Monday, February 18, 2019

Its Errant Defense: “Chapter and Verse!”

Neo-independent Baptists 7

Note: This is the seventh post in an eight part collaborative series addressing the neo-independent Baptist movement. Today's post is by me, Tom Brennan. I am 45, a 1995 graduate of Hyles-Anderson College. I pastor the Maplewood Bible Baptist Church in Chicago.

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As Baptists, the foremost distinctive of our denomination is that the Bible is the sole rule of faith and practice. Unlike charismatics, we do not find our own experience authoritative let alone extra-biblical revelation either, and unlike the Roman Catholics we do not elevate tradition to an equivalent place with the Word of God.

The result of this doctrine, and rightly so, is that if we teach a particular thing is right or wrong our people demand to see it in the pages of Scripture. Baptists are made of Berean stuff. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. (Acts 17.11) In real life, this tends to be heard as some version of this: “If you want me to believe you about that I am going to need chapter and verse.”


It is the point of this post to assert that even though this is a wonderful thing it can also become a tremendous problem. Why? Because an unbalanced application of it becomes an almost fatal weakness to the sanctification of God’s people, personal and corporate. In practice, this justifies any and every behavior that is not explicitly forbidden in the Word of God. In other words, if God does not clearly spell out that I should not do a thing it is thus allowed. Voila! I have built myself a loophole large enough to drive an entire Mack truck through – after all, there is nothing in the Word of God about driving Mack trucks, is there?

I am being slightly ridiculous, but my point stands. For example, I have been part of more discussions than I care to remember about whether some particular thing is worldly or not. At some point, someone inevitably reaches for this justification and whirling it around their head like Thor’s hammer demands that all and sundry retreat from the field. But such a position – that unless you can show me a chapter and verse where something is labeled as wrong then I am free to do it – reveals a blatant misunderstanding of how God intended the Bible to function.

Allow me to unpack this for you by way of defining two important words, convictions and principles.

Convictions

In a spiritual context, a conviction is something I am convinced about. How did I arrive at that definition? By combining the dictionary and the Word of God.

Merriam-Webster defines conviction as a strong persuasion or belief; the state of being convinced. The etymology of conviction is Latin, having its roots in terms that mean to overcome decisively, or to conquer. In context, what am I conquering to arrive at my convictions? My own objections, my doubts. Those are overcome and I arrive at the place of being absolutely convinced about something.

We can see here a similarity with the legal term, being convicted. In that usage a jury convicts someone of guilt. Why? Because they become completely convinced that this person actually did the crime with which they were charged. A conviction in that sense is a legal, formal statement of being convinced beyond a reasonable doubt. Such a person who has been convicted becomes a convict. They have been labeled by a jury of their peers convinced of their guilt.

Let us turn now to the Word of God. The King James Version uses the word conviction not at all but does use a similar word – convicted, though on only one occasion. It is not a legal reference of criminal guilt but a personal, spiritual reference, that of an individual becoming convinced of his own guilt. That man, or men rather, felt convicted by their conscience as Jesus was writing on the ground. Their inner justification for their actions no longer held water. They became convinced of their own error.

John 8:2–9
2 And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.
3 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,
4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.
5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?
6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped
Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery
by Pieter Bruegel the Elder
c 1565
down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.

7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.


Though this is indeed the only use of convicted in the King James Version the root word in the original language is used another seventeen times in the New Testament. Defined in the original, it means to reprove or expose, to be sternly admonished, likely using argument to convince or refute. It is variously translated as rebuke, rebuked, tell fault, reprove, reproved, convince, convinced, and convinceth.

In fact, in the very same chapter of the Bible you will find one of these. Jesus, in an argument with a crowd of murderously angry men, boldly states, Which of you convinceth me of sin? (John 8.46) No matter what was said no one would ever be able to convince Jesus Himself or anyone else who knew Him well that He was a sinner. This was true informally and formally, for a few months later at His trial a genuine conviction was impossible to obtain. Even the man who sentenced Him to death, Pilate, did so in the presence of grave doubts. He was not in the least convinced that Jesus deserved death. Jesus was not so much convicted as He was assassinated, and the verdict of history bears that out.

