“Can a maid forget
her ornaments or a bride her attire? Yet my people have forgotten me days
without number. Why trimmest thou thy way to seek love? Therefore hast thou
also taught the wicked ones thy ways. Also in thy skirts is found the blood of
the souls of the poor innocents: I have not found it by secret search, but upon
all these. Yet thou sayest, Because I am innocent, surely his anger shall turn
from me. Behold, I will plead with thee, because thou sayest, I have not
sinned. Why gaddest thou about so much to change thy way?” (Jeremiah 2:32-36a)
Fundamentalists leading churches
across the country today are changing the way they do things, as well as what
they believe and teach. To some minds these changes amount to compromise with
evil. Defending themselves, those who are changing either deny that they are
compromising their positions or question whether compromise in religion is
The word “compromise” implies
reconciliation based on mutual promises. “You give up this, and I’ll give up
that,” or, “You change in that way and I’ll change in this way,” express the
spirit of compromise. Of course, compromise is not always wrong. It is often
an important means of working cooperatively, as in a business or a marriage.
Even in a church, some compromise can sustain peace in the work of the Lord,
and can be justified when it does not involve giving up truth. Some kinds of compromise
between Christians can be the outcome of loving deference, and exemplify the Spirit
However the house of Israel, with
their kings and princes, and also their priests and prophets (Jeremiah
2:26-31), were violating divine law when the prophet accused them of trimming
their way to seek love (verses 32-37). Their compromises with paganism in
order to gain the approval of the ungodly were unquestionably wrong.
Compromise that involves disloyalty to truth and God is always wrong.
Do the changes that present-day
evolving fundamentalists are making constitute sinful compromise of principle?
There is good reason sometimes to change a policy or a position that has been
maintained for a long time. Christians ought to change if their original
stance was wrong. In other words, when believers in Christ and in the Bible
discover through searching the scriptures that their long-held position or
long-standing policy was not according to God’s Word, they ought to change.
They also ought to apologize for wrong actions or words that resulted from
their former wrong view.
Another legitimate reason for
changing a religious teaching or practice would be to adjust the application of
still-held Biblical principles to changing situations. The eternal truths that
establish right standards in regard to the use of the internet in our day were
applied to other things a hundred years ago. The difference is that they
didn’t have computers or the internet a hundred years ago. New standards have
had to be set. This is a legitimate change.
But doctrines and practices
taught in word or in principle by the Bible should not be altered or abandoned
by a new generation of Christians for the purpose of conforming to the tastes
and opinions of the present evil world. We should not change or trim our way
to seek the love and appreciation of the heathen.
This trimming was the error of
the “neo-evangelicals” of the last century. They listened too much to the
criticisms of the liberals, and longed instead for their approval. An
important fundamentalist of the time said that the compromising evangelicals
were telling the unorthodox liberals, “We will call you Christians, if you will
call us scholars.” The reason they embraced heretics instead of rejecting them
(as Titus 3:10-11) tells us to do) was that they were seeking love, and willing
to compromise truth for love.
Sinful compromise is not hard to
discern and avoid. Those who are careful to please the Lord and “that tremble
at His Word” (Isaiah 66:5) will recognize such compromise when they ask certain
questions about the issues at hand and the changes that are being made by many.
there a scriptural principle involved in the issue? Were the old-timers wrong
about the issue? Did they misconstrue or even wrest the scriptures in order to
come to their conclusions? If they were right in their interpretation and
application of Bible teaching, how can the change be right? In examining the
foundational principles of an issue, we must make sure that we understand the
strongest reasons for the old view before making a judgment. We must not let
somebody knock down a straw man in order to convince us to change. The money
going to Hollywood was not the best reason for staying out of the movie
theater. Tradition was not the best reason for not going to the beach (I was
told that Southern Christians condemned mixed bathing, but Northern Christians
do not). The word “melody” in Ephesians 5:19) is not the best reason for using
church music that emphasizes the melody rather than the beat. There are much
stronger scriptural reasons for maintaining the old standards in these areas.
