Dangers on the Safe Side (Part 1): Avoiding Controversy

Dangers on the Safe Side

For many Christians, controversy is undesirable. Debates, which were common in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, are rare today. In some ways, this is understandable. As our society has become more polarized and heated debates can erupt over issues that seem to be largely insignificant, it is tempting to want to stay “on the safe side” and avoid anything controversial (we do not want to “rock the boat”) so we can continue to get along with our brethren. However, there are dangers that come with avoiding controversy on spiritual issues.

Consider the example of the apostle Peter (also called Cephas):Continue Reading

Jacob Creath, Jr.: Willing to Be Ruined

Jacob Creath, Jr. (1799-1886) was one of many preachers in the nineteenth century who began to question the commonly held doctrines among the denominations of which they were a part. Creath had been associated with the Baptists. In 1826, he received a letter of commendation from the Baptist Church in Great Crossings, Scott County, Kentucky in which he was called a “beloved brother,” a “faithful minister,” and one who “earnestly and zealously contends for ‘the faith once delivered to the saints’” (Memoir of Jacob Creath, Jr., p. 24-25). However, in 1829, Creath received another letter from this same congregation, requesting that he address reports of the “heresy” that he was preaching.

“DEAR BROTHER — I send you the request of the greatest portion of the Crossing Church. Their desire is, that you will give your views of man as a sinner, and how the change takes place, so as to constitute him born again. Or, in our familiar way, as Baptists, we want your views of experimental religion; how a sinner is brought from a state of enmity against the Saviour to be a lover and worshiper of Him.

“This request has grown partly from reports, and partly from a number of brethren, who have heard you preach since your return from the South, conceiving that you had abandoned your old mode and views of preaching, under which their hearts were many times gladdened, and have sat under your ministry with great delight; and we would ask our divine Master to grant you his Spirit, that you may rightly divide the word of truth, giving saint and sinner ‘his portion in due season.’” (Ibid., p. 29)

When Creath’s uncle, Jacob Creath, Sr., heard of the letter, he paid a visit to discuss it and see how the younger Creath intended to respond. Both men were connected to the Baptist Association at that time; and while Creath’s uncle agreed with him on this matter, he wanted to be more cautious in dealing with the issue. When he heard what his nephew planned to reply, the elder Creath said “it would ruin our cause.” The younger Creath answered, “What I had said was true; and if truth ruined us, I was willing to be ruined” (Ibid., p. 30).Continue Reading

Dangers on the Safe Side: Introduction

Dangers on the Safe Side

It is common to hear someone make the statement that they are going to “stay on the safe side.” A variation of this is to say they are “erring on the side of caution.” What does this mean?

Cambridge Dictionary defines being “on the safe side” as being “especially careful to avoid something unpleasant.” Another definition is that it is “avoiding danger, with a margin for error.” The latter source also indicates that this idiom was first recorded in 1811; so for those of us in the United States, it is a phrase we have likely heard before.

Sometimes it is fine or even wise to “stay on the safe side.” However, there is a difference between wisdom and safety. Sometimes these will overlap, but not always. The Lord wants us to be wise and prudent, but we will not always be safe. This was the point in His warning to His disciples: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). If they attempted to avoid the danger that Jesus spoke of at all costs, they would no longer we conducting themselves with the wisdom He called them to exhibit.Continue Reading

Displeased with Jesus

Conspiracy against Jesus

Even though Jesus came to earth and did good, performed miracles, taught the truth, and eventually sacrificed His life on the cross, there were times when certain people were displeased with Him. There are a few occasions recorded in the gospels in which people were indignant with Jesus over what He permitted and/or what He was doing. Why were these people so upset with Jesus? Could we be guilty of the same attitude today? Let us consider these examples.Continue Reading

Top 5 on Plain Bible Teaching in 2021

As 2021 is quickly drawing to a close, it’s time for the annual “Top 5” post on Plain Bible Teaching (normally this has been the top 5 articles, but I’ve broadened that this year). Each year I like to go back and see what were the most-read articles on the site. This is always interesting to me, and hopefully is to you as well. If you missed these articles when they were originally posted, they’re definitely ones you should check out. These are the “top 5” articles based on the number of page views. And, something new this year that I haven’t thought to include before, I’m listing the “top 5” podcast episodes and YouTube videos as well.Continue Reading

Faith, Assumptions, and Matters of Chance

Mayfield, Kentucky tornado damage

Photo by Dave Malkoff – Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Christians are people of faith. The Scriptures are very clear that it is “impossible to please [God]” without faith (Hebrews 11:6), that we cannot obey the gospel without faith (Mark 16:16), and that we are “justified by faith” (Romans 5:1). More than anyone else, we should recognize not only that God exists, but that He “is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).

At the same time, while God has the power to do more than we could imagine, the Scriptures also indicate that there are times when things happen as a result of chance or happenstance. The wise man wrote, “I saw again under the sun that the race is not to the swift and the battle is not to the warriors, and neither is bread to the wise nor wealth to the discerning nor favor to men of ability; for time and chance overtake them all” (Ecclesiastes 9:11). When a race, battle, or some other event turns out unexpectedly, that does not necessarily mean that God was directly involved in the outcome. The wise man did not say that “the hand of God” or “the will of God” produced the unexpected result; rather, it was due to “time and chance” which God allows to happen in this life.

As I am writing this article, clean-up and recovery efforts are ongoing following a tornado that went through Bowling Green, Kentucky (and several other areas). Many homes and businesses were destroyed. Several people lost their lives and many more have been deeply impacted by losses sustained in the storm. Thankfully, our family was out of the path of the tornado. However, not far from us there were people who lost everything.

Following events like this one, it is natural to wonder why some were spared and others were not. Why did some lose all of their earthly possessions – or even their lives – while others suffered little or no damage? Was this simply a matter of chance or was it something more? As we contemplate questions like these, it is important that we understand the difference between conclusions that are matters of faith and ones that are simply assumptions.Continue Reading

Making Sin a Trivial Thing

Ahab

Now Ahab the son of Omri became king of Israel in the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years. Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord more than all who were before him.

It came about, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he married Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went to serve Baal and worshiped him. So he erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal which he built in Samaria. Ahab also made the Asherah. Thus Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel than all the kings of Israel who were before him.” (1 Kings 16:29-33).

Ahab was one of the more infamous kings in the Bible. In the passage above, he is said to have done “more to provoke the Lord God of Israel than all the kings of Israel who were before him” (1 Kings 16:33). When studying the history of Israel, then this becomes even more remarkable. While there were some good kings of Judah, all of the kings of Israel “did evil in the sight of the Lord” as Ahab did; but Ahab was worse than the rest of them.

One of the points made in the text above is that Ahab had departed so far from God’s will that it became “a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat” (1 Kings 16:31). Sin was seen as “trivial” because it was viewed as unimportant or unconcerning.

Sin is always a problem, but it is particularly dangerous when sin becomes trivial. We need to understand why this is. By looking at the example of Ahab, we can also see what factors in his life led him to view sin in this way so that we can guard against this as much as possible.Continue Reading