Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Connecting the Dots

Have you ever played Connect the Dots? The game is simple. A picture is defined by a series of so many dots, numbered 1 through however many are needed to complete the picture in question. What the person playing the game must do is use a pencil or pen to draw a line from 1 to 2, then from 2 to 3, and so on. Upon connecting the final line segment the picture is complete and you can see what the dots portray.

One may wonder where I’m going with this. The answer is simple, actually. As I have grown and learned as a Christian I have come into contact with various denominations, sects, cults, doctrines and ideas that carry the moniker of “Christian” behind them. What amazes me is the diversity of opinion, doctrine, emphasis and understanding that permeates the various sects within the pail of Christendom. If Christianity is a picture like connect the dots, and the Bible is our guide to direct us on how to complete this picture as we progress in wisdom, maturity and understanding, then how can so many factions possess so many diverse and contrary conclusions? Allow me simply to name a number without getting into denominational names, teachers who propagate these doctrines, or whether or not I agree with each teaching I mention.

There is the Evolution verses Creation debate. Some Christians believe Evolution is totally compatible with the Bible; others are staunchly opposed. Some think that baptism is essential for salvation; others believe it is a public confession of one’s faith in Christ. There are opposing views on the method of baptism (submersion, sprinkling, etc). There is controversy as to whether the Lord’s Supper is actually the consumption of His incarnated flesh and blood. Disputes abound as to whether the Law is binding on Christians or not. There are disputes as to the nature and efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Some believe the gifts of healing, prophecy, and tongues are still within the church; others oppose this view and both claim biblical credibility. To go further, some believe that unless you manifest the gift of tongues at least once you aren’t actually saved. Then there is the debate about salvation itself; is it given by God with no possibility of being revoked, or can man through unfaithfulness lose his salvation? Are Christians entering Tribulation or will they be raptured? Is there even a Tribulation or Millennium? Or is the church meant to set up God’s kingdom on earth for Christ to come and reign from?

This is the proverbial tip of the iceberg. I hope this elucidates my point. What if, while drawing from dot to dot on your picture you decided that you wanted to go from 3 to 6 instead of 3 to 4? Clearly your picture would be distorted, if by only a little. What if you opted to go from 3 to 40? Then the picture would be more grossly distorted. How about if you went in no particular order, disregarded the numbers entirely, and connected the dots the way you wanted to? Clearly the picture you arrived at would have nothing in common with what the designer intended.

Here is where human error through ignorance, bias, pride, and immaturity enter. To hold a view in error while young or uneducated is one thing. There is a remedy to both, and that remedy is God’s immutable word: the Bible. But here’s the rub, as Shakespeare would have put it; some Christians doubt the veracity both in history and theology of the Bible’s account of things. Some only doubt a little (Genesis 1-11, Jonah, etc) some doubt a lot. The exclusivity of salvation is challenged, the existence of Hell is challenged, God’s sovereignty, omniscience and omnipotence are challenged. The inspiration of the prophets and apostles is challenged. Christ’s words are challenged. Some believe “hidden” or “lost” books were meant to be part of the Biblical canon. Others believe that portions of the New Testament were tampered with or added in much later than the traditional dates, making their authority unreliable. Others believe that the Bible is just a wisdom book, one of many, and it represents man’s aspirations about God, his loftiest conceptions of deity for their age and culture. All of this and more abounds within the pail of Christendom.

The picture derived by connecting the dots has only one correct appearance. I won’t say that I have found that completely correct appearance; for I do not believe any man alive will until we stand before the Savior and are made like Him. But our goal and our desire ought to be to seek the clearest understanding of the Bible, led by the Holy Spirit, so we can not only perceive our God more clearly so as to serve Him better, but to impart the knowledge of Christ more easily to a world in desperate need of answers, a world that looks at today’s church and laughs. A Christian is not supposed to have every answer (no one has exhaustive knowledge of any topic on earth), nor are we supposed to be paragons of perfection. A perfect Christian on this earth is unknown; to pretend at it is to practice hypocrisy and give the unsaved a reason to despise our God.

In humility we should strive to receive wisdom from God, who will impart His truth to us, and make the difficult things more clear if that is His will; but what He expects and demands of His children is an obedient walk of faith in light of what He has already deigned to reveal to us. A Christian should not be easily swayed by men’s opinions and the vogue religion of the day. When the designer created his picture he intended that we draw a line from 1 to 2, then 2 to 3, and so on. God, in His own right, is no different. We can’t reach a more complete picture at dot number 10 or 11 until we follow the rules, obey and draw the picture in accordance with the designer’s rules. God will give us no more if we are unwilling to heed Him and listen to what He’s telling us. With every dot connected the picture becomes more clear as to what the Creator intended for us and in us; jumping randomly from dot to dot accomplishes nothing, creates a terrible mess (infinitely more so when doctrine is involved) and creates quite a pain when someone finally needs to erase their steps and start from the point they deviated at. But this too is necessary, and if we are willing to humble ourselves, confess our sins and where we have erred, I hope and believe there would be more genuine unity and fellowship in Christ’s church.

I personally believe John 3:16 is a very good “dot number 1” to contemplate. May the Holy Spirit lead us out of our own speculations and ruminations and into His truth. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

3 comments:

  1. That was a great read, Ian. And very true. God bless, brother. Keep up the great work :)

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  2. Great article, Ian.

    Over the years, I've had to go back to erase and redraw a lot of places I've skipped or added some dots, frequently on the advice of others.

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  3. Hello Anthony. Thank you for the encouragement. I'm constantly grieved by how often we find Christians fighting one another rather than bringing the gospel to the lost and being servants to others. What a difference it would be if we could get our act straight!

    Hello Dfish, I have had many dots out of whack over time, and still have some presently, I'm sure. God will reveal this to me in time. I only wish Christians as a body would consider the direction we force our theology to take despite what the Holy Spirit teaches.

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