A conviction, then, is something about which I have become convinced, often because I got convicted about something.

Where should I get my convictions from? Negatively speaking, I should not get them from popular opinion, from what my friends or peers think, from what experts say, from my own reason, or from my own experiences. Why not? Because all of these are fallible. Yes, they often contain some truth, some fact, but they never always contain entirely truth or fact. These sources for convictions are never completely correct let alone always completely correct. Thus, we see the only proper source for our convictions – the things in life we are to be convinced about – is the Word of God.

For example, one of my life convictions is that adultery is wrong. This is not based on what society says or my own bitter experience. It is based simply on the Scriptures. Moses tells us in the Ten Commandments, Thou shalt not commit adultery. (Exodus 20.14) Ergo, adultery is wrong, as is its closely related second cousin, pornography. Why? Because Jesus explains in the Sermon on the Mount that the Mosaic law was not just forbidding the physical act but the heart of lust that drives the physical act. (Matthew 5.27-28) On these issues there is no doubt in my mind. I am convinced, and that conviction is based on the Word of God.

Principles


Much of the time God reveals His will in Scripture by plain pronouncement. The Ten Commandments cited above are an evidence of that, as is the illustration of adultery and pornography. That is a clear statement, and my application of it to pornography based on Jesus’ explanation of it in Matthew 5 is likewise clear. There are hundreds of such statements in God’s Word, simple declarations that are not complicated to understand, that draw a line and insist we stay inside of it or outside of it. Using such statements as our guide it is not difficult to formulate our convictions. They may be difficult to live but they are not hard to prove or establish.

The Christian life, however, is full of decisions that are not so clear-cut. And if my interpretation of Scripture demands I only hold to those that are clearly and plainly staked out my life will inevitably grow to resemble the worst of the world around me.

What is my support for asserting this?


Let me begin with an example. Is drug abuse wrong? Can I rightly be convinced of that, can I make that one of my life’s convictions? Well, there is no clear statement to that effect in the Word of God, no “thou shalt not take cocaine.” There is a clear Bible statement commanding me to obey the laws of the land, though. Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God. (I Peter 2.13-15) Inarguably, it is right for me to obey the law when the law forbids drug abuse. But as our society grows more and more secularistic and paganistic the laws forbidding drug abuse are crumbling. As I write this, in eleven of the fifty American states recreational use of marijuana is legal, and medicinal use is legal in another twenty-three. In the last election my own state voted for recreational use in an advisory capacity, and the man elected governor included that in his official platform. Currently, in Chicago it is illegal for me to smoke marijuana but I am sure it will soon be entirely legal. What will prevent me from doing so then?

The Word of God will. If there is no clear Bible statement forbidding marijuana use how can I say that? Because God reveals His will with more than just clear statements; He reveals His will with biblical principle too.

What is a principle? Merriam-Webster defines it as a comprehensive law, doctrine, or assumption. It comes from Latin terms such as princeps, meaning chief or first, and principia, meaning beginning, origin, commencement, or first part.

Turning to science for an example, we can see this in the principle of buoyancy. Why does iron sink while wood floats? Because of the principle of buoyancy. And there an almost infinite number of applications – various densities of wood, various temperatures of water, how the iron is shaped, if it is propelled, etc. Whether you are building a navy, planning to swim the English channel, or operating a buoy making factory you need to understand and apply the principles of buoyancy. The specific situation varies but the principles apply to all of them.

Understanding this leads me to my definition of a principle. In the context of spiritual things, a principle is a general expression of God’s will often with a wide application. It is not specific as in thou shalt not commit adultery. It is general. At the same time, it is just as much God’s will as thou shalt not commit adultery but it is left wide on purpose in order to allow it to be applied to many different things.

