I. ANOTHER Blog on Discipleship: Why the Fuss?
I. The Truth Matters
Recently, I received a phone call from a good friend whom I met out in the San Diego California area (Escondido) a few years ago. I wasn’t upset at the fact that it was still dark outside and would be for several more hours, because I want to be always accessible to my friends and those who want to be my friends. At any rate, he was just checking in, letting me know how he’d spent the previous day and filling me in on the courses that he was going to be taking at the University of San Diego. He’s in undergraduate school, but is taking advanced courses working toward an eventual Ph.D. in Philosophy to add to his degree in complex mathematics, and he plans to be a great asset to the kingdom of God once he has those credentials. As we talked he was pointing out some things about the moral life of a friend of his, noting that the person was likely to be involved in sin if that one opted to begin dating someone else who was “not regenerate,” as he put it. I countered with the statement that Christians are as inclined to sin as those who are not born again and that I could list any number of circumstances, that even he knew about along with me where believers stepped over into the questionable realm of moral behavior.
Perhaps I was baiting the discussion somewhat when I then said to him that one thing I was becoming encouraged about was that everyone is on the same playing field at birth, and that even Jesus’ life demonstrates to us that it is possible for a man to live free from sin. His response was that because of Jesus’ virgin birth to Mary, he had advantages that we don’t have that made him capable of living free from sin. I offered that that just wasn’t true, and that there was nothing in Scripture that indicated that just because Jesus was born of a virgin that he was incapable of sin. If anything, his being born of a human mother would cause him to receive in himself that very propensity to be able to choose or to reject sin that Adam had. He came back with a statement that basically said that the traditional and classic view of the virgin birth of Christ was that such a birth made him free from sin, and the fact that he was God born into the flesh was the reason that he could not sin.
Now my immediate reply was that I didn’t really care very much for what the orthodox or classic positions of anybody were. But that what we should be bound to is the truth as it is revealed in the word of God. Period. The End. On a previous occasion I had written these words: “I constantly reevaluate my beliefs lest I might have missed the truth along the way. . .I have not been afraid to say some things in words that are atypical of my fellowship or to draw some conclusions that are not even common to the mainstream of my present fellowship either locally or worldwide. ( Essential Christian Baptism [Ft. Worth: Star Bible, 1990], p. 4.)
As a matter of fact, it has become my increasing observation that far too often, people are willing to accept what has been accepted by Church Councils and denominational synods and conventions as orthodox and classic interpretations of what we should believe. Actually, my friend I was just talking about happens to hold that right now he is just too busy in school to do the sort of study that he knows would be necessary to come to personal informed convictions about what to believe about, say, the (so-called) Trinity. And he is content to believe what was decided in the 300′s beginning with the council of Nicea as formulated by Athanasius. Of course my response to that is that I’m sure Athanasius was a very smart man, and Church synods and councils have a lot of smart men sitting and making decisions, but none of those official church decision-making bodies stand above one’s own understanding of the Scriptures to determine what an individual should believe. Those meetings, in and of themselves, may be useful in trying to come to terms with what is right and wrong, true or untrue, orthodox or heretical. But in the final analysis, it will be the individual who will stand before God and give an account of what he chose to believe.
Jesus was very pointed in bringing out just this truth as he criticized the religious leaders among the Jews in his day for creating oral traditions that deviated from the very propositional and written-out word of God by the inspired apostles and prophets. In fact he said these words without apology: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men” (Mark 7:6-7). Ultimately speaking, it is what God has revealed, as opposed to what are functionally the traditions of men, that will make us be what God wants us to be. Indeed, the Apostle Paul was not hesitant to write this: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righeousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
If I want to be adequately and thoroughly equipped for what God wants me to know and to be, I can find it in the Scriptures. I have no excuse to say that just because wise men, leaders, councils, conventions, and synods have said thus and so that I am bound to it. There comes a time when one must be responsible for his or her own beliefs, and we’d all do well to get to that point in our life’s walk. It is the purpose of this blog to encourage just that. Certainly you will see opinions expressed here. Conceivably, you will find perspectives that are not, from a typical point of view, “orthodox.” In fact, some of what you read here could be classified as “heretical” by some. Ultimately, however, what is true is true, and you will be individually responsible for standing before God to give an account for your personal convictions. And you will stand there without your children, parents, without your leaders, and without the opinions of others to back you up. Certainly there is value in reading what others have to say, or listening to them. Comparing thoughts and ideas helps us to refine our own thinking. But none of us are permitted to say, “I’m too busy to think” about essential matters. Each person has to give an account of himself before God. It is my hope that this Discussion Group will spark your pursuit of independent convictions.