Find out what they are by studying the issue thoroughly from a Biblical point
of view, and even by consulting old-timers before you make a change. And don’t
make a decision to make a change based on a change in your interpretation of
scripture until you are willing to say that the leaders of the past who
affirmed the old position were wrong. Men of any era can be wrong, but
we must be sure that our differences with men of the past result from the fact
that they were mistaken. If you don’t think that Bob Jones, Beauchamp Vick,
John Rice, Bob Ketchum, or Lee Roberson were actually wrong about the issue,
why are you changing? Is it because the old position is more unpopular today
than it was years ago? If that is the reason, you are compromising with the
heathen. Changing times are not a good reason for changing practices soundly
based on Biblical principles.
your decision to change being influenced by a trend in the thinking of your
peers? Some pastors, both young and old, are dropping standards because they
have decided that “the battle is already lost.” In other words, in the debate
over dress or music or Bible versions, the other side has already won the day.
Nobody holds to the old view any more. If this were true, would it be reason
enough to abandon the scriptural position? “Thou shalt not follow a multitude
to do evil,” said Moses (Exodus 23:2). If everyone justified the worship of
Baal alongside the worship of Jehovah, should the prophet go along with it? Is
the new direction taken by even a majority of fundamentalists a good reason for
you to go that direction? Of course, it is not. To do so for that reason
would be to trim your way for the sake of love. It is the wrong kind of
the possibility of damage to the ministry a significant factor in the
temptation to change? Churches with high standards are losing members to
contemporary-style churches, we are told. Is that a reason to change? Will
the long-enforced standards of conduct and dress drain the student body of the
Christian school? Will it be hard to pay the bills if we maintain the same
positions we have always held? When Christian leaders begin to think this way,
they are already justifying the claim that every man has his price. What do
the stories of Balaam and Naboth and say to this concept? “If Balak would give
me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the LORD
my God, to do less or more.” “The LORD forbid it me, that I should give the
inheritance of my fathers unto thee.” How much money or how many members or
how much support are you willing to lose before you will change your position
on a scriptural issue? If any threat can move us from our stand on the Word of
God, we are already corrupted. The only difference between one such
compromiser and another is the price that must be paid to buy him.
Is the change being considered actually a matter of applying the Bible
to a changed situation, or does it really involve forsaking a Biblical
principle? Is the new acceptance of “moderate” drinking really a more accurate
application of what the Bible teaches than the old total-abstinence position?
Were the ill effects of alcoholic beverages so much more in the early and
middle twentieth century than they are now so that a no-drinking standard was
necessary for Christians then, but is unnecessary now? The truth is that the
Bible’s warnings against intoxication (both in the Old and the New Testaments)
warrant the abstinence policy in any century. The Bible’s condemnation of
nakedness and commendation of modesty (both in the Old and the New Testaments)
warrant the covering of the body in any century. The Bible’s description of
the nature of our God speaks against the use of art forms (including music) in
association with worship that are contrary to His nature, no matter what the
year is. God’s church must stand where God does on every issue, and not be
swayed by the “way of the heathen” (Jeremiah 10:2). Where the Bible speaks, we
have no option but to say what it says and follow its principles. To pretend
that certain Bible teachings are not there is to engage in the worst kind of
compromise with evil.
These are not
the times for compromise with evil. When falsehood challenges the truth, human
beings are always tempted to compromise their principles and practices out of
fear, or of the desire to be accepted. But this kind of compromise puts them
at odds with the God they love, and they cannot engage in it. Most of the
changes advocated by those who want to change fundamentalist ministries today
are wrong, and amount to compromising with the darkness around us.
Clear-thinking men and women will be guided by the Spirit of truth to uphold
the right and stand successfully against the wrong of this evil day, through
the blessing of the Lord.