SITE NOTICE | MORE..WordPress Widget v1.6! New, CSS-friendly version of the Sermon Browser is now available with further customization. Please note that updating from the previous version will reset all of the saved widget settings. .. click for more info!
This is the third post on my series “Stricter than God.” I’ve been talking about the danger of emphasizing extra-biblical rules and how that can make us stricter than God. I’ve spent my first and second post trying to define what I am talking about, in this post, and for the rest of the week, I want to lay out some of the negative consequences of emphasizing extra-biblical rules.
Today, I will limit myself to what being stricter than God says about our view of scripture.
Extra-biblical rules are often an attempt to abridge or dumb-down scripture.
I’m into GTD (Getting Things Done.) At the beginning of every week and every morning, I make a to-do list. But I don’t just make a list of vague goals, I break it down into actionable statements. “Be fit” is not an actionable statement. “Do forty push ups” and “run two miles” are. If I can’t measure it and say it’s done, then it doesn’t go on my to-do list.
We have a tendency to try to take God’s Word and winnow it down to actionable, measurable steps. In a sense, this is what we should be doing. We all need to, like God told Joshua, “observe to do whatsoever I have commanded you.” If we aren’t turning God’s principles into action, then we aren’t really living out scripture.
But there are parts of scripture, perhaps the most important parts, that cannot be turned into measurable statements because they are matters of the heart. It’s very hard to measure whether or not a person (other than yourself) is “looking at a woman to lust after her” or “presenting their bodies as a living sacrifice.”
Also, sometimes God gives us a “be fit” (just a made up example) principle in scripture that we could turn into a thousand actionable statements. One of us could read it and say God wants us to lift weights every day, while another could interpret it to mean mall walking with their girlfriends. Neither application is wrong, but neither is the right or the only application either. It would be wrong of me to insist that my Christian brother is not being obedient to the command to “be fit” because I am running every day and he is playing basketball. There is a certain amount of interpretive freedom I have to allow with any vague command.
The problem is that freedom always brings with it a little bit of confusion and a lack of uniformity. It is far easier to preach an actionable, measurable statement than to preach a concept. You also see far faster results when you insist on certain applications of biblical principle rather than just teaching the Bible principle as it is revealed. Because of this, there is a tendency to take the revealed word of God and winnow it down to an abridged version that is easier for people to understand and where there is a clear path to obedience and uniformity.
Extra-biblical rules have a tendency to replace scripture.
The problem with abridging or dumbing down scripture into actionable statements is that our abridged, dumbed-down version isn’t inspired of God. Though it was probably never intended to replace scripture, that is inevitably what happens.
We have an epidemic today of moralistic, scripturally illiterate Christians. There are thousands of people in both fundamental and evangelical churches that can tell you God wants them to read their Bible every day, go soul winning, and faithfully attend church but cannot tell you the difference between justification and sanctification, the purpose of the Lord’s supper, or what it means to live “filled with the spirit.” Their life is ordered around scriptureish punch lines, not on the scripture itself. The writings of John Bunyan, the sermons of Charles Spurgeon, and much of the Bible itself seems like it was written in another language because they aren’t following the Bible, they’ve replaced it with an abridgment of an abridgment.
Obviously, there are problems with this …
By insinuating that scripture needs to be abridged or replaced we are implying that God isn’t wise enough to give us what we really need.
God isn’t stupid. If God intended for Christianity to be a checklist of actionable, measurable to-dos then why didn’t He give us a checklist of actionable, measurable to-dos? If doctrine isn’t as important as “standards” than why do we have hundreds of pages of Bible on doctrine and “narry-a-word” on standards?
When we emphasize what the Bible doesn’t, we imply that God didn’t know what He was doing, and that the Bible isn’t enough “that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”
As if that wasn’t enough, there is another problem…
By abridging or replacing scripture, we are moving authority from the pages of scripture to the person who is applying it.
We don’t have to look too hard in scripture to find this. Read Matthew 5. Remember all those occurrences of“You’ve heard that it hath been said unto you by them of old times…But I say unto you…” Around the time of Ezra, the Pharisees formed as a group committed to upholding scripture and making God’s law the law of the land. The problem…their is a lot in God’s law that is hard to legislate. So they started making actionable, measurable rules. Actionable, measurable rules that Jesus completely ignored. The authority of the law had been replaced with the authority of the Pharisees.
Might it be that we’ve replaced the authority of the Bible with the authority of John R. Rice, Jack Hyles or Bob Jones Sr.? Could it be that your standard, and the person who taught it, has replaced the authority of Scripture and the authority of Christ? If you are groaning under the burden of some law, come unto Christ and take his yoke upon you and I promise you’ll find His yoke easy and His burden light.
In the next post, I’m going to talk about what being stricter than God says to people about God.
I’ve said a lot. Agree? Disagree? Let’s talk in the comments below…