture before!
Even if we have the correct understanding of the future prophecies there are two different approaches on how these prophecies will be fulfilled. The Hellenistic approach, adopted heavily in the Western churches, is that where only one of the four above methods is used. Whereas the Hebraic thought is that all are used at the same time. The Western mindset sees prophecies as prediction and fulfilment whereas the Hebraic idea is of a pattern of multiple fulfillments until there is one ultimate fulfilment. Each of these fulfillments in the pattern teaches us about the ultimate fulfilment. This is not always an easy mindset to grasp, but if we are truly trying to understand Scripture as God intended we should aim to understand the original intent.
Overall, as you can probably tell, we agree with Steve that the church has lost its truth and unfortunately there are other areas that could be covered but these are definitely the core ones. So how can the church find the truth again? As Steve says it is ultimately going back to pure Bible teaching and trust in what the Word says. It is as simple as this, but the difficulty comes with the church leaders recognising this themselves! Many church leaders, unfortunately, want to try and fit into this world more and to fit into the society around them even though society moves more away from God each day!
There is a spiritual element to all this as the closer we get to Jesus Christ’s Second Coming the more spiritual warfare we can expect to see…Satan knows time is short! The symptoms of a Laodicean church are now prominent across the UK and Satan has diluted the teaching of many leaders, turning them away from the truth in scripture.
We recommend reading this book as it covers much more detail than we have covered in this quick review. These are serious areas of Biblical doctrine, with Jesus’ deity being among the most important – if the church is teaching a different Jesus then this can only have catastrophic consequences. The gospel message is a hostile message, it will upset people, but this does not mean we change it to be more acceptable!
Scripture is very clear that church leaders have a responsibility to teach sound doctrine and to “feed the flock”. God will hold them accountable for their teaching:
The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock. (1 Peter 5:1-2)
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (1 Timothy 2:15)
Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. (Titus 1:9)
Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you. (Hebrews 13:17, emphasis added)
But we all also have a responsibility to understand Scripture, we are blessed in the UK that Bibles are easily available to us. We are commanded to always be ready to give an answer:
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: (1 Peter 3:15, emphasis added)
We cannot do this if we do not read and study Scripture ourselves! This will help to determine if your church leader is preaching accurately. Allow the Holy Spirit to guide you, maybe God wants you to speak to the leadership in your church or to worship at a different church but His glory and praise should be our guide! There is a remnant of good churches still in the UK – allow God to show you where to go!