One of the gravest dangers to contemporary Protestantism is its obsession with the periphery of Christianity. We see many spokes to the wheel and much emphasis on the rim of Christian activity, but we are in danger of neglecting the hub of the Christian faith itself.

For a long time I have been reading the voluminous daily reports supplied by a religious news service that tell of church activities at home and abroad.

It becomes depressingly obvious to one after a while that much of our activity in contemporary church life is on the periphery—around the rim of a wheel—and that these activities represent the spokes of innumerable councils, commissions, committees, organizations, and so forth.

We would hardly imply that the rim is an unintegral, unimportant part of the wheel. It is at the rim that contact is made with the road and the wheel becomes effective. In like manner, the Church must make effective contact with the world if its own usefulness is to continue.

However, just as a wheel collapses unless its spokes are firmly centered in the hub, so too the wheel of Church activity ceases to make an impact unless it is firmly centered in the doctrinal content of Christian truth.

By some strange conspiracy of silence, doctrine is almost an ugly word in Protestant circles today. There seems to be almost an obsession against any reference to the revealed truths basic to the Christian faith. Facts having to do with the person and work of our Lord are shunned. So long as an individual, a congregation, or a denomination is active, the reason for that activity seems to be a matter of secondary importance.

We hear a great deal about the “prophetic role of the church.” This is good insofar as that role is concerned with sin, individual and corporate, and where the message of the cleansing blood of Calvary is proclaimed as God’s way of redemption.

Only too often this prophetic role has become enmeshed in the symptoms of personal and social disorder, while the cause of man’s distress—his separation from God through sin—has been ignored in this day and generation.

Some time ago a discerning Christian went to hear one of America’s most publicized young ministers speak. He came away with this remark: “He can say nothing the most beautifully I have ever heard it said.” Little wonder that that ministry fizzled and sputtered out in the ashes of lost convictions. The periphery collapsed because the hub of vital faith was not there.

The Church is in gravest danger of saying nothing beautifully. Unless there is a positive message of redemption from sin—in God’s way and on God’s terms—what is there to preach? Unless the Christ that is preached is the Christ of the Scriptures, whom shall we preach? And unless the correct diagnosis of sin is made and God’s remedy in the sacrifice of his Son on the Cross is stressed, why preach at all?

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In our obsession with the peripheral things of Christianity, we cater to the pride and restless energies of the flesh while we suppress that which could keep our activity from becoming so much beating of the air. Concern for the human predicament is no more than humanism unless it centers on the divinely ordained way out of that predicament.

Again we stress that Christianity does have a periphery. Without an outward demonstration of the Christian faith, the inward becomes a mockery. No amount of emphasis on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit can be effective unless the fruits of the same Spirit are evident in the lives of those who profess his name. A wheel consisting of only a hub is a caricature. A hub with projecting spokes alone would wobble and disintegrate. A true wheel is a perfect combination of hub, spokes, and rim.

When we consider the great emphasis in Protestantism today on the spokes of organization and the rim of activity, and note how much the hub of Christian doctrine, which moves the wheel of Christianity, is disregarded, we wonder at the difference there was in those who went out to establish the early Church. These men had a burning faith in the crucified and risen Christ—a Christ about whom certain things were true; a Christ who had performed certain specific acts for man’s redemption, the central one being his death on the Cross.

Small wonder that so many Church-sponsored activities result in little more than consuming the time of those engaged in them! Small wonder that the average Church member, lacking indoctrination, finds himself at a loss to give a reason for the faith he professes! Is it strange that the Church makes such a limited impact on the world as a whole?

How different it is with the communists who, thoroughly indoctrinated in their evil philosophy, go out to win the world to their beliefs.

The analogy between a wheel and the Church is a valid one. Just as a wheel must have a sturdy hub to be strong and effective, so a church must have an intelligent doctrinal faith as the basis on which to build effective Christian living, both personal and corporate.

But by and large Protestantism eschews the strong meat of Christian doctrine because it is regarded as “divisive.” It seeks a unity of organization and activity based on a willingness to play down those Christian doctrines upon which the Christian faith must be built if it is ever to be translated into Christian living.

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“Saying nothing beautifully” may soothe the conscience and involve us in a multiplicity of activities. But to say: “Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” is the message of the Church to a lost world.

Do we preach that message? If not, we are leaving out the hub of the Gospel.

Let us suppose that from every pulpit in America there should begin a new emphasis, a return to the simple preaching of the basis of the Christian faith. Suppose that study books, programs and activities out on the perimeter of Christianity were dropped for the time being and Church members were indoctrinated with the facts of the Christian faith.

Should all of this happen the problems of the individual and of society as a whole would remain; but, people would begin to look at them in a new light—in the light of Holy Scripture and by the Spirit of the living God. Lives would be transformed and these transformed people would do more to evangelize and right the ills of the world than all the hosts of unregenerate people whose concern is a reformed rather than transformed society.

For a change let us go back to the hub of Christian doctrine and begin building the wheel of Christian conviction, organization, and program squarely on it.

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