Let us turn back now to my conviction that smoking marijuana is wrong. Is there a clear Bible statement to that effect? No. But there are several principles I can think of relatively easily that apply, and lead me to my conviction. For one, my body is the temple of God. (I Corinthians 6.19-20) He resides in me and I am to glorify Him in what allow and disallow in relation to my body. Additionally, I am responsible to manage the resources God gives me for His use, not my own. One of those resources is my physical health. Good stewardship implies if not demands that I take care of my body as carefully as possible so that I may continue to serve Him. (I Peter 4.10) Not only that, but God tells me that I am not supposed to let something else other than the Holy Spirit control me even if it is legal. (I Corinthians 6.12) These and other principles lead me to my conviction, whether it becomes legal or not.

Paul uses this very approach often. He cites a principle – a general expression of God’s will – and then he uses it as the justification or foundation for a wide variety of applications. For instance, there is a section of Ephesians that runs through two chapters that does exactly this. It begins with a general admonition. That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. (Ephesians 4.22-24) That is certainly an expression of God’s will but it is just as certainly not a narrow, specific one; it is a wide, general one. From that statement, that principle, Paul over the next nearly twenty-five verses extrapolates out some very specific things. He forbids lying, anger, stealing, corrupt communication, and fellowshipping with those who still do such things. He exhorts us to tell the truth, to work hard, to use our speech to edify others, to forgive, to walk in love, to sing, and to give thanks. These applications are consistent with other aspects of God’s will revealed in Scripture, and are just as valid of a foundation for our convictions as a clear Bible statement is.




If you are still with me over two thousand words into this post you surely must be thinking to yourself, “Ok, fine, but what does all of this have to do with the neo-independent Baptist movement?”

The answer is, “Everything.”

How so?

The neo-independent Baptist movement takes for an article of faith, apparently, the idea that if God does not specifically say He is for or against something in a worship service then the rest of us dare not say so either. This is a blog series aimed at philosophy rather than methods, but here methods become clearly illustrative of my point. I am not allowed to say that God is against a certain style of worship service because there is no chapter and verse I can point to when I say that. "All styles of worship services are acceptable," they say, "the only real guiding point is what is culturally acceptable in your local context. God is not specific as to methodology. These are preferential issues not worthy of dividing over like a conviction would be. We cannot draw lines because the Bible does not draw lines. God may lead you to a more conservative position and me to an entirely different position but that is ok; we are both entirely acceptable in God’s eyes. There is nothing in Scripture to assert that God is more pleased with my church’s worship than the worship of a church down the street. God draws no negative lines here, and to say He does is foolish. You cannot show me any chapter and verse that says He does. Methodology is not theological; it is preferential."

A movement that accepts such shoddy justifications is not scriptural no matter how much it hollers, “Chapter and verse, brother, chapter and verse!” It has purposely refused the anchor of biblical principle (s). While it is beyond the scope of this post or, indeed, of this series to address many of the principles in question the fact is the concept of biblical principle has been rejected in forming corporate convictions. To make matters worse, such refusal is progressive. The consequences, at first minor, over time become more severe. The result is the destruction of sanctification, of being set apart, as the world is incorporated more and more into the church. Eventually, all that marks us as doctrinally and practically distinct evaporates, and we become like the rest of contemporary American Christianity.

…and it is happening right before our eyes.











































29 comments:

  1. Wow, so you’re in essence saying that if you “feel convicted” by something, that is more concrete than actually having biblical support? There have been serveral things I was “convicted” about before, but that conviction/guilt was based upon a manmade tradition and not truly from the Word of God.
    You have accused the “neo-IFB” of basing things on feelings, and now you do the same.
    We’re on the same team, so please stop with these pointless posts that help no one.

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    1. No sir, that is not what I am saying at all. And I think the only way you can draw that from this post is by ignoring the second half of it.

