Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Definitions and Clarifications

In my last post I responded to a request by a friend to read a blog and give her my opinion of it. It was an entry entitled, “God is in Control, Pt. 2” by Craige Lewis. In my response I said that the writing as it was presented to me was a heresy. I want to make sure that we have the same definition for some words related to error in Christian doctrine. Therefore I am offering some definitions and clarification of terms:

  1. doctrine: a doctrine is a teaching of Holy Scripture or a revelation from God about a particular line of thought in Scripture concerning essential truths, i.e. the nature and character of God, the nature and ministry of his Son, Jesus Christ, the nature, function and ministry of the Holy Spirit, how we can be saved, etc. Doctrine is always based on God’s revelation from the whole body of revealed truth known as Holy Scripture. Doctrine is always about essential truths, it is always revealed by God to the Church, and it is never private, personal, or secret (2 Pet. 1:20-21). If a person prays for a car and then has a dream about buying a car at a certain place, then goes to that place and is able to buy a car, he cannot therefore come forward and postulate a doctrine of dreams and cars. This is not a doctrine. This is a private revelation. He can, however, proclaim the doctrine of answered prayer.
  2. error: In Christian doctrine, error is the proclamation of a misinterpretation of Holy Scripture, or a making of doctrine out of one text without the support of the whole body of revealed truth, or constructing a doctrine by emphasizing smaller matters while leaving the more weighty matters untouched. This last one is what incensed Jesus (Matt. 23: 23). Many churches and denominations go into error by choosing an area of emphasis that is unrelated to eternal salvation or pleasing God on earth. Churches that emphasize clothes and physical appearance, strict obedience to church hierarchy, choosing dates for the rapture are usually in error.
  3. heresy: a false teaching or misinterpretation of Scripture or a misrepresentation of the revelation that God has given the Church concerning a Scripture or a line of thinking about essential truths in Scripture, and not turning from it to orthodoxy once having been shown the error in it. If an error is preached or taught as being true, it is only an error until it is confronted, and corrected by Holy Scripture and divine revelation. If the person teaching this error refuses to be corrected, then his/her error becomes a heresy.
  4. Apostasy: an open, confirmed and continuous contradiction of the revealed truth of God’s Word. The word “apostasy” means “to turn away,” as in turning away from what is true.
  5. Separation of Church and State: a political doctrine based on the first amendment of the Constitution of the United States, stating that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion...." Together with the Free Exercise Clause, ("...or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"), these two clauses make up what are commonly known as the "religion clauses" of the First Amendment” (Wikipedia). This is important because church doctrine is not the same as the law of the land. According to the Constitution of the United States individual Americans are free to have any religion they choose or no religion at all. An individual American can be orthodox, in error, heretical, or apostate in his religious beliefs and not be in violation of any law.

    This last point is important because the Conservative Right has wrapped itself in the flag and the Bible, and proclaimed that it alone represents real Christianity. It beats people over the head with its mantra of hot button issues: abortion, sexual abstinence, homosexuality, prayer in public schools, evolution vs. science, etc. The problem with all these issues is that these people are trying to legislate both morality and faith. This is wrong for two reasons:

It is wrong first because Jesus said it’s wrong. The entire 23rd chapter of Matthew is dedicated to Jesus’ judgment against hypocrites who “do not practice what they preach” (Mat. 23:1, NIV). Jesus goes on to say that these hypocrites “tie heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift one finger to move them” (23:4).

Jesus then says these are people who “travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are” (v. 15). But his greatest indictment against these hypocrites is in verse 23 where he says: “You give a tent of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.”

Jesus said the more important matters of the law are justice, mercy, and faithfulness. Isaiah said that God calls on us to “…undo the heavy burden, and let the oppressed go free” (Isa. 58: 6). The Conservative Right neither believes nor practices these things. Oppression is what they do.

Secondly, attempting to legislate morality and faith is wrong because it violates the Constitution. According to the Constitution there can be no religious test for elective office. The Conservative Right appears to want to establish both a State religion and a religious test for public office. It is wrong in a democratic republic for one religious group to force their religious values on the rest of us. If we do this then we become no better than the Islamic Republics, which I believe are nothing but fronts for dictatorship under the guise of religion.

The present national election campaign is for president of this democratic republic called the United States of America, once known as the "land of the free and the home of the slave." Jesus is not runing for president. His name is not on the ballot. America is not the Kingdom of God. This is a nation that was founded on slavery and exploitation, and hence has been flawed from it's inception. So if you have been crooked from the start, why is it you have to have a perfect leader now?

Any nation and any party that has put up with the bumbling idiot who has lived at 1600 Pennsylvannia Avenue for the last eight years can tolerate someone with a few flaws.

This writer is a Christian who opposes abortion, premarital sex, and homosexuality. But if we make each of these things a crime punishable by law, then we put the government in places where it should not be; in people’s bedrooms. These matters ought to be choices made by the individual and God.

The aim of a democratic republic is to allow its citizens the widest possible latitude in their personal freedoms without allowing them to encroach on the liberties of others. This means that we must give people the room to live their lives and express themselves as they see fit, so long as their lifestyles and behavior doesn’t adversely affect the freedom and expression of others. Real morality can never be legislated.

I would like to see abstinence taught in public schools and be the goal of every high school student. I would like to see prayer in public schools. I would like to see creationism taught along side evolution. But I cannot accept that these things should be coerced on others.

There is a way for our society to deal with the rising pre-marital sex problem, and the vast number of pre-marital pregnancies and abortions; but the churches, pastors, and politicians are too busy playing the blame game to help launch programs that would reduce the rate of first time pre-marital sexual encounters, cut unwanted pregnancies in half, and reduce abortions to almost none.

The first step is to jail the pastors, church men, and politicians who are impregnating the teenagers. I will write about the other nine steps in another post on this blog.

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Blogger Fitts said...

Although I don't agree with everything, I must say "great post".

October 14, 2008 at 8:21 PM  

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