Friday, October 23, 2009

Breaking Out of the Circle

In the days of the settling of the United States, when the covered wagons headed west, they would meet with attacks along the way. When this happened, they would circle the wagons and make them a barrier behind which to hide and shoot at the enemy. This is the approach many take to theology. They pick a narrow view and circle the wagons around it, with their guns aimed outward to shoot anyone on the outside. The result resembles the state Paul deplored at Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:10-17). Paul characterized this state of things as carnality (1 Corinthians 3:1-8) and stated that disunity and dissension are the result of not having the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:1-11).

Another approach is to treat God's teachings like the cards in a game of rummy. We keep the ones we like or think important and discard the rest. In this, I am not just referring to those holding liberal theology (who discard just about everything). There are many from a more conservative theological point of view who follow this approach, holding on to a few key basics of the faith and ignoring the rest. But we are told that all Scripture is profitable (2 Timothy 3:16,17) and that there is an obligation to teach the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27).

I would rather approach theology as a mountain climb. We are on a journey to reach the place where we will know as we are known (1 Corinthians 13:12), but we are not there yet (Philippians 3:13, 14). But every step we take in learning more about God and His teachings brings us closer to being the people God calls us to become (Ephesians 4:13-16). Now don't get me wrong; there are dangerous places on the mountain. There is the "Jesus is not God" cliff, from which those who go over it fall to their destruction (John 8:24; compare John 8:58). There is the "We can be saved by our own works" quicksand, in which climbers can sink to their demise (Galatians 1:8, 9). It is necessary to enter the gate at the entrance of the path up the mountain (John 14:6). I am not by any means advocating that all roads lead to God; most lead away (Luke 13:23-30). But we are also admonished against thinking we have everything figured out (1 Corinthians 3:18; 8:1-3). We should therefore be careful of looking down on someone who is headed up the mountain but is taking a different path than we are. It will all become clear when we reach the top. But we should not ignore any point of truth as we climb up. Every step is getting us one step closer to the top.

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