For the most part, I plan to avoid lengthy studies into the finer details of theology. They not only do little to move a post modern mindset so prevalent in our world today, but I believe scripture teaches us that God desires we focus our time and energy serving Him faithfully, primarily by loving one another. With that said, occasionally I receive a question, or concern, which I do like to address.
Recently, a friend referred me to this article, detailing out ‘Protestantisms Catch-22,” and the only logical answer to the proposed conundrum…. at least in the eyes of the author’s. I believe his answer is wrong, not because he applied to use logic, or apply scripture properly (though that may very well be the case). Instead, I would like to point out concerns with the question itself. As an old man once taught me, “There’s never a right answer to a wrong question.”
The article opens up attempting to demonstrate that when more than one viewpoint is offered on a spiritual issue, one or both must be heresy. They cannot both be right! It then goes on to use infant baptism as the example, ending that paragraph with, “If you’re supposed to get Baptized and don’t, that’s a soul-imperiling sin, while getting repeatedly Baptized is also dangerously sinful.” He attempts to demonstrate that two men, each considering one of these possible theologies as correct, should turn to a final authority to insure they do the right thing.
The challenge of having various, opposing viewpoints on different theological matters is nothing new. The apostles dealt with is on numerous occasions, especially since groups of people, who were learning about what Jesus did (and having growing faith in Him), continued to hang onto various traditions and lines of thought. At the same time, others found new freedoms regarding those traditions. We see one such example in 1 Cor 8 dealing with how some looked at meats offered to idols. Some believed that to eat of it would constitute a serious sin. Others had faith to understand that since no other ‘gods’ truly existed; meat ‘offered’ to one of them could not possible have any true quality of ‘unholiness’ about it.
How did Paul answer this conundrum? Did he tell them all to get the one answer from the one leader of the ‘one, true church” and follow his direction? No…he made it clear that people’s conscious were to guide them. Anything done out of a lack of faith is sin, and may lead a brother to destruction. So, those of us with stronger faith in certain areas should not use our freedom in a way that causes a weaker brother to sin. He may follow a different set of rules. However, it violates his faith if you somehow coerce him to do something he believes to be wrong, no matter how much backing you have from God’s Word.
Paul demonstrates that faith takes greater importance in the eyes of God than following specific theologies and rules. Now, certainly, works follow faith. If God asks us to do something, and we do not, we demonstrate a clear lack of faith. Yet, for everything Jesus addresses in the New Testament, many of the finer points did not get addressed. Furthermore, as seen in the above passage, even when we have received revelation, we do not always grasp it. Sometimes, we are simply not ready to receive it. Regardless, I believe this teaching coincides with others in the Bible, such as what we see in Romans 4, where it teaches that Abraham’s faith was credited to Him as righteousness.
Again, as I stated in a previous article, I submit that if God wished there to be one perfect authority to provide the only one, ‘perfect’ interpretation of God’s Word, He would have clearly spelled that out. After all, He wrote plenty of details on the old temple set-up in the Old Testament, including hierarchy, building structure, laws, etc. Instead, in the NT, we see the teachers constantly pushing people towards love, rather than authority of a one, true church. We are called to submit to our elders and leaders, out of that same love and faith for God. But the existence and encouragement of leadership in the New Testament does not, in turn, affirm a religious hierarchy with a single man at the top of ‘the one, true church,” who, ultimately, is the final arbiter of understanding God’s Word.