Evangelicals Twisting the Scripture

Evangelicals Twisting the Scripture

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The following blog piece comes from the article “Hospitality for Heretics” by Phillip Jensen on page 11 of The Briefing, issue 397, Jan-Feb 2012.  This excellent bimonthly periodical comes in a print version, but is also available on line.  An excerpt of this article is given below.  The rest of Phillip’s article can be viewed online here.

Philip speaks about the positive passages of Scripture regarding the Christian duty of hospitality.  He says that it “is therefore startling to read in John’s second letter: “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works” (2 John 10-11).  For some scholars this seems inconsistent with John’s emphasis upon love.

“The Rev C.H.Dodd was an ordained Congregationalist minister and a world famous New Testament scholar of the mid-twentieth century. He was a Professor of Divinity at Cambridge University, given the responsibility of training generations of church leaders. In his commentary on 2 John 10, Professor Dodd wrote that John had “incautiously expressed himself”, and recommended that we “decline to accept the Presbyter’s (i.e. John’s) ruling here as a sufficient guide to Christian conduct”.  Jesus’ love and death were for the whole world and so it is not “possible to exclude from its operation even the most obdurate heretic”. Thus we must keep on speaking terms with people “however disastrous their error may be”.

“So how does a Professor of Divinity, a New Testament scholar and an ordained clergyman explain his rejection of the teaching of the New Testament?  Simply by finding a context, outside the scriptures, that would make the Biblical command temporary, local and no longer applicable. It’s a method used to follow the world, rather than the word. It’s not hard to think of disputes, where even so-called Evangelicals, use this method.

“To discount the clear teaching of God’s word, professor Dodd suggested that John’s advice was for a “situation of extreme danger to the Church”, a situation of “being overwhelmed by a plausible and pseudo-Christian theosophy”…  By this method of so-called ‘scholarship’, John’s commands are reduced to “emergency regulations…in the hour of stress”.

“This method of dealing with politically incorrect scriptures enables people to maintain some degree of orthodox Christian standing while disagreeing with the Bible.

“The creation of purported historical scenarios to re-contextualise the clear teaching of scripture is a false method that evangelicals must avoid. An evangelical is not one who professes belief in the Bible as the word of God, but one who, without twisting it, lives by what it says (2 Peter 3:16, James 1:22).


  1. Don (Author)

    “An evangelical is not one who professes belief in the Bible as the word of God, but one who, without twisting it, lives by what it says (2 Peter 3:16, James 1:22)”

    Indeed, it is this that marks the distinction between a true follower of Christ and a ‘Pharisee’.

    • Martin Pakula

      It’s always great in Bible study to see someone who grapples with the Scriptures, not to have a nice theological argument, but to try and work out how they can do what it says!

  2. Don (Author)

    I came across this quote by Herman Bavinck.

    For if a minister is not convinced of the divine truth of the word he preaches, his preaching loses all authority, influence, and power. If he is not able to bring a message from God, who then gives him the right to act on behalf of people of like nature with himself? Who gives him the freedom to put himself in the pulpit above them, to speak to them about the highest interest of their soul and life and even to proclaim to them their eternal weal or woe? Who would dare, who would be able to do this, unless he has a word of God to proclaim.

    — Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 1 (page. 461)

    • Martin Pakula

      Yes – great quote. I heard Dick Lucas say something similar recently. A pastor has no right really to say anything except what God says in his word.

  3. SDG

    Its not just C H Dodd though is it. Isnt this exactly what we permit ourselves to do? We dont like the heat from a particular part of scripture, which is actually quite clear, so we try and cool it off with another Part of scripture. Dodd twisted the scripture for his intellectual credibility. We do so for our own comfort.

    Jesus said ‘if you dont deny yourself, you arent worthy to be my disciple‘. SDG

    • Martin Pakula

      Yes, I certainly agree! I fear my own lack of self-awareness and that my sinful nature will lead to self-deception. I still love Dick Dowsett’s maxim: “holiness is a team sport”! I hope that there will be folk sharp enough in the congregation to question me and point out to me where I am straying if this is the case. We preach chapter by chapter through the Bible. People know what passage is being preached on that Sunday and we have questions to help people think it through and prepare ahead. I always hope people have thought deeply about the passage themselves. We should hope for that at every church!

  4. SDG

    After the last few weeks in a ‘fitness training’ group, I am sold on the benefits of doing things together. Its miserable trying to progress on your own! Mind you, it still hurts in a group!
    Isn’t this why Paul says to the Hebrews ‘don’t neglect assembling together’? I don’t think we can restrict this to Sundays, or he would have been specifically restrictive too, wouldn’t he. As we have discussed previously, the prayer meeting is not optional, it is essential for the health of the church (and therefore for us as individuals).

  5. Roberts Liardon

    When I was a child I was raised by my parents in a Roman Catholic religion, where I know how to be a God fearing, how to read a bible, pray and keep the faith with God. Thanks for sharing this post.

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