August 10, 2018

Rifle Scope or Microscope?? A Matter of Life and Death.

In my last several posts I have been speaking about the importance of regularly engaging with the Bible, not simply reading it to fulfill a daily word-count quota, but interacting with it in a reflective, analytical, and devotional way. Along with the Reformers, I would argue that the Bible is the only completely safe and fully reliable source for accurate understandings of God, humanity, and the interrelationships among them. The blood of the martyrs who gave their lives in order to make the copies of the Bible available to the masses stands as testimony to its inestimable value.

But we live in a cultural setting where the concepts of “truth,” “right,” and “wrong” have melted from solid absolutes to fluid personal opinions.  Anyone who affirms the universal validity of these terms is vilified as a bigot, and this stance nearly always leads to an outright rejection of whatever the so-called “bigot” affirms to be “true” or “right” or “wrong.” After all, how can you trust a bigot?  Right?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . or Wrong?

But sayin’ so don’t make it so. The court of public opinion fails as a 100% reliable guide to knowledge of God and the meaning of life. But where public opinion fails, the Bible prevails. And the Bible affirms the reality of absolutes.  The truth of the matter is that ideas about God that are not in accord with the understandings revealed in the Bible are quite simply wrong.  Women and men are free to believe whatever they choose to believe, of course, but that will not alter the reality of God’s true essence one iota. A person might strongly believe that she is a poached egg, but that belief is powerless to make it reality (despite the tantalizing claims of some “vision-to-provision” prophets)—and she will have an impossible time convincing anyone else of her belief.

It is the height of irony (and arrogance!) that humans who were created in God’s image have almost since the beginning caved in to the temptation to fashion God in their own image.  Depending on the nature and degree of the distortion, some erroneous ideas about God can be spiritually deadly.  What and how we think about God matters a great deal, not only for our life here on earth, but also for our eternal destiny.

Now, to the point of this post!

To be clear, I am not advocating a posture that would lead Christians to think of themselves as “theology police,” patrolling their beats, scanning for “violations,” arresting and convicting and chastising the culprits.  Although that approach is popular sport in certain quarters of the church, it has had numerous negative consequences for the body of Christ, as well as for the lost souls she is called to reach. Instead of viewing those with misguided theologies as targets in a “spiritual” rifle scope, we should rather understand ourselves as physicians seeking a remedy for the infirm using a genuinely spiritual microscope.

Showing someone he is wrong has an amazing power to inflate the prosecutor’s ego and personal sense of value, while, at the same time, deflating and devaluing the offender.  Neither of these effects is healthy for prosecutors or offenders.  Both of them have led to enormous rifts in the body of Christ.

Instead, confronting faulty theology should come as part of a dialogue and from a concern for the well-being of the misguided person/s.  And here we would do well to take a cue from Jesus’ parable of “The Plank and the Speck” and acknowledge that we ourselves may very well be the ones with inaccurate theology who stand in need of correction.

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