      I am saying that if I only base my convictions on a clear, plain Bible statement and ignore biblical principle while so doing I am not using the Word of God as the Author intended it to be used to form my convictions.

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    2. So what biblical principles are “neo-ifb” ignoring?

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    3. Again, I would refer you to the post itself for your answer. This post and even this series cannot answer that question. It would involve an in-depth exploration/description of biblical principles.

      My point is simply to show the errant rejection of principles as a concept, period.

      Blog posts have limits. Books don't. It's why I write both.

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    4. You keep saying that they are rejecting biblical principles, yet you hide from at least giving examples? You say the point of this article is to show the “errant rejection of principles as a concept”
      What does that even mean?

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    5. I don't think I'm hiding from answering your first question. I'm sorry my response does not satisfy you.

      Your second question indicates either I failed to communicate clearly in the blog post or you choose to misunderstand it.

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  3. AMEN to the article and to your final verdict:

    "The result is the destruction of sanctification, of being set apart, as the world is incorporated more and more into the church. Eventually, all that marks us as doctrinally and practically distinct evaporates, and we become like the rest of contemporary American Christianity.

    …and it is happening right before our eyes."

    I dont want to go to a "church" that looks and sounds like the world. I want it to be distinctly different than what i came out of; the world. Compromise may please men but surely GOD is not pleased with a "worship" service that applies more to the flesh of men than the HOLY SPIRIT of GOD according to the principles found in the HOLY WORD of GOD.

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  4. This is good, its honest and there's something to answer. Its honest that there is no specific scripture to support most convictions, but that they are specific convictions based on general passages. There is a broad gulf between the principle given in the Bible, and the conviction, and that gulf is man. Each conviction comes from the perceptions and beliefs of an individual. No matter how much you believe it, it may be wrong because you are dealing with something not clearly spelled out in scripture.

    The marijuana is an excellent example as in the near future it will likely become fully legal for recreational use. When that happens, the author gives a principle that he believes will still apply, I Cor 6:19-20, and I Pet 4:10, referencing care for the body. Basically saying that because it is unhealthy he still believes that marijuana would be against scriptural principle even when it is legalized. He also mentiones not being controlled, I Cor 6:12. That all sounds good and those princples have been used for decades. But current studies are strongly indicating that marijuana has many beneficial properties, and not a lot of evidence for any negative ones. It is not chemically addictive like alcohol or narcotics, it is no more addictive than soda pop or McDonalds. Although you could argue that smoking is bad for the health, marijuana can be just as easily ingested in food, and that is the more popular method for many older users. Basically, all the biblical principles given can be easily shown to not apply based on evidence modern science is giving us, so I really believe that in the near future a believer could bake pot brownies and enjoy and be completely right with God. I can hear the outrage now, but prove me wrong. For every study suggesting a possible issue with weed there are three showing it to be harmless or beneficial. Increased understanding by science is going to change how marijuana fits into your general principles. Therein lies the fallible part of convictions based on general principles, they still come from man's understanding and perception.

    I still have my own convictions based on biblical principles, and so do all christians of the neo persuasion that I know, they are simply different than yours. But that doesn't mean they aren't based on the same biblical principles. One conviction I have is against attempting to force my convictions on everybody because I am well aware that they are fallible. I understand that christians with fewer or more permissive convictions may well be completely right with God, and I accept that I may not have a conviction about something that I should. We are all just sinful humans doing our best to serve a Holy God.

    Convictions are and always will be based on more than scripture, but also interpretation and perception. To provide an example, women wearing pants, an old IFB bugaboo, that I have noticed has begun to go by the wayside. Thats for a very simple reason, the biblical principles used to defend the conviction that women should not wear pants don't apply. An old Testament law that we are no longer under, and the general principle of modesty. Considering the many modesty issues with skirts, no reasonable person believes that pants are inherently less modest. A historical examination shows that the whole issue arose based on a cultural shift that didn't sit well with mysoganist men who didn't like the increased role women were taking in society. A "biblical" conviction was generated as a result and was perpetuated for decades despite having no real scriptural leg to stand on.

