This week I’ve gained a little insight into an attitude that has puzzled me for years.
A theme I preach and teach over and over is the value of each Christian reading and understanding the Bible for himself. Yes, it helps to have good teachers, and we are not meant always to study the Word alone. But a rare gift of recent centuries is the ability of nearly everyone to have his own copy of the Scriptures. Learning God’s will first-hand from his Word is more valuable than learning it second-hand through the filter of a teacher. Plus, when each Christian learns the Word himself, we can help keep one another from wandering too far from the truth.
So I’ve always had trouble understanding why so many Christians seem untroubled when what the Bible actually says contradicts what they’ve been taught to believe. Rather than accept what is right that their preacher and teacher tells them and then refine their beliefs by checking them against the Scriptures, nearly everyone, it seems, simply swallows a whole system of thought from whatever denomination or teaching tradition he learns.
I could write columns full of examples, but here are just a few. When I was an Episcopalian I couldn’t understand why we had an ecclesiastical position known as “priest” when there was no such distinction in the New Testament, and especially why anyone would call that man “Father” in clear contradiction of Jesus’ words in Matthew 23:9. Attending Churches of Christ and, last century, Christian Churches, I’ve had trouble understanding why practically everyone who prays at the Lord’s table gives thanks for “this bread that represents his body” and “this cup that represents his blood” when Jesus, as far as I can tell, never used any form of the verb represents when he instituted the Supper. On the issue of free will and predestination, I’ve always been struck how both sides of the debate smugly ignore biblical passages that support the other side, and I wonder why they can’t both just admit, “This question is far beyond human ability to understand the depths of God’s intentions.”
In short, why won’t so many Christians think for themselves instead of simply letting someone tell them everything to believe in matters of faith and doctrine?
That’s the question. Next week we’ll look at some possible answers. By the way, I don’t know how to enable comments on these postings, but I welcome your thoughts by email at email@example.com. Thanks for reading.
I am sports writer for the Manchester Times and preacher and elder for the Church of Christ at Fredonia. The thoughts expressed here, however, are my own and are not necessarily the positions of either the Times or the church.