The impact of liberalism and modernism on the church has been substantial. They have undermined the church’s confidence in God’s Word. This article shows that confidence can be restored only by God when the church upholds the authority of Scripture.

Source: The Evangelical Presbyterian, 2009. 2 pages.

Recovering Our Confidence

Evangelical Christianity in the 21st century faces what could be described as a lack of confidence. The threat of liberalism, modernism and general apathy has led to a withdrawal of many evangelicals from the battle for truth. So often we seem to be in our small corner and afraid to come out of it. The church at large, in seeking to be more user friendly and seeker sensitive to the community, has forsaken the God appointed means of reaching the lost with the Gospel of God.

Ecclesiastical Amusement🔗

Much of what passes for worship today is nothing more than entertainment. ‘Trendy’ worship is a mark of the church in general and the apprehension of coming before a thrice Holy God is noticeably absent. Why, we may ask? Simply because worship has become more man pleasing than God centred.

John Piper has written “Everybody knows that with the right personality, the right music, the right location, and the right schedule you can grow a church without anybody really knowing what doctrinal commitments sustain it, if any. The long-term effect of this ethos is a weakening of the church that is concealed as long as the crowds are large, the band is loud, the tragedies are few, and persecution is still at the level of preference.” 1

It is a far cry from the guidance given by the Westminster Divines in The Westminster Directory for Public Worship, that calls on all entering into worship to be reverent and in a grave and seemly manner to take their seats and to give attention unto the reading and preaching of the Word.

The church has lost its courage and convictions and we are witnessing in our generation national denominations abandoning the authority of the Word of God in order to be accommodating to the varied demands of this modern age. It is hard to be a Christian in a world that says the only certainty is that there is no certainty. Sometimes our faith is shaken to its very foundations and our confidence is weakened when we hear the utterances of some church leaders denying the very fundamentals of the Christian faith.

Evangelical Courage🔗

It takes courage and conviction to stand for Biblical principles today but that is what the church is called to do. David F Wells in his recent book, The Courage to be Protestant, is largely devoted to looking at the truth the evangelical church is to proclaim. The Acts of the Apostles remind us of the courage and boldness with which they proclaimed the Gospel in synagogues, in the market place and before the rulers of the land. They proclaimed the good news of the Gospel with confidence and with assurance knowing that God was with them. Preaching was central to their evangelism and outreach because they knew it was God’s ordained means of the church’s blessing. The preaching of the cross is foolishness to the world but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Luther said, “God lives in the preacher’s mouth” and we who worship and those who preach must humbly ask God to give us that courage and boldness in our churches today to proclaim the truth of his Word.

Essential Truths🔗

Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians 2:15 “So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us.” In many places the Scriptures tell us to stand firm, to guard the Gospel and to have faith in God. The church needs to recover the authority of God’s Word. Many evangelicals hold to a weak view of Scripture and no longer affirm the inerrant truth of all that the Bible teaches. The Psalmist asks the question: “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Ps 11:3) Instead of looking at the enemy and wondering how we can overcome them, David tells us to look to the Lord. God is in his holy temple, seated on the throne in heaven and his eyes behold and test the sons of men. The truth of God’s sovereignty is a precious doctrine and a source of great encouragement and comfort to God’s people in situations of trial and difficulty.

J C Ryle gave an address at Oxford University in 1880 entitled “Foundation Truths.” 2Taking his text from 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, he expounded the essential truths of the Christian faith, the death of Christ for our sins and his resurrection on the third day. The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation and Paul proclaimed Christ and him crucified. It has always been the case that when the great doctrines of the faith have been proclaimed God has come in power and with much blessing. Pentecost, the Reformation, the awakenings of the 18th century and subsequent periods of revival all point to this fact.

These central doctrines need to be recovered in the pulpits of our churches. Francis Schaeffer has written: “In the end we must realise that the spirit of the age – with all the loss of truth and beauty, and the loss of compassion and humanness that it has brought – is not merely a cultural ill. It is a spiritual ill that the truth given us in the Bible and Christ alone can cure.” 3Will we go forward into battle as a confident people, marching against the foe “With the cross of Jesus going on before”?


  1. ^ Counted Righteous in Christ, John Piper, IVP, 2002, p 22.
  2. ^ The full address can be found in The Upper Room, J C Ryle, Banner of Truth, 1970, p 56.
  3. ^ The Great Evangelical Disaster, Francis Schaeffer, Kingsway, 1985, p 40.

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