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    1. With all due respect to the sincerity of your comments, please help me understand how refuting a BIBLICAL principle presented by the author with claims made by science is much different than refuting an apple by explaining an orange.

      Furthermore, would it not be reasonable for a man to desire to stand before God and give an account for having lived his life based in principles he found in the pages of scripture rather than in the pages of a medical journal or reports of modern science?

      I agree with your statement where you said, "One conviction I have is against attempting to force my convictions on everybody because I am well aware that they are fallible." But there is a great difference between me forcing my convictions on someone and the Word of God and Holy Spirit of God revealing God's position on the matter to someone. One we can do without -- the other is essential to Christian growth. If all we have is man's opinions to live our lives by we are of all men most miserable! But does not Jn. 16:13 show that the Holy Spirit has been given to reveal to the believer what God says is truth on matters?

      I am all for having my preferences challenged by the Word of God and the Spirit of God so that I may have the opportunity to further grow in my knowledge of the holiness of God. But with that knowledge comes a responsibility on my end to choose whether I will renew my mind and transform my actions to conform to the express image of His holiness or whether I will not.

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    2. I did not refute a biblical principle, its in the Bible. The principle stands, but how do you know if something is harmful to your body and thus against that principle? That must come from somewhere, and science is a great source for knowing what his harmful and what is not. If science says something is beneficial and harmless then how can you apply the principle?

      The purpose was to illustrate the point that when you apply biblical principles you are using other sources such as culture, science, and our own opinions.

      Because the vast majority of how to live our lives is not dictated specifically it the Bible, its mostly just application of principles where we believe they fit, and that involves a lot of human opinion. Its not like its all man's opinions to live our lives by, the Bible gives a decent list of specific sins and instructions, but the rest is left up to us. Can you honestly say there is one specifically right way to live? Its great if you believe that the Holy Spirit gave you the answer, but that doesn't mean you actually have the answer for everyone. Maybe for you it is the right answer, each of us have different stumbling blocks and weaknesses. As I have said before, I do not see a need to force anyone else to follow my convictions. I just see no evidence in scripture that there is one right answer for how to handle every aspect of life, its not there.

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    3. "One conviction I have is against attempting to force my convictions on everybody because I am well aware that they are fallible."

      *Forcing* one's convictions on another is deplorable and something that Baptists have historically opposed. I'm wondering if Durandalski and I are defining this term differently. So I ask: what exactly do you mean by *forcing* convictions on another?

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    4. Applying principles and generating principles are two different processes and it appears to me that you are using them synonymously. You don't generate principles by applying the Scriptures to life.

      One of the misconceptions about science is that it proves anything. (Click here for a discussion about scientific proof) To say that science dictates this or that is to misunderstand science. I can see very clearly that loving the world is bad. How do I understand what loving the world means? By science, i.e. experience. You might have weak or strong science, but wisdom is justified of all her children. (Luke 7:35) – a principle is stronger or weaker as it serves to explain the data derived from experience. The emphasis of Prov 1:20-22 is that wisdom is also found in the public place.

      Yes, I can honestly say there is one right way to live: by the Bible...but that was not your point of course. What is at stake is that the stronger and clearer the principle is, the stronger and clearer I should "...reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine." (2 Tim 2;4) As I preach the Word, I am to use doctrine, which is teaching, not just Bible quoting. This necessarily involves developing principles, again, the stronger the better and the more forceful. You said,

      Because the vast majority of how to live our lives is not dictated specifically in the Bible, its mostly just application of principles where we believe they fit,

      This just doesn't make sense to me. If you had said, "Because the vast majority of how to live our lives is not dictated specifically in the Bible, we have to utilize Biblical principles but that is what I believe Bro. Tom was saying to begin with. Again, Applying the Bible and generating principles from the Bible and life experience are two different processes. I do not think that creating one right answer for how to handle every aspect of life is the issue here. Developing strong principles is the issue.

