In the trenches of WW I, the cry often rang out, “Hold the Line!” At football games cheerleaders lead out in the enthusiastic chant, “Hold that line,” as they encourage their team’s defense not to give up any valuable yardage to the opponent. As I view the current theological scene today, I would issue that same challenge to believers in Christ, “Hold the line!”
In 1983, an Avianca Airlines jet crashed while landing in Madrid, Spain. Investigators studying the accident made an eerie discovery. The black-box cockpit recorder revealed that several minutes before impact, a shrill, computer-synthesized voice from the plane’s automatic warning system told the crew repeatedly in English, “Pull up, pull up!” The pilot, evidently believing the system was malfunctioning, snapped, “Shut up, Gringo,” and switched it off. Minutes later, the plane plowed into the side of a mountain. The plane’s warning system was right, the pilot was wrong, and nearly two hundred people paid with their lives!
The next time you hear a pastor or Bible teacher being criticized for being “too doctrinal and not practical enough,” think about that tragic story of the plane crash. Why? Because doctrine–what the Bible teaches about God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, creation, sin, redemption, etc., is inherently and unavoidably practical. And what we believe determines how we behave. What that pilot believed about his airplane, his altitude, and his instruments all directly influenced his actions and led to real, visible, irreversible consequences. The same is true for you and me. What we believe, right or wrong, is always and inevitably practical, and will determine how we live. You cannot separate your belief from your practice. What you believe will always have consequences.
And, with that in mind, think about how much is riding on what you believe about the Bible. That is where we find truth about the origin of the universe, the nature of God and man, sin, redemption, morality, marriage, family, work, heaven, judgment, and eternity. The Bible is full of “doctrine” about “everything pertaining to life and godliness (II Pet. 1:3). If you ignore what the Bible teaches or have misconceptions about the content and nature of the Bible, that will affect every area of your life. There’s much we can afford to be wrong about, but Scripture is not one of them. The Bible is the foundation upon which our faith rests. What you believe and why you believe it is at the very heart of your Christianity.
The Apostle Paul, in writing to young Timothy, said: “But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times, some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons…For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry…Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you” (I Tim. 4:1; II Tim. 4:3-5; 1:13). Many people have turned away from the truth and are seeking fulfillment in all the wrong places and have become easy prey for the enemy. Some may tell us that our beliefs are archaic, that they are no longer necessary in this advanced technological age and age of “spiritual enlightenment.” From others we hear the historic Christian doctrine referred to as mere crutches for the weak and feeble or “foxholes” for the fearful. Then there are those who would have us compromise, be it ever so little, for the sake of an ecumenical oneness or a more effective social effort, or to build up our numbers. Still others would have us emphasize an issue until we go to seed on it to the exclusion of other truth–or to ride a “hobby horse” to its death. Some would have us place an individual experience or human reason above the clear teaching of God’s Word.
Now, I’m all for unity within the Body of Christ, and I realize there is room for varying opinions on some minor issues, but this must never be at the expense of the single basic doctrine of the Christian faith. Therefore, we must make every effort to “Hold the Line”–to maintain doctrinal purity. We must, by the power of the Holy Spirit, resist every suggestion to compromise our beliefs or to deny the truths of God’s Word. We should avoid theological arrogance–being “frigidly” and “rigidly correct”–but let us be firm in our commitment, as we “contend for the faith” (Jude 3) and faithfully “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). When it comes to Bible doctrine, “Hold the Line!”