Occasionally war veterans gather to re-enact an old battle. Their uniforms are authentic and their weapons are replicas, but when the smoke clears, nothing has been changed. It is all done for entertainment. I fear that sometimes people in the conservative holiness movement are fighting yesterday's battles. They ride their hobby horses and tear down straw men, but they accomplish nothing.
There is a real battle going on. It is a battle between the Church and the world. Though the battle was won at Calvary, there remains much land to be possessed. Each generation fights the same enemy, but on different battlegrounds. The first commandment prohibits idolatry and is applicable to all periods of time. At one point in time, idolatry was associated with groves of trees. Under those trees the heathen worship continued. For this reason, Deuteronomy 16:21 forbids the planting of groves of trees. It became such an issue that in Judges 6, God directed Gideon to cut down the community grove. Today, the Church does not oppose idolatry by cutting down trees, but she still opposes idolatry in other forms.
According to the New Testament, one of the issues facing the early Church was the eating of meat offered to idols. Paul told the Church that since an idol is inanimate, it can exercise no control and that they could not become demon possessed by eating such meat. However, he warned the strong not to become stumbling blocks for the weak. This is not longer an issue today, but the fact that Paul devoted an entire chapter, 1 Corinthians 8, to the problem indicates that it was an issue in his day.
Much later in church history, there developed the Iconoclastic Controversy. Religious art had been created to help the uneducated visualize Bible scenes. In time, superstition caused the people to pray directly to those works of art. During the Protestant Reformation, many works of art were seized and destroyed because they had become idols. Today Protestants accept religious art as an expression of spiritual truth (provided it is not worshipped), but the battle against idolatry continues on other fronts.
There was a time in holiness circles when a necktie was considered an indication of pride. A few years back the drug culture influenced many to become sloppy in their appearance. Now the necktie is almost a badge of conservatism. It is easy to become sidetracked fighting a dead issue. If Satan cannot get us to surrender, he delights in getting us to waste their ammunition fighting one another over personal notions. There is a battle being fought and Christians need to get on the front line. What are the issues of the '80s?
No major Wesleyan denomination today will stand squarely for the inerrancy of the bible. In the 1920s, the fundamentalist-modernist controversy divided most old-line churches. In the conservative churches that were formed at the time, the same issues are being fought again. We must stand without apology for the fundamental doctrines of the faith. We must be aware of new attacks on our faith such as neo-orthodoxy, liberation theology, ecumenicism, and process theology. We need to oppose the cults, the charismatics, the antinomians, and the Pharisees. We must make revival, transformation, and evangelization our priorities. We must fight ignorance, apathy, and fanaticism.
Not only is the Church under attack, but the family is also. We must stop the abortion epidemic in America or God will bring judgment upon our nation. Currently, abortion is the most prevalent surgical procedure in the U. S. and about 1 1/2 million innocent babies are being slaughtered every year. The homosexuals are being accepted as merely choosing an alternate lifestyle and as a minority, they are fighting for their civil rights. We must fight pornography. We have not done our duty merely to refrain from owning a television set. We are our brother's keeper and we must fight the violence, immorality, and humanistic bias on our neighbor's set or his blood will be on our hands. We must oppose easy divorce and the unscriptural annulment of marriages.
The Christian school is an extension of the home and the local church. It, too, is under severe attack. Churches and parents are almost daily fighting in the courts for control of their children. The Church must understand this issue and be willing, if necessary, to break the laws of the land in order to keep the law of God. Pastor Sileven has been resisting the State of Nebraska for five years in its interference with the educational ministry of his church. He has been in and out of jail and cannot get justice. Recently, the Amish and Mennonite communities have become so alarmed that many are selling out and moving out of Nebraska.
There was a day in America when the holiness leaders led the fight against slavery and later worked for the Prohibition Amendment. Today, many seem to be fighting yesterday's battles and are aware that something is wrong, but they are not sure what the real problem is. The most obvious target for many preachers is fashions. The real battle is more serious. The Church is in a life or death struggle with humanism for the control of this nation. She must either influence the world or it will influence her.
Many who oppose worldliness in dress have adopted worldly thought patterns. Many seem unaware and unconcerned about the real issues. Jesus declared that is the salt loses its flavor, it is good for nothing. It is time to reject pietistic tendencies and fight the real issues of today. Years ago Luther observed:
If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at the moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proven, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides, is merely flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.