The Relevance of Wilberforce Today

Scott AtteberyChristian Living, Church, Culture

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As a member of British Parliament, William Wilberforce fought to abolish the slave trade and slavery altogether. One of his frustrations was found in the fact that self-identified Christians were willing to continue and support the slave trade.

In his efforts to understand why, he arrived at the conclusion that British churches had bypassed the strong biblical teaching and replaced it with a system of ethics. Although these ethics were originally based upon Scripture, they transformed and eroded over time by giving way to what was politically and economically convenient.

In his book, A Practical View of Christianity, Wilberforce explains,

The fatal habit of considering Christian morals as distinct from Christian doctrines insensibly gained strength. Thus the peculiar doctrines of Christianity went more and more out of sight, and as might naturally have been expected, the moral system itself also began to wither and decay, being robbed of that which should have supplied it with life and nutriment.

These words of Wilberforce, written over 200 years ago, reminded me of today’s plight in many evangelical churches. Many have wondered, “how could so many evangelicals support abortion, same-sex marriage, no-fault divorce, and other sinful practices?”

Is it possible, that an overdose of sermons based upon ethics and morals, devoid of the weighty teaching of Scripture has caused this current trend? Have we allowed our moral leanings to dictate our interpretation of the Bible rather than the Bible dictate our ethics and morals?

I am convinced that we cannot expect a change in the attitude of nominal Christians without a revival of strong, biblical preaching and teaching! Until then, we are susceptible to being slaves of popular opinion.

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