Sunday, November 8, 2009
Labels sometimes frustrate me. I understand that often times labels are a simple way to generalize what someone believes without a lot of verbiage, but for some reason in the church we have turned labels into judgments. They can be demeaning. We say someone is a "________" and then roll our eyes, to which the recipient of our comment nods understandingly and purses their lips in agreement. Fill whatever label you want in the blank: Charismatic, pre-tribber, post-millennialist, Calvinist, mid-tribber, Arminianist, pentecostal, amillennialist, creationist, preterist, pre-wrather, literalist, or one of the hundred plus denominations that dwell within the sacred walls of Christianity.
Don't get me wrong - I don't mind being called a calvinist or a pre-wrather or some of the other labels given to me. I don't have a problem with standing on a doctrine and receiving a label for it. What bothers me is the fact that there are so many labels or doctrines within the church today. And here's why it bothers me:
"If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain." I Timothy 6:3-5
How great are those words? "Great?" you ask. Yeah, great and scary. Great because they describe exactly what is going on today in the church, and scary because they describe exactly what is going on today in the church. For there to be so many differing doctrines within the church today means that somewhere along the way someone quit agreeing with sound words and started advocating a different doctrine. And then a portion of believers embraced that differing doctrine, which has lead to millions of hours of controversial debating, which has caused angered outbursts, name calling, broken congregations and friendships, as well as constant friction at the cost of the sound words of Jesus Christ.
What's the solution? Give up on doctrine and just love each other? Accept each other and not debate theological differences? Recognize that each of us has our own perceptions and convictions, and keep our mouths shut? Sorry, it's not that easy. Just do a word search on "doctrine" at Biblegateway.com and you'll find that doctrine is actually very important in the Christian life. We are called to ignore strange doctrines (I Tim. 1:3), to uphold good, sound doctrine (Titus 1:9), to recognize that a time is coming when men won't listen to sound doctrine (II Tim. 4:3), and not to be tossed about by every wind of doctrine which comes from evil and deceitful men (Ephesians 4:14).
And there's basically two ways to know sound doctrine - be in the Word personally on a regular basis and listen to sound, Bible teaching on a regular basis. There is no substitute for feeding on the Word. If you are not under good, solid Bible teaching, then how will you recognize the deceitful doctrines of the evil one? If you are not pouring over the Word, seeking the heart of God, being taught by the Holy Spirit through the revelation of God in written form, then what is your foundation for life? Your feelings? What sounds good to you? What seems just to you?
I love a good theological discussion - put a Bible on the table and have at it. What drives me nuts is when experience and feelings weigh more than the Word of God in a believer's life. And what has happened in the church today is that believers have placed experience and feelings above truth and have accepted all kinds of doctrines, which are not found in the Word. This has produced all the denominations and labels that Christianity now defines itself by - and what a mess we have made of things! What a poor testimony for Christ that His own children can't agree on what His Word teaches!
So, where did this rant come from? I don't know - I just woke up from my Sunday afternoon nap with a burr under my saddle. What can we do about this? Get in the Word, ladies. Get in the Word and stay there. And if you're going to have a label put on your beliefs, you'd better be able to back it up with the whole of scripture, because anything less is more often than not a product of a depraved mind and is deprived of the truth.