Thoughts of a Country Preacher

The Monday morning ruminations of a pastor.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Strike the Roots

My parent’s farm is being taken over. Not by trespassers, or family, or by eminent domain, it is being taken over by honeysuckle. I never before thought that the honeysuckle vine was a threat to agriculture… but that was before it invaded our fields and refused to go away. First we tried to brush hog it. Apparently that just spread the seeds, because a few weeks later, more vines sprouted up. Next, we burned our fields, hoping to kill the vine and get rid of a few other problems. A few months later, it was back with a vengeance.
Lately, we’ve been talking to our friends who also have farms. Some have had this problem before. They say the only thing you can do is hit it with chemicals. It hits the roots, kills it at its source.
Today, there are a lot of weeds in the SBC field. Calvinism, anti-Calvinism, charismatics, cessationists, legalists, antinomians, Lankmarkers, anti-Landmarkers, declarations, convergences, trustees, policies, alcohol, and the list goes on and on.
We could go on with all of the debates, we could brush hog them down, we could even burn the whole thing down – but they’ll just come back with a vengeance. I believe that all of these vines come from the same root – and if we strike at the root they will all die.

What is the root cause of these problems?

A loss of Biblical authority in our lives.

These are biblical problems, these are problems that the bible addresses, and if we do a serious study of the scriptures we will find solutions. Unfortunately, the one thing lacking in these discussions are serious studies of the scriptures. Why?

Because the Bible has lost its authority over our lives.

So how do we fix this problem? How do we give the Bible its proper place in our lives? How do strike at the root of our problems?

First, read the Bible & establish some program of Biblical memorization.

Despite our emphasis on the Bible, we don’t know it very well. Researchers George Gallup and Jim Castelli put the problem squarely: 'Americans revere the Bible -but, by and large, they don't read it. And because they don't read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates."
How bad is it?
Researchers tell us that it is worse than most could imagine.
Fewer than half of all adults can name the four Gospels. Many Christians cannot identify more than two or three of the disciples. According to data from the Barna Research Group, 60 percent of Americans can't name even five of the Ten Commandments. "No wonder people break the Ten Commandments all the time. They don't know what they are," said George Barna, president of the Barna Group. The bottom-line? "Increasingly, America is biblically illiterate."
If we do not know the Bible, it will not be authoritative in our lives – and we will defer to other authorities like tradition and logic and personal preferences. If we want to truly see peace in the SBC, all of those self proclaimed "conservative innerrantists" in the SBC are going to have to start living it.

Second, let the Bible speak in our discussions. (A two parter)

1 – When we discuss these issues, support your position with scriptural evidence.

The way we discuss biblical topics is unacceptable. It shows us that we really don’t care about what the Bible says.
In the charismatic debate, some point to honest people who practice these "gifts." Cessationists point to abuses by some. Neither is Biblical evidence, and is therefore irrelevant.

When we discuss our position, many claim that their position is biblical – but fails to tell us why, or where the Bible speaks to their position. Simply claiming biblical orthodoxy is not Biblical evidence, if you can’t quote it, don’t claim its authority.

Pointing to historical precedence can be helpful, but should not be exclusively relied on. That is tradition, not Biblical evidence.

When someone is accused of doctrinal error, their theology should be defended though biblical exegesis. Simply saying that they are nice people is insufficient because it does not Biblically address the original charge.

2 – When you use biblical evidence, use a responsible hermeneutic.

This is one of my greatest pet peeves, when people do use the Bible to support their view, but in order to do so twist the scripture to conform it to their position.
Not long ago, I and a group of pastors were discussing the validity and usefulness of boycotts by denominations. One pastor, seeking biblical support looked to Daniel’s personal abstinence from royal food to set a precedent for boycotts. Even people who agreed with his position objected to his hermeneutic, yet he refused to drop it because he desperately wanted the Bible to support boycotts.
This kind of irresponsible hermeneutic should not be seen from any Christian, let alone a pastor. Sadly this has become the norm in our churches.

Finally, we should acknowledge that the issues we discuss do have answers – there is a right and a wrong.

Yet again, one of my greatest pet peeves. I am discussing a theological issue with a brother who disagrees with me. He says "A bunch of people see it this way, and a bunch of people see it this other way. Can’t we just agree that both positions are tenable?"

My answer – absolutely not!

Take tongues as an example. I say they have ceased, others say they continue. These positions are diametrically opposed to one another – they cannot both be tenable.
I could feasibly agree that I am wrong and they are right.
I could feasibly agree that they are wrong and I am right.
I could feasibly agree that we are both wrong.
But both right? Impossible! This undermines the very concept of truth. We can find answers to our problems – but only when our position of inerrancy becomes practical and not just academic.

We must strike at the root of our problem.


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