The second chapter of 2 Peter is perhaps the darkest chapter in the New Testament. It deals extensively with apostasy within the early church. In great detail it describes apostate teachers, their conduct and their false doctrine. Recent scholarship holds that their departure from Christian truth was primarily ethical. They adjusted their doctrine to support their change in life-style, not the other way around. And so it has always been. Whenever people want to live in a way not sanctioned by scripture they do their best to justify it by reinterpreting the text.
Why apostasy? Why the constant leftward trend in society as well as the church? Is it not the lure of a supposed freedom made possible by dropping, or at least adjusting absolutes? Christianity holds to certain basic truths. Some things cannot be changed. So when people are denied permission to enjoy a forbidden pleasure, the simplest way to solve the problem is to adjust the absolute. That is what was happening in Peter’s world and still is today. Anyone approaching sixty can remember the days when that which is currently protected on the basis of some sort of phobia, was consider morally improper if not illegal. Why do institutions of higher education, which often began as Christian training centers, become totally secular? If the trend weren’t so pronounced and obvious it could be set aside as unimportant but that isn’t the case. Can we name a single social custom in the free world that is moving away from so-called freedom to a more controlled position?
So what is the effect of this leftward movement of social mores on the church? Sociologists writing on the issue agree that the church is being increasingly molded by secular culture. In an attempt to share the faith with the secular world, the church is becoming increasing like the world. It has forgotten J. B. Phillip’s famous rendition of Romans 12:2, “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould.” It is true that Jesus kept company with outcasts rather than religious types, but I can’t find anyplace where he became like them in order to tell them to become like he used to be. Somehow that doesn’t work.
Peter, you’ve given us a lengthy dissertation on early apostasy and it may be better for us to read it with care than to discuss it endlessly. Sometimes truth is its own advocate. We acknowledge that your insights are inspired, but have to confess that they are not very inspiring.