Friday, September 29, 2006
There is such comfort in "formula faith" because it gives ready, though supremely legalistic, answers to all doctrinal questions. We are taught to think of our sacred "Hows" as "the undisputed truth" for all rational thinkers, and quickly learn to spout them out in catechistic fashion. It's more than a cute pun to call them sacred "Hows" because they've become the definition of orthodoxy. More than that, they define us as a fundamental, evangelical, restoration religious movement! It's not that they are wrong - I have preached and still preach most of these things myself, just not the same way. The problem is that they are man-made, man-contrived, and man-driven! They promote self-righteousness, institutionalized faith, and forget the only thing that Jesus said proves we are His disciples. They're not formulas for loving one another, they are systematic theology, which has its place but does little to build a personal relationship with Jesus. They are steps to follow, which also has a place, but that promotes self-sufficiency when the need is to walk in His steps. Most of all, as correct as some "Hows" may be, they push seekers into legalistic thinking rather than connecting with the Spirit of Christ. "How to interpret the Bible?" Answer: "Look for three things; command, example, and implied inference!" Who decided that? It's never taught in the Bible! Okay, a command is obvious, but who and where is it ever taught that the second two where equal or on the same level as a command? When was the last time anyone in the church ever argued over a command? "How to become a Christian?" The five step plan of salvation - though neither the "five steps" or "plan of salvation" ever appears in the Bible and it's a stretch to see all five in any example of conversion (but of course we can assume....). "How to worship on Sunday?" The five "Acts of worship" must take place, though there's not a single example of an assembly in the New Testament where we see all five (but of course we can assume...). (Look at Acts 2, 20, and 1 Cor.10-14 for yourself.) Does anyone care that Sunday is never called "the day of worship" or even "the Lord's day" in scripture? Don't even start looking for "the five acts of worship" because worship IS NEVER AN EVENT IN THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH, IT'S A LIFE GIVEN TO GOD! (But I've already got three books about that!) Well, you get the idea I hope. I could add "How to structure church leadership?" and "How to do ministry?" and others that have been reduced, minimized, and legalized by man's formulas. Again, some of the conclusions are totally correct, but it becomes too easy to leave Jesus out - to leave spiritual relationships out! I love some "Hows," like how do you show the world that you are disciples of Jesus? "The world will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another." How do you know you are a child of God? "This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are; Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother." (1 Jn.3:10) How do we know we have eternal life? "We know we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers." (1 Jn.3:14) John doesn't have the neat steps or formula approach, but he sure sounds an awful lot like Jesus.