      Can we force the application of the principle? Yes. That is one of the substantive issues of what it means to be a church with bylaws. You can the wearing of dresses for church (although I think I would look ridiculous if we did). You can even extend this to policy. My policy is that you have to wear a jacket and tie in the pulpit if you are preaching or leading worship. I have no trouble in my conscience forcing it. Can I find a Biblical principle for this? You can be sure I can. Would I suggest the application of the Biblical principles is how you can attain holiness? The most obvious answer is no, but I believe I can make an extended case for not excluding it in the pursuit of holiness.

      Can I force them on your church...no, that is not what Bro. Tom or any other writer has espoused. Everyone recognizes that that is the genius of Baptists – church autonomy.

      Whether we can force them on all of Christianity is not even addressed by any of these articles and is a total non-issue.

      At some point, the science of what we see in other churches as they start to move together like a flock of starlings causes us concern to warn our brothers. We do this from the principles developed from Scripture and life experience. I believe the point of Bro. Tom's article is that we should not be inhibited by a chorus of calls for "chapter and verse." It is because of this that cherry-pickers will take advantage of weak science and you are right that the next thing we will see amongst the 'Neos' are people clamoring over the brownies at the dessert table at the next church luncheon because they couldn't develop a strong enough principle.

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    5. Your point that "the purpose was to illustrate the point that when you apply biblical principles you are using other sources such as culture, science and our own opinions" is understood. Yet, history itself shows us that those three sources are highly vacillating and unreliable.

      I grant that there are always going to be differing viewpoints as we consider the principles that we yield to and allow to govern our day-to-day living. Yet the reliability of the sources of these pieces of information will vastly effect the outcome of our decisions. A child who is living in accordance to information from his rebellious peers will live a totally different life than one listening to loving parents. The difference is the source. A rebellious friend may encourage this child to do as he pleases for gratification in the present while a loving parent may restrain the child to save him from heartbreak in the future.

      The pages of scripture are full of evidence of the exclusivity of our God. He had one right answer when it came to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and that truth applied to all. He had one side that He stood on when Korah was defiant. He had one right way to offer sacrifices and consumed Nadab and Abihu when they offered something different. He had one way to escape the Flood -- the Ark. The list goes on and on.

      When truth becomes relative is ceases to be absolute truth. Applying your argument of "principles being relative," to the matter of salvation, one would be forced to believe there are many ways to get to heaven depending on what source you've listened to. Islam has a "way to God" as do many other 'religions' of the world. Was it not Jesus, Himself, Who rather boldly stated in John 14:6 that He is THE way, THE truth and THE life? Furthermore, HE SAID, "...no man cometh unto the Father but by me."

      Just as there is only one way the Holy Spirit will reveal that a man can be saved, so also there is only one way for me to live my life in holiness. The onus is on me to rely on the Holy Spirit of God to teach me how to do that. The sources I use will greatly effect the outcome. I choose to believe that the answer to every one of these principles is contained within the Word of God and will be revealed by the Spirit of God to those who are searching. Does it take work and effort to dig and mine these truths? Yes. But it also brings a comfort knowing that the decision has been based in the Word of God not the opinions of man. Furthermore, it relieves me of any attempt to press "my conviction" on anyone else because I know the Spirit of God that has been faithful to lead me into the truth will also be faithful to lead other seeking saints into the same truth -- God's truth.

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    6. Furthermore, a study of the life of Saul of Tarsus / Apostle Paul would also yield some helpful insights on the fact that God has one way to live. Saul was zealously attempting to please God, but the source of his information was erroneous. When, on the Damascus road, he recognized and yielded to God's truth he found his life transformed and the power of God upon His life and ministry.

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    7. Ah, we have generated discussion, this is good.

