Wednesday, November 01, 2006

In July, 1961, Dr. Vernon Grounds* wrote a short, but powerful article for my father's Religious Research Digest entitled, "The Oil Horn and The Plumbline." In light of today's liberal Christian Apologists and their "keep the cults comfortable" philosophy, the question remains relevant: Should we soft-sell the Gospel to avoid offending those involved in the cults, or should we tell the truth in love--a truth inherently offensive? Do we call religions that pervert the Gospel of Jesus Christ "Sacred Tribes" or do we call them Cults?

Dr. Grounds said this 45 years ago:

"Tact, graciousness, and courtesy are virtues which ought to mark the disciples of history's greatest Gentleman. But though in His gentleness, Jesus Christ never broke a bruised reed, He was by no means a “soft-sell” preacher. He spoke the truth in love, to be sure, yet His words were like sword thrusts and hammer blows. He did not lull the mul­titudes to sleep; He did everything, in Robert Louis Stevenson's phrase, "to stab them wide awake."

Very different is the ministry of some twentieth-cen­tury pulpiteers whose sermons are as hard-hitting as milk­weed down. The Carpenter, who could drive home truth with staccato power, would pour holy scorn on our modern vendors of "sweetness and light." Indeed, today our Lord might be held up as a red-light example of tactless, negative preaching. Nevertheless, such preaching is precisely the salt needed by the insipid stew of our secular culture.

Hence, the faithful minister of the Gospel whose preach­ing is as sharp and direct as an arrow hitting the mark some­times seem to be tactless and negative. Like a surgeon he must cut in order to heal. He must unmask lies, even pious lies, which keep souls from salvation. He must pulverize illusions so that life can be rebuilt upon the solid foundation of reality.

Plainly, therefore, we must stress more than the pas­toral ministry of comfort and love. We must stress the prophetic ministry of criticism and judgment. We must produce servants of God who carry in one hand the oil horn of redeeming grace and in the other the plumbline of Divine righteousness.

From a long-range viewpoint nothing is more important for the overall cause of the Gospel than a school of the prophets. Admittedly, the graduate education of ministers and missionaries lacks glamour, but that education is es­sential if we are to have prophets who will apply the strin­gent medication of God's Word to a world which is desperately sick."

Walter Martin pulverized illusions. He used sword-thrusts and hammer blows. Culturally, he was a tough New Yorker raised by my grandfather--a tough New York judge--but he tried to balance his in-your-face attitude with love. He passionately loved people--he loved them enough to tell them the truth. He was salt in the open wounds caused by false doctrine . . . and today, 17 years after his death, people still leave Mormonism (and other cults) because of him. That is the legacy of Walter Martin.

And in the end, Jesus prefers salt to sugar.


*Chancellor, Denver Seminary


Ron Henzel said...

Excellent points, Jill. Jesus didn't say we would be the sugar of the earth, but the salt of the earth. On the other hand, neither did He say we would be the vinegar of the earth (as in the phrase "catch more flies with honey than vinegar"), and I believe this was the balance your father tried to strike. I began listening to his tapes in 1976--30 years ago (it's hard to believe it's been that long!)--which was very shortly after I became a Christian, and they still exert a powerful influence on my life. Thanks for blogging!

Ron Henzel
Midwest Christian Outreach

5:49 AM  
Jill Martin Rische said...

Hi Ron,

Thanks so much for writing. It's good to hear from you. I didn't know you'd been listening to Dad for so long . . . wait until you hear the new tapes of his. Kevin's working on them and they are great. Thirty more years of listening pleasure. :)

11:13 PM  
Gene Hamilton said...

Another great blog that conjures up an image of your Dad in his last public debate with Bishop Spong on the John Ankerberg show. There's Walter, defending the Gospel of peace, telling the truth in love, one last time to a free-falling apostate. After exposing the "theo-babble" for what it was, Walter puts the sword of truth back in the scabbard and walks into the open arms of Jesus... "Mission accomplished." Thanks again, Jill, for sharing with us.

Gene Hamilton
Orange Park, Fl.

12:24 AM  

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