Augustine’s comments are just as relevant today as they were centuries ago. And Augustine got me thinking about how many objectors to the Christian faith attempt to undermine scripture by declaring assumed ignorance and shallow thinking on part of the writers. Many have heard me relate the occasion I met a student who declared his unbelief because the Bible was written by men (so he stated while holding a stack of books for a class). Such detractor would be well served to get a degree in simple “thinkology.” Truth is: you can't make it up as you go.
Writing to young Titus, the apostle Paul has in mind a certain “big thinker” of his day: “One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.’” (Titus 1:12) Easy to imagine Paul laughing here while this philosopher jerks the rug from under his own feet. But why was Paul bringing this to Titus’ attention? Because there are very vocal and very confusing people coming into fellowships of believers and are a threat to the life and peace of the church.
Three years ago, I got to know a man in our own fellowship who, after a very short period of time, began to reveal what was really on his mind: he was a prayer warrior and prophet of new revelation! The more he talked, the stranger he sounded (God told him to change his name shortly after he stabbed his former wife with a fork and was now living with another woman that God recognized as a truly spiritual marriage, that he did not have with his former wife).
Notice what Paul says to Titus: "rebuke them" (Titus 1:13). Why? The church is to be built UP, not torn down. What happened to the guy at church? I asked the man to share his testimony, then he told me about his visions, dreams and divine visitations. I asked him if he kept God’s perfect standard as seen in the Ten Commandments, and if he had ever lied, committed adultery or coveted. He got mad and left (all I did was ask a question)! I saw him again a few weeks ago—he actually came back to church with a woman (I don’t know who she was), but after we locked eyes (I really wanted him to know I saw him, too) they left and have not returned. The man was confronted, even rebuked, by the convicting ministry of God’s Holy Spirit.
We have a goal in building up: making one “sound in the faith.” We are to stand up to falsehood for the purpose of keeping the faith pure. This is part of the redemptive work of Christ, providing an opportunity to be saved from sin and submit to correct teaching. They must be pointed away from their lies to the truth, away from evil to righteousness, away from laziness to contributing productivity, away from gluttony to charity.