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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Doggin' Over Dogma

"Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." Mark 7:7

When we discuss a church teaching the traditions of men as doctrines, I think Catholic or Episcopalian. I think Amish as well, since a person can lose their status in the church and risk hell for doing something the church has not allowed, even if the church ends up allowing it later (like using a gas lawn mower). But as I am an equal opportunity offender (i.e. pointing out error no matter who it belongs to) I really need to discuss the problem of holding to traditions in the evangelical and independent circles of the body of believers.

First, I want to say that I do not think anybody will be let into or kept out of heaven based on their beliefs when it comes to secondary doctrines. Secondary doctrines, to me, are the ones that are NOT stated as being required for salvation. We see in the Word (Acts 2, Romans 10, etc) that what is required is belief in the sinless life of Yeshua and his death to pay for sin, then his resurrection and ascension. Those are the three that you absolutely must hold to for salvation because we are saved by grace through faith in Yeshua as the one who has conquered sin and death. The rest are certainly important, but even in Revelation when addressing the churches, Yeshua says each one has done things right, but that they have also got some of the doctrines wrong. So if we know no church has it all right, and we know no person is always correct, why do we have churches throwing people out because of disagreements over things that are not about salvation or the working out of faith in daily life?

The first tradition I want to tackle is one I have encountered mostly in conservative Baptist churches, and it has to do with the two words. By that I mean that parts of the Bible are still applicable and others are not. You already know I believe the law is for us because Yeshua said that the law would not pass away until heaven and earth passed away (which hasn’t happened) and that anyone who teaches others not to obey the law will be least in the kingdom. There are a lot of people from every denomination who believe the law has been done away with, and as will be the theme here today, the reasons are more that the church has taught them this way than any actual Biblical commands. But I won’t even get into all that right now. What I want to address is the church that teaches the law has been done away with, and yet holds parts of the law against people. This is called a double standard, or my little name for it, the issue of two different words, as in subjective obedience.

If you walk into a conservative Baptist church as a guy with a pony tail, you will be gawked at. If you try to place membership, you will likely receive a lecture about your hair, if not an actual refusal to give you membership unless you cut that hair. While I agree with the premise because they are applying 1 Corinthians 11:14 which says it is shameful for a man to have long hair. Yet, I do not see the same application of the same chapter regarding women put into force. I believe it to say a woman out to wear a head covering, mostly because the word in Greek means a piece of cloth. But even if the church truly feels that reference is about hair, why are they allowing women (and often the pastor’s wife) to be church members with short hair? I have heard it argued that the Bible does not say how long the hair must be, and that is true, but it also does not say how short a man’s hair must be. Yet I know of churches (especially the ones with schools attached to them) who will send a boy home from an event or outing if his hair touches his collar. Brother Mike, who writes those study books I love so much, says himself that he will not allow a man to participate in church functions unless his hair is within their guidelines (determined by man and based on opinion, but still used to prevent someone from participating in the L-rd’s work). So parts are enforced and others are not?

Well, that’s a New Testament command and some churches believe that men, as the spiritual heads, are more accountable than women. So let’s look at another example. Those same conservative Baptist churches teach from the pulpit that getting tattoos is a sin. This is based on Leviticus 19:28. Yet they will serve ham at the church potluck after services the same day, which is in violation of Deuteronomy 5:5. These believers will argue with you that they have freedom in Christ to eat whatever they like (and the rebuttal to that is way too long to insert here), but my question is then why don’t they have freedom in Christ to get tattoos? Why are parts of the OT applicable and others not? The same is true of churches who require their men to be clean shaven. I have no idea where they get this traditions from, because not only did men in the OT have beards (Psalm 133, Samuel 21:13, Ezra 9:3), it was a shame not to (2 Samuel 10). And Yeshua himself had a beard which was ripped out as part of the torture and humiliation he endured on the way to the cross (Isaiah 50:6).

To broaden the paddle some and not just pick on Baptists, let’s consider the traditions of Christmas and Easter. You will not find these words in the King James Bible. These were not holidays appointed by Yah. In fact, they were pagan celebrations that were adopted into what became the state religion of paganism with touches of Christianity. They were means of worship to false gods, and now they are offered up to the Father. He warns us repeatedly not to learn the way of the pagans, and not to offer up strange fire (he must be worshipped in spirit and in truth, not however we see fit). Yet the church the world over calls these the two ‘holiest’ days on the calendar. But that doesn’t jive with what Adonai himself calls the holiest day, also known as Yom Kippur (Leviticus 23). Not only does he declare that he will destroy any who do not observe it (which he does not say about the other feasts) but also that it is to be celebrated forever. Do you believe Him when he says forever? I have heard it argued that forever doesn’t mean forever in the Bible, but that means that we won’t be in heaven forever, or that He was not in existence forever. Two words- it’s really forever when we want it to be, but when we don’t, it’s a limited forever (explain that to me). So we have told Yah that we don’t think his feasts are important anymore, but we conjure up feasts of our own choosing? Are we in the place of the father that we can do such a thing? And yet, I have been called legalistic for observing what the Creator of the Universe established rather than what the pagans established.

Lastly, I want to look at the tradition of the pre-tribulation rapture (and I'm not going to put the scriptural debate here as it can be found several other places, including in my archives). Those who believe in it are accusing those who do not of abandoning the faith, even calling the denial of it the great apostasy of the end times. Yet the Bible does not say we will be spared from tribulation. Far from it. We are given signs to watch for, told what we will endure, and promised blessings for staying true to the end, whether alive or martyred. For ever scripture that may be used to imply that we will not face tribulation, there are two more promising persecution of the saints. Where they read between the lines that we are not present, I read the actual word where white robes are given to those who were killed for their faith in the tribulation. There is also required a great deal of presupposition required in the pre-trib stance in order to make the verses read the way the supporters claim they do. For someone like me who was raised in a church that did not teach this doctrine, those verses are used out of context (and necessitate the conjuring of other non-scriptural doctrines, like different resurrections and different raptures) and still don’t really say that we will be whisked away before the tribulation. Despite that, I am not willing to claim that I have the correct interpretation because we are warned that no man knows the day or hour (meaning we also can’t declare for certain where in the timeline we are taken up), but also because the understanding of all this was sealed up in Daniel until it was time to reveal it. We disagree on other doctrines as well, but without the anger and bitterness that accompanies the lambasting of those who change their understanding of the timing of the rapture. We are only promised that we will be spared the wrath (Romans 5:9). So why are people so adamant that they will not face anything hard?

This tradition is not truly born out of scriptural interpretation, but of another source. People are willing to attack others as heretics over something no one has full revelation of because they are not really willing to die for their faith. Nowhere in the history of the called out ones were believers spared from trouble. They were run out of town, hunted, burned, crucified, torn apart by lions, and scattered to the four corners of the earth. If the Father did not spare even the apostles, who were highly favored, or the establishers of the early church (who did NOT believe in a pre-trib rapture, BTW), then why would He be so specific to spare the current church? In reality, though, He is not sparing the current church. How many in Iran, China, Pakistan, and India are dying for their faith every day? It would seem then that He would only be sparing the Western church? The truth is that the core problem is an entitlement attitude and having such a high standard of living. Americans are the majority if this group, and they claim their suffering will gain them rewards in heaven, but they don’t have any idea what suffering really is. It is not our own self-consciousness when we say grace over our meal in front of co-workers, or even the separation of church and state in our schools. Real persecution is having your life taken away for passing out Bibles. Real persecution is being forced to choose life at the expense of your soul. We don’t want to face the trials listed in the Word, so we take anything that makes us uncomfortable and call it persecution. But our ‘victories’ over these persecutions feel hollow for a reason- how can we stand before the throne and hold up name-calling as persecution when we are standing next to someone who watched their entire family slaughtered and still did not deny the faith? If we will not face any trials, why are warned throughout the Bible so that we be not deceived? If we are going to be kept from tribulation and then raptured away before anything bad happens, then many of the scriptures do not apply to us:

And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Matthew 10:28

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. John 16:33

And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. Mark 13:13

So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure: Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer. 2 Thessalonians 1:4-5

Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 2 Timothy 2:3

And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. Revelation 13:7
He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. Revelation 21:7-8

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. Matthew 5:11-12


laurie said...

mmmmm, good stuff, Amy. You hold up the spotlight of Scripture for all of us.

Cheesemakin' Mamma said...

Thank you for your sweet comments concerning my son on my blog. I'm so proud of him and I'm looking forward to seeing what God will continue to do with him.

Our church is involved with the group "Voice of the Martyrs". It has been a wonderful tool to help teach my son about the persecuted church. I want to prepare my children for the trials that very well may come in their life times. We would all do well to prepare ourselves so that if/when we face the day when we must "stand", we will do it and not deny Christ.

Leslie said...

I will be back to read the rest of these echoes of my heart! Amen sister! Unity is one of my deepest heart cries. So many things were not meant to be how they have become. . .again.