Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"When Doctrine Matters" by Fred London

The admonishment of "rightly dividing" or "handling accurately the word of truth" has not as its focus the end result, but rather, the process which leads to a clear apprehension of God's thought to man. For if the process is sound, it is more than likely that the end result will also be sound. Conversely, if the process is faulty, we can expect a result which will be equally as faulty. Statements such as, "I don't get into doctrine" or "Doctrine doesn't matter," has the sound of spirituality to it, but it is a pseudo-spirituality. In fact, this rather "nice" sounding attitude flies in the face of Scripture. This is not the sort of peace and unity of which the Scripture speaks. "For there must also be factions among you so that those who are approved of God may become manifest."

Frankly, it smacks of ecumenicalism, which produces a false peace and a false unity because it is not held together by the Spirit of truth. We are exhorted to "speak the truth in love," meaning, you can't have one without the other. Nowhere does the Scripture teach the notion of unity at any cost. As one man has said, "It is better to be divided by truth than united in error." Scripture clearly forewarns that one of the major signs of then "last days" will be that so many will no longer adhere to sound doctrine. It cannot be stressed enough simply because God stresses this imperative from cover to cover throughout the Scriptures, that the authenticity of ministry is in direct proportion of the authenticity of the oral or written words with which the vessel represents the Mind of the Lord.

These days, in particular, there is a strong and irreverant tendency for those who would presume to speak for God to be far too glib and take license with "the holy things of God." Consequently, it would serve us well, having a healthy fear and trembling, to avoid at all cost, the presumptuous sin of "speaking that which the Lord has not spoken." Therefore, sound doctrine does matter, not from a legalistic standpoint where "the letter kills," but as it relates to a clear and accurate understanding of God's character, ways, and purposes. It matters as to how Christ is represented, in Heart, in Mind, and how that directly correlates into how His Body functions, and the type of witness she portrays to the world.

It matters because "For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks." It matters because, "For as a man thinks in his heart, so is he." It matters because of the great influence it has upon our world view. It matters because how we think about the Church's place and purposes for the "last days" and her relationship and obligation as it pertains to Israel (the Jewish people) will ultimately determine as to whether the "limb" we represent will be "put out of joint" or be a "vessel fit for the Master's use." With our being able "to discern the times" we therefore will know what needs to be done at the most critical time of church and world history.

Furthermore, though reading others' thoughts on a particular subject can be profitable, there comes a time where we reach a point of diminishing returns. Case in point: Jesus asked, "Who do men say that I am? Some say that you are Jeremiah, or Elijah, or John the Baptist raised from the dead. Then Jesus asked, "But, who do you say that I am?" In other words, there comes a point where referring people to other sources loses its effectiveness by no longer serving a useful purpose. Not unlike most, I have read many books and heard many teachings over the years, and it is important to always maintain a teachable spirit in order to continue to benefit from the spiritual deposits in others. But, there comes a point where it is time to be able to give an account for what we believe and why we believe it.

As it says in Ecclesiastes, "Be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body." Today, we can just as easily apply that principle to websites. But, regardless of the means through which we receive the seeming never ending glut of teachings, it is high time for many of us grow up and not be so easily "driven by waves, and by every wind of doctrine." Why? Because doctrine does matter!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Frustration and Cranial Bruising

I have been very discouraged in recent months, after seeing scripture so often being twisted and distorted to support beliefs that are clearly contrary to God’s revelation. Seeing this happening on every side makes me wonder why I should consider myself to be right and so many others wrong.

I do NOT consider myself immune to error – especially knowing that I’ve been VERY wrong in the past. The main difference now is that I’m learning to recognise the clarity and simplicity of scripture when it is taken in context. Those people who have concerned me have ALL taken parts of scripture and used them in ways that don’t fit clear context. An obvious example relates to Ezekiel 36 (see previous post) which has come up recently on different and unrelated blogs. In all cases the majority of Ezekiel’s prophecy is ignored and attention is given to two or three verses at the most – because to consider the WHOLE text as written would require an overhaul of attitudes to Israel.

I have also seen the same proof texting going on regarding other theologies. Most theological understanding seems to depend on chosen portions of scripture at the expense of others (i.e. those parts of scripture that cast questions upon a favoured doctrine are ignored or creatively re-interpreted).

