I have always had many friends who come from a wide variety of denominational backgrounds. We may disagree on some small points, but on the major statements and tenants of our faith we are in agreement and that is enough for me.
However, in the past few years, I have found a disturbing trend among some of the new acquaintances I have made. I find people whose theology seems to be shaped more by men and women they listen to on Christian television or the internet, rather than their own thoughtful reading of Scripture or the teachings of their church. They don’t seem to have a firm grasp of basic doctrine, but have passed through some kind of theological buffet of beliefs drawn by what appeals to them. They seem to have no idea how to evaluate if what they are being taught is in fact sound. They don’t know if the Scripture has been taken out of context or if the emPHAsis is on the wrong sylLABLE leading to distortion.
Just as disturbing, and maybe in reaction to those who are undiscerning, are the people I have met who approach others with an air of suspicion. They seem to be on heretic patrol and are on high alert until they figure out if you are doctrinally acceptable. For example: In a casual conversation I described our excellent Vacation Bible School curriculum with a woman who was a fairly new acquaintance. It was a very creative and biblically sound program. The children learned so much about what Jesus’ life would have been like as a child. His humanity and His deity were emphasized; the good news of the gospel was clearly explained. I found myself backed against a verbal wall and being frisked from top to bottom. It was a very unpleasant experience as was her final judgment that the curriculum, “went beyond what is written in the Bible.”
So what is my point and what solutions can be offered?
Jude 1:3 Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.
Jude wanted to write about their shared salvation, but he was sensing the necessity to appeal to his brothers and sisters to earnestly contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to them. How do we guard against both extremes that I have described?
For those who don’t know how to evaluate teachings that they hear I would suggest the obvious. Read through the word of God and get the big picture. For those of you who are in the throes of motherhood, work long hours, or have never had any success reading through the Bible, you may consider reading the primary foundational books of the Old Testament. Reading these eleven books will give you the basic story and timeline. They are:
Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, 1st Samuel, 2nd Samuel, 1st Kings, 2nd Kings, Ezra, and Nehemiah.
There are many helpful New Testament reading plans. I even found a plan titled the Bible Reading Plan for Shirkers and Slackers. I love the good humored title and it looks like a great plan. http://www.ransomfellowship.org/publications/notes_biblereadingprogram.pdf.
I am currently reading through the New Testament in 100 days. In truth, because life happens, it will probably take me 125 days. If you fall behind don’t get discouraged and quit. Don’t allow condemnation to overtake you. Make it a priority and ask the Lord to help you.
Learn the basics of sound Bible study skills. I am forever indebted to Kay Arthur for teaching me how to study the Bible inductively through developing skills of observation, interpretation, and application. On YouTube you can listen to John MacArthur in a two part series on how to study the Bible. Remember the goal is to know and love the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.
The apostle Paul gave us a warning that knowledge in and of itself can lead to arrogance, but love will seek to edify, and to build up, 1 Corinthians 8:1. If correction is necessary and sometimes it is, then let us walk in love, speak the truth in love, and not act like lawyers for the prosecution. We are to love Him with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind and our neighbor as ourselves. Let’s keep our heart and mind engaged in learning and sharing His precepts. We can and should earnestly contend for the faith, and we can do it without becoming contentious or mean spirited.
Lord, teach us good discernment and knowledge, for we believe in Your commandments. Psalm 119:66