“Trends Pointing to a New Apostasy” was originally a sermon preached by brother Halbrook in 1989 that sounded a warning call to all who listened and later read it; brethren, we are drifting. Even though this sermon was preached six years before my birth, it has stood the test of time, and, sadly, it reads as if brother Halbrook preached this sermon this year. The trends that were seen back in the late ’80s have not gone away, and in many ways, have only been amplified with time.
The demand for copies of the sermon was so great that the Guardian of Truth Foundation eventually published it in booklet form in 1992, and demand continued. This booklet went through a total of seven print runs and continues to be published today. In the booklet, there is an introduction by brother Donald Townsley that shows the parallels that existed between the time of this sermon and the ’30s and ’40s, which led to apostasy in the ’50s and ’60s. Townsley noted that in the ’30s and 40’s there were the general trends of spiritual lethargy, compromised preaching, worldliness in the church, problems with divorce, and a minimizing of the importance of the church.
Brother Halbrook’s sermon opens with a reminder of Bible warnings against drifting. Relevant passages are cited such as Exodus 24:8; Judges 2:7-10; Jeremiah 6:16; Acts 20:28ff; 2 Thessalonians 2:3; 1 Timothy 4:1-3, 4. At the conclusion of this section, Halbrook notes that “When we speak of “a trend,” we mean a new direction or tendency, that which is not fully developed yet, when we first begin to veer or drift from an established course. At an early stage trends are easier to correct, but the irony of it is that they are harder to recognize” (Halbrook 1998, 13). Hence why vigilant eyes and warnings are necessary!
The rest of the sermon then seeks to identify the then-current trends that pointed to a new apostasy. In summation, the trends identified were:
- Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage (pg.16) – At that time, several false doctrines were being taught taht clearly contradicted the clear teaching of Jesus in Matthew 19:1-12.
- Drinking from Sectarian and Liberal Wells (pg.20) – There was a trend of brethren becoming so enamored with fringe movements (because of their numerical growth) and theologically liberal writers (those who do not hold to sound teaching) that they were no longer discerning with the material. Halbrook quickly points out that there is nothing wrong with reading uninspired writers, commentaries, books on religious subjects, etc. (He cites Acts 17:28; 1 Corinthians 15:32; Titus 1:2 to show that Bible writers quoted uninspired writers). These two quotes best sum up Halbrook’s main point about this trend:
- “When we become saturated with sectarian and liberal materials, it gest to the point that we cannot think and we cannot speak and we cannot preach any longer in the words of sound doctrine” (Halbrook 1998, 21).
- “It is wrong to become so fascinated with liberal and sectarian material that we saturate our minds with it, cannot separate it from Bible teaching, and cannot distinguish truth from error any longer” (Halbrook 1998, 22).
- False Concepts of Grace and Unity (pg.27) – Deals with false concepts about unity and what grace covers. Some of the false ideas dealt with in this section would have us hold to no doctrine at all and just accept anyone who calls themselves Christians. This is a larger section of the sermon and one, I believe, has the most bearing on today. After setting forth clear Bible teaching on grace and unity, Halbrook makes an excellent point about how we can maintain unity when we disagree. He said, “So, our responsibility is this, and there is no short-cut for this. When we face a problem and we face an issue which arises, we simply have to sit down patiently, prayerfully, humbly, and with a contrite heart, to find out what the Word of God says about it” (Halbrook 1998, 32).
- Positive Mental Attitude Philosophy (pg.35) – This idea Ron summarizes on pg.36 as “Accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative.” Halbrook is quick to point out in preaching and teaching that we need both positive and negative (pg.36); however, the trend was noticed that some were doing almost all positive preaching. Avoiding anything that would make people feel bad or any terminology with too much negative connotation. However, the Bible is clear we need both negative and positive. The Apostle Paul said to the Galatians, after some “negative” teaching, “So have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?” (Galatians 4:16).
- Worldliness (pg.46) – The ever-pressing danger to the Church and Christians, as Halbrook points out in this section (pg.46). We are fooling ourselves if we think Christians are somehow immune from wordiness. Symptoms that Ron saw in the late ’80s are still here, if not more so. These included materialism, gambling, social drinking (pg.47), immodest dress, and dancing (pgs. 48-19).
The sermon ends with a summation and the extension of the Lord’s invitation. The thing is, these issues are always generational. Each generation has to fight the battles and decide who they will serve (Joshua 24:14-15).
Even though brother Halbrook preached this sermon in the late ’80s, he could have written it yesterday. The trends Ron points out have not gone away and, unfortunately, gotten worse in some ways. “Trends Pointing Toward a New Apostasy” is a must-read for those concerned about the cause of truth. I highly recommend the book.