Have you ever found yourself applauding a preacher in approval or throwing out a mental high five to an evangelist for no other reason than that their message validated your doctrinal position, or fit nicely within your pre-existing paradigms about God and the Church?
To those, like myself, who have been “churched” our whole life, we’ve heard a lot of pulpiteering, and we’ve seen a lot of stuff. Of course, it’s not all bad. But there comes a point when you begin to wonder how much of the stuff is truly biblical and truly from the mind of God.
Often we don’t like to question things, especially if they are things we’ve heard our whole life. We assume that if the preacher says it, it’s got to be true. Or if our parents ingrained us with it, surely they wouldn’t have steered us wrong.
But I just wonder sometimes how many adopted convictions are the result of passive acceptance of things that have been handed down, without ever being questioned. Sometimes we do question things in our own mind, but we fear being the odd man out, or even ostracized, and never really verbalize our questions to anyone. And sometimes we resist from questioning because we assume that the questions have already been asked before and anything contrary to what you already believe must have already been proven wrong.
In this vein of thought, I admit, I have asked many innocent, die-hard Christians this simple question, “What do you believe?” Usually, the response I get is eloquent, well thought out and concise. But, then, I follow with this question, “Why do you believe what you believe?”
Interestingly, the response to the second question is usually much different than the first response. Generally, people will refer to their upbringing, their heritage, what they were taught, and what the Bible says. Surprisingly, however, it is with the recounts of Scripture that I usually hear the weakest arguments, and worse, the most radical misinterpretations and modifications to the Word. It leaves me to think that many Christians, including myself, are tempted and susceptible to viewing the Scripture through the lens of our own personal dogma and familiarity. Do we sometimes read into Scripture to merely confirm our pre-established doctrinal template, or do we allow the Word of God to speak its authentic truth into our life… and change us, as necessary?
I would submit that it is by the Spirit of God that we can truly gain wisdom and discernment to know Truth, as opposed to our own intelligence or our own opinions or even our own culture guiding us through this process.
The Word of God is Truth. Doctrine, however, is not. Doctrine may bear truth, it may shed light on the mysteries of the Bible, it may even provide governing guidelines for interpretation, but it is not Truth. In fact, God’s Word stands alone as the authority.
You may be wondering why I’m writing this post or even who my target audience is. Rest assure, my intention is not to ruffle anyone’s feathers or be destructive, but rather to be constructive and to provoke critical, honest thinking within the Kingdom of God.
Simply asking questions does not necessarily infer that you don’t believe what you’re questioning. It just means that you’re allowing enough room for God to reveal Himself, even if it means changing your opinion.
My purpose in making suspect the roots of anyone’s convictions is not to stir up strife or make people squeamish, but to encourage believers in their pursuit of Truth. When doctrine and dogma is all that speaks into our life, rather than the Author Himself, we err to follow our own wisdom and contrive conclusions that aren’t always consistent with Scripture.
As Martin Luther said, “The true rule is this: God’s Word shall establish articles of faith, and no one else, not even an angel can do so.” In other words, when God speaks, we should listen, and when He is silent, we should remain silent.
Repeated assertions does not prove a point, regardless of how impassioned or sensational the point is preached. Nor do strong convictions justify invalid doctrine. Bottom line, we can’t force God’s Word to match our interpretation or our pre-conceived ideas just because it’s what we’re comfortable or familiar with. Consider for a moment – just a moment – the possibility that we may not be 100% right on everything, and maybe – just maybe – God can still reveal something brand new to us.
As Christians, we must always guard our heart and pursue Truth in a responsible, thorough way. Furthermore, we must trust that all things necessary for our salvation and concerning abundant life are taught in the Bible and are clear enough for the ordinary believer, like you and me, to find and to understand. And, finally, we must never forget that no one cares more about our salvation than God himself. When you seek you will find. When you knock, the door will be opened.