A few weeks ago, I sat in the room listening to a 94-year-old man argue with an 83-year-old man about faith and baptism. Mr. 94 was a faith alone guy. Mr. 83 believed that baptism was part of the salvation process. Mr. 94 jabbed with “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved” (Acts 16.31). Mr. 83 counter-punched with, “I’ve got one verse for you. He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16.16). Mr. 94 gave an upper cut, “For by grace are you saved through faith” (Eph. 2.8). Mr. 83 deflected the blow with, “What about the Ethiopian eunuch?” I wanted to ring the bell and tell them to go back to their corners and give it a rest. Fortunately, there were no hard feelings, just “correct” ideas that were more entrenched than ever.[featured-image single_newwindow=”false”]
When I talk with people about their frustrations with Christianity and the church as they know it, they often bring up the problem of confusing messages. One group teaches that God predestines people to heaven or hell. Another group teaches that God loves people so much that he couldn’t damn people to hell. Is it more biblical to believe that speaking in tongues happens today or more biblical to believe that speaking in tongues stopped when the Bible was completed? Should I have my infant baptized, or wait until she decides for herself or wait until she is confirmed?
And the really confusing part is that all these groups claim to be basing their beliefs on the same Bible. Huh? How can that be?
So what are you supposed to do?
- You can agree to disagree. This is a cop-out. You’re correct, but I’m more correct.
- You can be dogmatic about your own theology and interpretation of the Bible and view everyone else as wrong and in need of your instruction. This is the stuff of judgmentalism, pride, and ignorance. “Speaking the truth in love” finds little room to grow here.
- You can be fully convinced of a way of understanding theology and the Bible while at the same time, view others as on a journey to truth. This is getting closer to a good solution.
- You can forget about making the call about others and devote your life to seeking out a good theology and understanding of scripture. This is getting at the core of the journey. You and I think we know what truth is. The reality is that we’re far from it. We need to focus on finding it and living it for ourselves while encouraging others to do the same. We’re pilgrims on a journey not mountain climbers who have reached the peak.
Jesus spoke like this: “Lose your life and you will find it.” “The first will be last and the last will be first.” Jesus Christ, fully God yet fully man, was comfortable with paradox – “a statement that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth.”
Can we approach our quest for good theology and Bible understanding with love and grace? Be careful with your personal dogma. Take to heart what Neils Bohr, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist says:
The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may be another profound truth.
The Bible is profound truth. Let’s not treat it as if it merely contains correct ideas. Correctness is of our own making. Truth comes from God.
Share your thoughts below.