Ok, time for something smart

September 26, 2007

I guess it’s about time for something smart … I’ve rambled enough. I’m going to repost my unanswered question from Falling Down. Here it is.

Once you get past primary issues of theology (divinity of Christ, afterlife, etc.) to secondary issues (nature of predestination, filioque clause) where there are many opinions on various issues, I want to know: is it better to have an informed opinion?

Let me explain. We could have some opposing scenarios here.

a) In one instance, I am a rock critic for a magazine. I have spent years and years studying and writing about rock and roll. I have written books on the subject. You tell me that you absolutely love the Journey song “Anyway You Want It”. If I tell you, “that song is awful — it is not a good song,” does my experience and knowledge make it true? Well, probably not. I could argue that it is not a good song by some criterion or another, but in the end, because a big part of that song’s goodness or badness is not humanly knowable, we are both neither right nor wrong.

b) You have been a carpenter for 30 years. You come over to my house and I start boring you to tears with my story of how I made a birdhouse. I say something like, “the best way to make a birdhouse that will not fall apart is X.” You respond and say, “No, actually, in my experience it has been Y. You are an idiot, and your birdhouse will fall apart in a month.” In this case, you could be justified, because given your experience, you probably know a lot more about carpentry than I do.

c) I am your boss. We are discussing project plans. We come to a scenario where there are two ways the project could go. You feel that one of them would be much more successful, whereas I, as the boss, decide that the other way is better. We do it my way, because I’m the boss.

Now, in an age (much like Luther’s) where mass media and education have made knowledge more broadly distributed than ever before, which of these scenarios best illustrates the desired relationship between ministry staff and laity in churches? Or etc., when a disagreement arises?

We had some people leave our church a few weeks ago, amicably — but they had one view of Spiritual Gifts, that our church no longer had. Or rather, that our pastor no longer had, really. Situations like this are bound to come up all the time … so what’s the right tack to take? Live and let live, or do you as staff (or as laity) have a responsibility to bring those who disagree with you in line, or part ways? Does an M. Div. or Ph. D., or a career in ministry, really mean that you will always understand the Bible better than those around you? Or is it the privilege of church leadership to decide the direction that others will take?

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4 Responses to “Ok, time for something smart”

  1. nathanwells Says:

    just some initial impressions – (posted on fallingdown as well – I guess I should join the ranks of personal blogging – I am the last one…)

    I think Biblically as leaders there is a responsibility to guide our people into the truth – this would entail working patiently with those who do not agree with us. I think especially if the leadership changes their mind on a major doctrine, since they changed, they should realize that they themselves had difficulty understanding, therefore it should give them much patience when working with the people on the matter.

    I think it might be different if someone new came into the church, and the doctrine was already established – but even there – great patience is demanded by Scripture (2 Tim. 4:2).

    As far as the lay people – they are called to follow their leaders and to submit to their leaders – letting their leaders watch over their souls, doing their best to make it a joyful experience for their leaders, because that is what is most profitable for both parties (Heb. 13:11).

    It is a hard topic – and one that I have no personal experience in. But patience I think is quite clear in the Bible, and we need more of it.

    And I do believe that those in leadership should be given honor – and yes, even those who are educated – not so much because of seminary – but because of their walk and knowledge of the Lord. You can get through seminary and gain nothing spiritual.

    But if someone is placed in a position of leadership, they should be honored, and followed when they make a decision.

    But there is a hard way and an easy way – its like in any relationship – there are always two ways to go about it.
    If we are patient and truly love our leaders, truly love our sheep – much trouble and sin will be avoided.

  2. Ben Says:

    Hm, and yet, you are in a tradition that venerates rebels. Obviously, if you take the Reformers as models, there must come a point when you choose a different path than your leaders, should a serious disagreement arise.

    If the pastor changes, and you think they’ve made a wrong choice, don’t you have a responsibility to do something? What if you were in a church and they decided to start requiring everyone to speak in tongues, because the Pastor felt that was important? Wouldn’t you leave?

    An attitude like that can work in something like the Orthodox church, where everything is the same for 1500 years, but in our fractured and fragmented evangelical environment, where new ideas crop up every day, I think you need to take more personal responsibility.

  3. nathanwells Says:

    Haha, ya – that’s right – I’m a REBEL!

    Yes, I most likely would leave – but what if the leadership took the time to walk through with the whole congregation the reasons why they made a change – maybe not even announcing the change, but rather teaching it from God’s Word.

    To me the issue wouldn’t be tongues – I wouldn’t leave over that – the issue would be how they came to the conclusion that everyone must speak it (I don’t believe it to be a Biblical mandate, nor has anyone been able to convince me otherwise). But I for sure would listen and interact with my leaders before splitting.

    To be honest – they would probably ask me to leave, not vise versa.

    It is a difficult issue – and something that, like I said before, has never happened to me.

    I’m not sure how I can take more personal responsibility for my evangelical brothers, but sure – heap it on me.

    I might have a problem with the Orthodox way of thinking, because they are not like the Bereans – I don’t feel that on an individual level most of them have searched the Scriptures for themselves to see if what is being taught is true – rather, my impression, is that they just do what the church tells them to. I don’t think that is commendable, nor condoned by Scripture.

    If I take someone else’s word for something, can I really claim it to be my own – can I have an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ based on someone else’s? But that is kinda off the subject…

  4. Ben Says:

    Yeah, your criticism of the Orthodox is one that I share (Bereans). And I don’t think it’s off the subject, because it is the very heart of what I’m thinking … do we have a responsibility for our own beliefs? And … by extension, when that results in conflict, what should we do?

    Patience is certainly the key here, and I would find fault with someone who split capriciously. I wonder, though, if you’ve had quite the experience of being made to feel like “you’re about two steps from being an outsider to us, because you believe this” on a somewhat minor issue. Perhaps I get more flak because of my occasionally abrasive personality than for my beliefs, but it’s very hard to be in a church where they merely *tolerate* you. Unless you’re being openly and hurtfully divisive, your average church is not going to ask you to leave over a minor issue, but it might limit your growth, make your interactions with others difficult, or prevent you from serving effectively. It’s a hard thing to be constantly afraid you’re going to say the wrong thing, instead of valued for your insight.


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