The Departure Syndrome plagues Christendom. The Departure Syndrome ruins churches, derails movements, sparks compromise, initiates heresy, tears down upright lifestyles, and damns people eternally. The Departure Syndrome takes place when people depart from the truth of the Bible. It can happen slowly—even imperceptibly—but it does happen. It may not happen flagrantly, but can happen neglectfully—but it does happen. When a departure occurs, failure results. Feeling replaces substance. Hunch replaces codified information. Emotion replaces truth. Personal cogitation replaces Divine revelation. What this calls for is staying true to the Word in an ever-changing world. Here’s how to do it.
The Difficulty of Staying True to the Word in an Ever-Changing World
When we talk of “departing from God’s Word,” or “neglecting the Bible,” any conservative Christian would raise his or her hands in horror and object to that kind of iniquity. Few groups actually dive into compromise and Bible-departure in such an intentional way. One of the difficulties of staying true to the Word is that the process of departure is gradual and even imperceptible. It may involve mere neglect of the Word, or it could involve subtle reinterpretation of certain passages. The problem is so pervasive that it actually affects movements en masse. It affects educational centers and mainline denominations. It’s not easy to stop a departure that you don’t realize is happening.
Another difficulty comes from the assault of the world. As the title of this post suggests, the world is ever changing. The Word is not. Tenaciously clinging to an ancient book, derided by science, scoffed by atheists, ridiculed by liberals, and questioned by critics becomes passé. It’s embarrassing. Contemporary culture shifts and changes. The idea of a touchstone of truth is totally irrelevant. Postmodernity, the prevailing philosophical trend, only believes in one absolute—the disavowal of any absolute. Self-contradictory as it may be, this philosophy affects the thinking of millions of Americans, even Christians. Because of this influence, Christians navigate a flawed pseudo-belief in the Bible by reading it and then simply interpreting it based on “what it means to me.” Listen to any small group Bible study and that phrase, “means to me,” will probably come up at some point.
Staying True to the Word Starts with Inspiration
The Bible is not about “what it means to me.” The Bible is about what it means. God decided the meaning, because He wrote it down. The corrective to the Departure Syndrome is to understand some of the basic tenets of the doctrine of bibliology.
- The Bible is inspired by God (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21; Matthew 5:17-18).
- Every single word of the Bible is inspired by God (Matthew 5:17-18; Luke 24:44).
- The Bible is completely free of any error of any kind (Ex. 34:27; 1 Peter 1:21; John 10:35).
- The Bible is the source of authority for everyone, and is profitable for spiritual growth (Josh 7:14; James 1:18; 2 Tim. 3:17; 1 Cor. 2:9-13).
The doctrine of inspiration, briefly laid out in those four bullet points, is foundational to every part of the Christian life. Inspiration is where it all begins. Without believing what the Scripture says about its own authority is at the root of ever occurrence of the Departure Syndrome.
How to Stay True to the Word in an Ever Changing World
Finally, some practical advice. It’s not merely enough to identify the problem and point to the right doctrine. It’s more important to act on what we know we should do because of the problem. What we should do is run in faith to the Word.
- Read your Bible. Only by throwing yourself into a study of the Bible will you begin to grow in your understanding of the Bible. Develop a consistent method of reading the entire Bible—cover to cover. Read the Bible’s details, and absorb the plain truth of what they say. Meditate on truths about God. Make it a daily practice to study the Bible.
- Study the doctrine of the Bible. The doctrine of bibliology isn’t just a dry-as-dust theological topic for seminarians and professors. It’s at the lifeblood of every believer’s life. Find a theology handbook and start uncovering the glorious truths of the doctrines of inspiration. It will ground your faith and grow your confidence.
- Study the principles of Bible study. The modern age has introduced a litany of creative ways to interpret the Bible. Creative interpretation is not becoming of right doctrine. The proper way to interpret is to understand and accept the plain and literal meaning of the Bible. Obviously, there are other issues, and it would be worthwhile to study for yourself the principles of Bible study. Hermeneutics, which is the science of interpreting God’s Word, is a fascinating topic that will be very profitable.
- Pastors, teach the Bible carefully. If you are in the position of teaching the Bible, you have a special task before you. Whether you’re a pastor, a Sunday School teacher, a small group leader or simply give a devotional from time to time, teach the Word carefully. Do not allow your own feelings or senses to govern the interpretation of the text. Do your spadework, understanding the text and its related passages so you can explain exactly what that passage means.