Saturday, March 17, 2007

Walking in the Truth

The hermeneutical debate surrounding the relationship between the Old and New Testaments is important. This is something that Christians ought to be discussing because it has implications for so many issues that continue to divide brothers and sisters. It is easy to talk about the need to bring our theological systems in line with the scriptures but it is much more difficult to do that in practice. Even in relatively new churches, it does not take very long before ways of doing things are entrenched so deeply that change is difficult, if it comes at all. This is all the more true where doctrinal statements and confessions of faith have been adopted that are not themselves open to revision based on the teaching of the word of God. Please do not misunderstand me. I have nothing against doctrinal statements or confessions of faith. I think it is important to spell out what we believe the Bible teaches and to align ourselves historically with Christians who have gone before us. My concern is that these statements and confessions must never be elevated to the level of scripture. Nor must matters of individual church or denomination style be viewed as the only right way to worship God. Everything must be open to careful examination based on the entirety of biblical revelation.

While most would agree with what I have suggested in theory, it is the practical implementation of these things that is more difficult. Some people just do not like to change. They find security in sameness and there is nothing wrong with that unless the Holy Spirit wants them to change and their fears keep them from walking with the Lord as they should. Other people are always ready to change. They get bored easily and are attracted to new ideas. This is not necessarily wrong but it can get them into trouble if they run ahead of the Holy Spirit or go down a path that he has not authorized. Still others find it difficult to follow the leading of the Spirit because they have known some success in the past. Maybe they have written books on a subject, or built a church on a certain doctrinal foundation, or have spoken on many occasions about some aspect of the biblical message that upon further review reveals that their understanding of the subject is less than adequate. It takes a mature and deeply humble person to make changes under these circumstances based upon what the Holy Spirit is saying in the word. Our first reaction is usually to defend ourselves and our way of doing things. And the larger our audience and more extensive our influence the louder our protests and more vehement our assertions.

But this kind of self-defense is not in the best interests of the truth. Instead we must listen to what others are saying and why they are saying it. Then we must evaluate their claims in light of God's word. This is not easy. We are all too easily blinded by our own hermeneutical glasses. We need to pray that God will help us to see beyond our "ministries" and give us a heart for what he is doing in the world. At the end of the day, if our ministries do not fit into his larger purposes, they are a tragic waste of time and energy. Our less-than-glorified condition, the profundity of God's revelation, and yet his loving and gracious nature, should give us all the reasons we need to proceed with cautious humility and yet with confidence that if we diligently seek to know and glorify him we shall find what we are looking for.

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