10 09 2008

I hate that word. It always reminds me of an objective standard out there in the blue that I need to meet but, like the horizon line, is always out of reach. In theology balance is a four letter word. It implies compromise, watering down, and even worse liberalism.

Going back to the age of the Church Fathers, Clement preached a sermon entitled “What kind of Rich man can be saved?” based on Jesus’ response to the rich man who wanted eternal life (Matt 19:16-28). Today we have churches that teach that God’s plan for your life is to bless you financially, keep you healthy and make you popular e.g. Creflo Dollar, Joel Osteen etc. In fact Creflo Dollar is noted as saying God needs people to be rich so that Jesus can buy advertising time to speak to all the people in the world at his second coming. “God needs you to finance the second coming”. Going back through history there were those who shut themselves away from the world. Denied themselves any pleasure, and in an attempt to draw closer to God. They shunned their bodies; beating it into submission, echoing Paul’s own words in 1 Corinthians 9:27 “I beat my body and make it my slave…” The movement was called monasticism. Ironically the idea had more in common with the Stoic philosophies of the Graeco Roman world than with Paul. Today we still have Monks and Nuns but they are less common than they were in the middle ages. Similar movements pop up from time to time ranging from the extremists who literally crucify themselves, to the mild social activists who talk of living in Christian communes.

As is often the case, when one radical interpretation comes out, there is always an equally radical backlash against that interpretation. People get hot under the collar, and become dogmatic about their own points. When pleasure reigns, people preach ascetism, piety, and escape from the evils of the world. Where the latter reigns, people shrug off the oppression and revolt.  We as a species hate balance. We like things to be black and white when more often than not there is a lot of grey. When did Jesus’ words “I have come to give you life, and life to the full” (John 10:10)lead us to think that a life of ascetism was the best way to please God? When did we ignore Jesus’ words “they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues.” (Matt 10:17) when He sent out His disciples. How can we expect nothing but health, wealth and prosperity when preaching the Gospel? How have we distorted Jesus’ words a few verses earlier “for the worker is worth his keep.” (Matt 10:10) to mean that a pastor can claim a 6 figure salary, private Jet and drink only perrier water?

But thats playing Bible scrabble, trying pit one scripture off against another. I’ve had that problem before. Whenever you try to come up with a definitive position for anything in scripture you always get a couple of scriptures that don’t fit. As a Calvinist who believes in eternal security there are those frightening scriptures in Hebrews 6 which have been the source of much contention over the years. For those in the Arminian tradition, John 17, and Romans 8 must be an embarassment. What we don’t need is another proof text sermon on why someone else is wrong. What we do need is an overview of the story. Is the entire Bible a story of Grace? Is the whole Bible a story about God chosing certain nations, and individuals and not others? Is the whole Bible a story of Gods plan to redeem creation? Ironically balance is not the goal, especially if it has some sort of relativistic agenda. We need a reminder of the story. Everyone seems to find a justification for their position in scripture. There are plenty of proof texts to go around. The overall story and big picture help keep those proof texts in check.




2 responses

11 09 2008
m slater

‘Whenever you try to come up with a definitive position for anything in scripture you always get a couple of scriptures that don’t fit.’

Excellent point, I’ve run into this frequently myself, and it might be particularly common in certain popular theologies here in the US. Seems as if most of the time people will adhere to a system and when inevitably some passages do not fit they adjust the verses forcing them to fit the system rather than adjusting or scraping the system.
This tendency is one of the things which frustrates me most about the theology common to the West/US right now. I fail to see how any tradition claiming sola scriptura as part of their heritage can justify placing the supposed truth of their system over the priority of Scripture.

11 09 2008

Yeah I see your point – Sola Scriptura takes presidence over tradition, but that doesnt make the tradition incorrect. The tradition may be firmly rooted in scripture. I don’t think its a case of simply adjusting the system – Calvary Chapel is proof that it doesn’t work. They claim to be preaching the Bible and not holding to any particular system. But really they preach Arminianism, quite aggressively. I spent a lot of time listening to the confused ramblings of Chuck Missler to know firsthand how aggresively Arminian they are.

Do we need to scrap the systems we have? No not neccessarily, but everytime we encounter an objection we need to go back to the source not the tradition. We need to do our exegesis of scripture and base our tradition on that.

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