      To those who asked, by "forcing convinctions on other people" I mean any conviction you will seperate over, and teach against. When you seperate from someone it is communicating to them that they are in sin, as that is what the Biblical principle of seperation is for, that is in essence forcing your conviction on them. That is why I come to debate because no matter the kind words used, when you seperate from people you are saying that they are in sin, and in regards to the subject of this series I feel that level of response doesn't fit.

      Everyone is saying they are living "by the Bible" but my argument remains the same, the Bible does not give explicit instructions on every aspect of how life, or church, is conducted. Inherently everyone is relying on those "highly vascillating and unreliable" sources to interpret and apply the Bible to their life and church, no matter how hard they believe otherwise. But I have never said that everything is relative. There are many teachings in scripture that are explicit and specific. For instance, adultury is a sin, fornication is a sin, ect. These are principles with very clear application, black and white. But those don't tell me how to go about finding a wife. There is absolutely nothing in the Bible to give instruction on that, unless you want to take the biblical example of the families working it out and the woman (and sometimes the man) having no input on who they marry. Yet I've met well meaning fundamentalists who insisted that their specific version of courtship or betrothal was the only Biblical way to find a wife. Most of us would find their beliefs quite silly, but to them it was absolutely Bible truth.

      "Developing strong principles is the issue." I think we are just using different words to say the same thing here. We develop principles by which to live our lives, by applying the Bible. The implication I disagree with is that those with different principles have weaker or non-existant principles. I'll tackle the Bible issue as an example here because its one that was thrown in my face when I left the IFB world, accompanied by many a scripture reference about God's Word. "You don't have respect for scripture""You don't believe the Bible is inspired""You don't believe the Bible is trustworthy." None of that is true, to the contrary I have the utmost respect for the Bible, and I believe in a perfectly preserved, inspired Bible, across all translations and languages. I believe that God's Word is miraculously preserved regardless of the words used, because language, like all things in the fallen world, is changeable and fallible. But through his power God ensures that His Word says what He wants it to say no matter who translates it, or what language it is translated into, be that modern english or tagalong. I think God's Word resists efforts by sinful men to corrupt it, and as testament to that you can read even the most deliberately corrupted version (probably the jehovah's witness Bible) and find the same Gospel and Christ in it and get saved with no other sources used. Most christians I know have the same or similar belief when it comes to scripture. Is that lack of principle or weak principle in regards to God's Word? Far from it, it is simply a different principle than those who believe the KJV is the only perfectly preserved inspired Word of God.

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    8. God does not have one way to live, and Paul is an excellent example. Paul was celibate, he even said that all men should be like him and give all of their focus to God. That a principle thats in the Bible, but I bet most of us are married. Even a cursory study of the Bible would show that there is not one way to live. Sampson never cut his hair, (till he disobeyed God) he wouldn't be welcome in most IFB churches I grew up in. Solomon (as well as many other OT characters) had many wives, and probably not a moment's peace because of it. John the Baptist lived the wilderness and ate locusts, Jesus ate and drank with everyone, including some very rich men. The idea that there is only one right answer to anything and everything is the exact idea I am fighting against. I am not saying, and have never said that there is no one right answer to anything. Some things have only one right answer, like salvation. Beyond that some things have obvious principles that apply, others do not. You don't need to look in your Bible to see if you should give the clerk back the change she overpaid you, the Bible clearly teaches against dishonesty and theft. But if you look in your Bible to see if you should buy the expensive car or the cheap car you won't find the answer. You may decide to buy the cheap car and give more to missions. Or you may decide to buy the expensive car so it will last longer and be more reliable so you can take the neighborhood kids to church. You can apply Biblical principles to come to either conclusion, and there is no one right answer.

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  5. 10 minutes from the time this was published, the first comment rolled in. You can barely read it, much less form an opinion in 10 minutes.

    "One conviction I have is not forcing my convictions on others." That's called leading from behind.