There seems to be very few people who genuinely recognise the importance of scriptural context. It is far easier, more convenient, and less challenging to rely on pre-digested theology that requires little more than knowledge of a handful of proof texts.

How can anyone claim to have a desire for truth when they go to such lengths to ignore what scripture is plainly saying? How can they ignore so much as they look for verses here and there to support what they want to believe?
Not only is there a manipulation of scripture, there is the blatant misrepresentation of the beliefs of others. When justification of their own beliefs starts to get difficult, they distort the beliefs of others and then refute the distortion they have created.

The meaning of the term “banging one’s head against a wall” is totally clear when trying to discuss an issue with people who are so blinded by their own theological conditioning that they refuse to consider what others are actually saying – but instead project their own presuppositions into what has been said.
For example, in a discussion here, addressing Israel and replacement theology there is a refusal to recognise that NO ONE has been saying that Israel can be saved apart from the New Covenant. What HAS been said is that Israel WILL ONE DAY be saved by entering into the New Covenant. It is not a matter of present day reality, but a matter of prophetic certainty.

Returning to the earlier question of why I can consider myself to be right and so many others wrong…
It’s because I have come across enough people from diverse backgrounds who have NOT bowed their knee to theological systems that resort to distorting scripture to maintain a semblance of credibility. These people respect God’s revelation more than man’s theology and have been willing to change their direction, sometimes at great sacrifice, when their beliefs and practices have been exposed as false by the light of God’s word. These people encourage and challenge me. None would claim to have reached perfect understanding – but at least they are following the right path and are open to the Spirit’s direction if ever they start to deviate from that path.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Ezekiel 36: Context or Creative Theology

I believe that Scripture should be understood according to its simplest and most straight forward meaning unless the context determines that the meaning is not literal. Who am I to determine which parts of scripture don’t really mean what they seem to be clearly saying?
We cannot legitimately take a couple of verses out of their intended context and apply them in whatever way WE see fit. Unfortunately it has become a common practice to support a favoured theology by applying PARTS of scripture to an argument while ignoring the intended context of those parts of scripture.

I have recently seen a case of this in action where two verses of Ezekiel 36 were used to support a particular view of “regeneration”. However, those verses were part of a prophecy directed specifically at the people of Israel. The argument being made ignored that and concentrated on the chosen verses, projecting into them an argument about the nature and timing of “regeneration”.

That case showed that the same out of context portion of scripture can be used to support totally opposite beliefs - depending on what a person wants it to say, and depending on which surrounding parts of scripture are omitted

Such a misuse of scripture – using it to promote predetermined ends – will NEVER lead to knowledge of the truth. It will merely keep us entrenched in our chosen theology, blind to the revelation that God has given to His children.

In the Ezekiel 36 example, the proof-texting practice was defended with the assertion that New Testament writers also approached Old Testament writings in this way. Apart from the fact that WE are not among the writers of the NT scriptures and do not share their revelatory authority; what happens when two different theological viewpoints are using the same set of verses to support their opposite conclusions? Who determines which viewpoint (if any) is correct? Both use the same approach to biblical understanding but their conclusions differ according to which PARTS of the scripture are referenced

It is CONTEXT that determines the correct viewpoint.

Ezekiel 36 is NOT a general discourse on how and when regeneration occurs – it is a prophecy about Israel’s restoration as a physical nation (when they do not deserve it) and their ultimate restoration to fellowship with the God of Israel (AFTER they have been restored to the land, AFTER they have been taken from the nations, AFTER they have been gathered from all the countries).

All of this is NOT for Israel’s benefit but to show the holiness of God’s great name.
“Then the nations around you that remain will know that I the LORD have rebuilt what was destroyed and have replanted what was desolate. I the LORD have spoken and I WILL do it.”

That rebuilding and replanting that will be recognised by the surrounding nations has not yet taken place. Will the Lord do it as He said? Or do we “spiritualise” those promises and make them mean what WE want them to mean?
Proof texting is the lifeblood of human theology. Consider scripture according to its intended context and theology will be less prone to error.

Read and consider the WHOLE of the prophecy given in Ezekiel 36 – not just the verse or two that can be manipulated to suit a theological argument.


The example I refer to above can be found here: