Monthly Archives: December 2010

Part Two: Asking Why

If you have read my last post,The Lighter Side of Theology: Asking Why,” you are already familiar with my purpose for asking “why” in our walk and ministry as Christians. And I wonder if you’ve given those six “fun” questions any thought? This little three letter word “why,” if used more often to probe our hearts and minds, would keep our motives and our biblical “correctness” in check for more things than we may realize. And that’s a healthy thing, to be kept “in check.”

I make the following points not to offend but to demonstrate that even we in the evangelical community (who boast of our Biblical basis for our church practices) fall into the error of doing and saying certain things which really are more of a tradition than anything else. The six “fun” questions from my last post hopefully were enlightening towards this fact, that they have no biblical basis.

Still I, like most other Christians, have either said, believed or done them at some point. Thank God for his grace that covers us all and never runs dry! This fact also shows how vulnerable WE ALL are towards imperfect theology and unbiblical practices. That is not to say that these things are “sinful”  but simply that the Bible is SILENT regarding them. And if we are to be “Bible based” in all we do, we must be careful to filter all things through the lenses of Scripture. Notice that God’s Word says nothing about:

1. Paul being on a horse while travelling to Damascus and then falling from it. The text simply says he fell to the ground because of the bright light of Christ’s appearing. But pictures and sermons alike almost always portray Paul as falling from his horse.

2. How many wise men came to visit Jesus. There were three types of gifts, but according to Scripture the wise men are not numbered. They could have been anywhere from two to twenty, or even more. Yet every nativity scene and even sermons, once again, portray three wise men.

3. Altar calls being practiced as a public proclamation for those commiting their lives to Christ. We find nothing even resembling an altar call in Scripture. But this is becoming the traditional way to present the gospel. And it may just be encouraging false commitments along the way. Once the first person “Goes forward” and the applause start rising from the congregation, others are more easily stimulated to walk forward under an artificial motivation caused by emotions in such an excited atmosphere. And by the way, they are not coming to an “altar” but a pulpit. The altar was in the temple. Once again, this is a term used without careful thought by the church.

4. Church as a building or a place. In Scripture it is the “gathering” of God’s people. A group, not a place. This is leading to even further unhealthy misconceptions in the modern church regarding “Having church through a television.” Obviously, if we correctly understand what church is we will not be misled in such a view.

5. The “sinner’s prayer” as the way to become born again. In the Bible, we see nothing of a “prayer” form to receive the Lord, only people believing in Jesus and then responding with baptism. Of course, I don’t think such a prayer is harmful and I am convinced that God honors each one that is sincere. But still, we need to be careful with these formulas. By this tradition, we often either give the impression that “once” a person pronounces those words they are “sealed,”  or on the other hand, until someone actually “says” those words they have not been born again. The fact is, they may have been truly converted long before ever praying along in such a formulated pattern.

6. Worship leaders telling people when to stand and when to sit. Once again in Scripture I do not find anyone instructing the congregation to stand or to sit during worship in the early church. If anything, worship was either standing or prostrate on the ground before the Lord as far as the Old Testament reveals. At any rate, no one was ever recorded as just “sitting.” But the idea of telling worshipers when to stand or sit creates a forced worship experience, and typically this is done at fixed times in the service. I uphold the need for order in our church services, but personally I am challenged with this particular practice, a practice that I myself have almost always maintained until now.

So, those are my thoughts on the six questions. I hope you’ve got something good from my bantering!

But I’d like to know in all honesty what uThink about these matters?

The Lighter Side of Theology: Asking “Why?”

I suffer from an overly-analytical mind. Or at least, that’s what I’ve been told. I think about things and look for problems so I can fix them. I even think about thinking, and yes, I find problems at times. Identifying mistakes is good, because that means we can correct them and move forward. But one negative from this is that when there is no obvious problem, I might create one, though it’s usually for myself. Perhaps the words spoken to the Apostle Paul would better suite me, “You are out of your mind! Your great learning is driving you mad.” (Acts 26:24)

Yet the truth is, as Christians, we ought to think and we ought to know what to think about what we think. Instead, what often happens is we take a lot of Christianity for granted. We fail to ask enough questions, either to ourselves or to our teachers. And those we do ask, tend to be the “who, what, when, where and hows.” All observational to collect the “facts.” That’s good, but where’s the why?

Why” is the golden question, and it’s the one my children ask me MOST. They are more interested in the “why” than any other thing. I can scarcely tell them ANYTHING without facing an inquisition of “whys!” And you know what? We should be more like them. For if we sought for the “why,” and found it, we’d be firmer in our faith and better received by all. To ask, and know, WHY we believe WHAT we believe. Could this be, at least in part, what Jesus had in mind when he spoke of “childlike faith?”

When Christians just accept and repeat what they are told without a careful eye to discernment, they replace true biblical faith with a gullible spirit and often are called out on it by the unbelievers who do ask the tough questions. And that is not a noble quality for a group of people who claim to “Know the truth.” We walk by faith, yes. But is faith to be blind or uninformed? Many of our accusers say that it is. But on the contrary, true biblical faith sees quite clearly and it is indeed “in-formed.”

We all could use a little practice at critical thinking in life. We say, do, repeat and encourage others in things we’ve heard but given little thought to. And in ministry, especially, we must ask ourselves “WHY?” Church leadership is responsible for where it takes the sheep. So I’ve begun to do this, and the results have been quite revealing in light of Scripture. Here are six FUN questions I’ve asked myself recently. I’m curious if you have ever thought about these, or others like them, and if so, what have you come away with?

1. Why do we teach that there were three magi from the East who visited Jesus?

2. Why do we refer to the “sinner’s prayer” as the formula for a person’s new birth in Christ?

3. Why do we encourage “altar calls”?

4. Why do worship leaders tell people when to stand and when to sit?

5. Why do many think the Apostle Paul fell from his horse on the road to Damascus?

6. Why do we often say “I’m going to church” or say “I’m at the church” as a location?