Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Additional Thoughts on Together

Yesterday I reviewed a book called Together: United Methodists of Temple, Tabernacle, and Table. As much as part of me would love to dismiss it and move on with my life...there are a few things I'd like to add.

At one point, I write: "The book is also about how we are to trust one another always. I am to trust that you are listening to the Holy Spirit in your life and you are to trust that I am listening to the Holy Spirit in my life. The same Spirit that is leading me to believe one way is also leading you to believe another way. But because we both love the same Jesus Christ it will all be okay."

I wanted to clarify that there are plenty of circumstances where this would work. There are certainly non-essentials, slightly trivial aspects to "living" out the Christian life.

  • the music you listen to
  • the shows you watch
  • the movies you watch
  • the books you read
  • the sites you visit online
  • how/when/where/why you use social media
  • the apps you use
  • the company--friends--you keep
  • the way you dress, what you wear
  • how you spend your time
  • how you spend your money
  • your views on owning guns
  • your political party
  • who you vote for and why
  • your sense of humor
  • what you eat
  • how much you eat
  • occasional drinking/social drinking
  • buying/not buying lottery tickets
  • occasional/social gambling
  • smoking
  • body piercings
  • tattoos

These are just a few that came to mind. Give me more time I'm sure the list would expand even more. There are areas where opinions and ideas could certainly DIFFER yet there be no division or need for division. 

But everything isn't non-essential. Everything isn't trivial. If the Bible is absolutely, undeniably clear on an issue, then we are to hold to what the Bible teaches. For example, the doctrine of hell and the judgment day. This doctrine isn't to be decided on an individual to individual basis or church by church basis. This doctrine isn't to be decided by committee. This doctrine isn't up for debate at all. The Bible clearly teaches eternal punishment for the wicked in both Old and New Testaments. Hell is real. The church cannot be swayed by culture, by society, by personal opinions. We can't decide THAT'S NOT FAIR or I DON'T LIKE IT or THAT'S NOT HOW I WANT IT. 

I used the above example because it is NOT in the book. 

The book seems to be employing doublespeak. The book is saying, on the one hand, that it is not attacking the authority of the Bible, the role of the Bible in the church, the message of the Bible in general, the authorship of the Bible. This isn't about us rejecting the Bible. That's what they are saying. But. At the same time, that's what they are doing when they consistently, persistently change the original meaning of the Scripture--what it would have meant to the original audience, original culture; also what it would mean in a literary, common-sense, straight-forward context--to align with the times. 9 times out of ten--if I'm being generous--if they mention a specific scripture passage they are reading into it what they want to find--justification for their own views which happen to be convenient with the times in which we live. Their approach to Scripture is unbalanced, uneven. The right way to approach Scripture is to let Scripture speak for itself--to come to it without an agenda, to come to it willing to be taught, to be convicted, to be corrected, to be rebuked, to be encouraged, to be enlightened, to be strengthened, to be humbled, to be uplifted. The lens of pride is potentially deadly. What we need is humility when we come to Scripture. Let Scripture speak for itself. Let Scripture interpret Scripture. If your interpretation of Scripture does not align with what the church has taught throughout the centuries, if your interpretation is more aligned with teachers who have been declared heretics throughout the centuries...chances are your interpretation is not the right one. 

One example that is from the book is anytime Paul teaches about foods sacrificed to idols, they make him REALLY be teaching about homosexuality. That is they use the passages where Paul is talking about whether or not to eat or not eat meat BE applicable to the current situation facing denominations today. They skip or negate all passages where Paul is actually talking about sex and focus exclusively on what he says about two warring sections of the church. Apples and oranges...at the very least. 

As I mentioned earlier, there are MANY non-essentials that are NOT worth dividing or splitting any church over. There are MANY issues where the right thing to do is be loving and gracious and not judgmental. BUT. One essential is the doctrine of Scripture. If the way you handle Scripture, the way you use Scripture, the weight you give Scripture is off--then that's a problem worth addressing. Because God does not speak to us outside or apart from Scripture. I will clarify. I am not placing Scripture over and above God--God the Father, God the Son, God the Spirit. I am saying that the Spirit will never "lead" or "guide" or "teach" or "prompt" or "encourage" or "justify" you to do something contrary or opposing to Scripture. Not all feelings, not all thoughts, not all voices, not all messages, not all inner promptings--if you will--are from the Holy Spirit. The Spirit guides believers individually as they are IN the word. It is through the word, by the word, with the word that we are sanctified. 

Jesus will never teach, the Spirit will never teach anything contrary to God's Revealed Word. God the Father does not change his mind. The Bible does not need to be amended, corrected for every new generation. 

To clarify, this does not mean that each individual, each church, each denomination is always getting it right and interpreting and applying it correctly. But there is a correct way; there are absolutes. We can be near to the truth or far from the truth--or more likely somewhere in between the two. We can be mostly right on this, slightly off on that. We can CHANGE our minds as we learn and grow. But the Bible doesn't change. When I learn something new, when I have an AHA moment about God...it is ME that is changing, not God. 

Our views of God may change as we grow, as we walk, as we learn, as we're led...but God doesn't change. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

No comments: