Wednesday, June 8, 2011

How important are beliefs?

I am not sure how to go about describing my dilemma so you may have to be patient with me as you read.  In  the churches I attended growing up, there was much emphasis on believing biblical truth especially when it came to how assemblies are conducted and the basics of turning to Jesus for salvation.  But there was little emphasis on reaching out beyond the walls of the building.  There was little emphasis on life transformation.  Someone was considered a "faithful Christian" (as opposed to someone who had fallen away) if they attended the assembly regularly (preferably 3 times a week) and if they agreed with the aforementioned truths.

Of course, there was much fighting over some of the "truths".  The most ridiculous one I can remember was when we lived in a small town in Iowa.  One tiny congregation refused to meet with the bigger (but still small) congregation because the bigger congregation refused to agree to stop wearing gold based on I Peter 3:3.  "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes."

Then a shift occurred.  A movement started that was in many ways a breath of fresh air.  It started emphasizing "salvation issues" as the truths and basically shucked all others in an attempt to create more unity.  With this movement there came a realization that some verses (truths) could be interpreted different ways by rational people (like I Peter 3:3) and there could still be unity among them (you don't have to agree  on everything in the Bible to get along). Without common belief in other truths (Jesus died a literal death and rose again in 3 days), unity would be pointless.

Yet, to most people that I know, unity simply means sitting in the same auditorium listening to the same sermons, giving money to the same collection, and possibly supporting the same missionaries.  If I start talking about unity, I will get off the main point of this post, but I believe there is more to it than that.

 The church I currently attend is the best church I have ever been to.  There is an emphasis on letting God transform your life.  The congregants are encouraged to get out of the church building and go on mission trips or help tutor kids in low income neighborhoods.  These things are sadly missing from most churches I am familiar with.  This church also tries to allow for freedom in the small truths.  They call it being grace centered.  I do not think you would be ridiculed for not wearing gold, but insisting that everyone do so would not be tolerated.

When we first started attending (5 years ago), I had little knowledge and gave little thought to world views.  I had never thought about what the Bible had to say about economics or civil government.  I never thought much about the dangers of the postmodern idea that people get to decide what is true.  I never realized the depth of evil that springs from replacing God the Creator with billions of years of evolution.  My own worldview has become stronger over the years.  I can see more clearly the destructive fruit of an unbiblical worldview. 

So now I am growing more and more concerned that the leaders of my congregation do not share my worldview on many issues (evolution, economics, civil government, etc.).  Now my dilemma is:  How much does their worldview on these issues matter?  How far should one go along to get along?  And what about other issues.  There is no platform to make concerns known.  There is no platform for dialogue and debate.  There is no platform to share new ideas gleaned from scripture.  There is no fellowship in the Word only the dissemination of information and the acceptance of it by the masses. 

So I would love to hear your thoughts (and the scriptures to back them up).  Thanks so much.


Scott said...

These are all good questions and worthy concerns. My first reaction was to be concerned about a comment in the final paragraph. To have no fellowship of the Word, but only a “handed down from on high” mentality is concerning. Now, to be fair, the other extreme is the norm, where we all sit around a room, read a text, and say, “What does that verse mean to you?” That’s harmful as well. It’s what the text means to God, what it means to the human author, what it meant to the original hearers that we need to consider. But as you pointed out, the application of that may sometimes vary, so there does need to be some room for “discussion.”

As to the worldview issue itself, you need to first be reminded of how long it took you to arrive at this place. It happened over time. God brought you here by a process, and we can’t expect others to suddenly arrive at the same place, so I would say some prayer and patience might be in order.

On the other hand, if you attend a fellowship where the Word of God is not held up as final authority, I would be concerned. Evolution was mentioned, and that’s a major sticking point. If God is not God in Genesis, the rest is irrelevant. We can’t pick and choose biblical truth. He is Lord of all, or not at all, as they say.

I would suggest sitting down with the leadership, pastor, elders, etc. and sharing some of those concerns. Not to be divisive, not to “complain,” just to share your honest struggles with these issues. If they are godly men, they will listen and give you some godly response. I don’t think you will change anyone’s mind and may not see any immediate change, but it may cause them to do some thinking about the issues themselves.

Most of us have no clue about worldview issues. We’ve operated under the secular humanistic worldview taught in government schools for so long, that we think we have to adapt our “beliefs” to fit. We don’t. Hold to the truth. Pray for those who haven’t yet seen the importance. And ultimately, you’ll have to decide of the issue is big enough to “separate” over. Just remember, there are no perfect churches, especially on this issue. You have our prayers. (sorry this is so long, but you made the mistake of asking!)

Applied Christianity said...

Hey Scott,
Thanks for responding. I should probably clarify. I go to a huge church where there is little interaction between the 5000 people and the 25 or so elders/25 or so paid ministers except in one on one situations. For example, if there happens to be an elder or minister in your small group or Bible class, then that particular individual is likely to willingly talk to you about almost anything. But if you want to know what the collective thought is of the church leadership, there is no way that I know of to get this information except via sermons. As far as I know, there are no open meetings where any particular person can discuss an issue with the leadership. There are certainly no church-wide open forum meetings.

You are right, of course, about the full context of scriptures. It is sad that being scholarly about the Bible and really trying to understand it in context has slipped to the wayside with so many people. I will say that I think that our leaders do try to do this.

Don't think that your answer is too long. I wouldn't have asked for response if I didn't want it.

Applied Christianity said...

Please read the post after this one for further explanation of the final paragraph of this post.