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  6. Being sincere and not wanting strife I wish to ask the author this question (also know that I am a conservative IFB missionary): What Biblical principles are being violated due to these differences of methods of worship?
    I believe that you are absolutely correct in calling out the "chapter & verse" argument as I have seen that twisted into a form of legalism in itself.
    This is a question is one from which I see many people shy away. I would love your input on it.

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    1. As I mentioned above, to answer that question would require not only its own blog post, but perhaps its own series. We chose to go in the direction of addressing a number of errant philosophies with this series, and we could not do that and also address what you are asking. There may be something like that in the future perhaps.

      The only other thing I would mention to you is that I have written in great detail about music in the past. I think it was 30 or so blog posts. You may find some answers in that series. You can find those posts by clicking the word "Music" in the word cloud on the right side of the blog page.

      I appreciate your service for the Lord. Keep at it.

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  8. Good article, Tom. The parallel with marijuana is apt. I was in the rock music business and hence the drug scene in the 70s-90s, and saw many people damaged by both. I jammed and chatted with R&B guitarist Stevie-Ray Vaughan and saw how confused & lost he was. BTW, when I got saved, I integrated seamlessly into a Charismatic worship team.

    My experience of marijuana disagreees with the bulk of published research, but as a former atheist academic, I can confirm the old adage that if you torture the data enough, it will confess to anything. If you set out with a preconception that marijuana is ok, nothing will deter you from that position. Likewise with rock music.

    If my experience was opposed to the teaching of scripture, I'd now be the first to reexamine my analysis of my experience. However, as it confirms the principle outlined in scripture, I find it helpful.

    As pointed out in the third article in the series, many have gone down parallel paths without learning from either their predecessors or from scriptural principles. As Hegel pointed out, history teaches that man learns nothing from history.

    Thankfully our heavenly Father gave us both the specific commands and the principles of scripture as our guide.

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  9. Just a heads up. All the links are dead. Returning 404 (?)

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    1. That's weird. The only link - the one to my church page - just worked for me. Maybe the server was down for a bit or something.

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  10. Tom, I appreciate your post and I agree with you that just because something is not forbidden in scripture does not mean it is a blanket approval. I am just not sure sending people to a theory of principles is helpful.

    Hang with me. In the Old Covenant it was an external law code that constrained behavior. Under the New Covenant there is a regenerated heart and a law written on the heart (I would argue this is the Spirit, but that is another topic) but most importantly there is "Jesus Christ" the greatest man ever. Do we need to see "holiness?" - we look to Christ as our example.

    NT sanctification is not so much about an external code but an internal heart change and love for Christ. Emulation of Christ....granted I don't think you will come out just like everyone else every time.I suspect this is why it's easier to give a list to people!

    Christians need to learn to think through life in community (a church) guided by love for Christ and love for their neighbor. My .02

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    1. I don't strongly disagree with you here - other than your phrase "theory of principles", I suppose, that bothers me - and we probably agree on more than we disagree. I've just finished writing a book on holiness that will be released in the next few months so I've thought about this a fair amount recently. Holiness is being like Christ, having the moral purity of God. It is first an inward grace that then works its way outward. The emphasis in Scripture is certainly on the former of those two though the latter is not ignored near as much people seem to think it is.

      You did not directly speak to this, but I hold the classic theological position that the NT Christian is still bound by the moral law. That makes the OT more applicable, I think, and certainly more useful in the life of the average Christian. Perhaps we would disagree there, I don't know.

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    2. Hi Tom, perhaps the words"theory of principles" are not the best. I will watch for your book on Holiness. I am glad to see IFB guys writing.

      I do not see the Moral Law as binding, I actually dispute the tripartite division altogether. I would fall into the "New Covenant Theology" or probably more accurately 'Progressive Covenantalism" However I am not an evangelist for it!

      You are right to bring it up though, it does speak to all this. Blessings on your work

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    3. Fair enough.

      God bless you too.

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