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Friday, November 21, 2008

Gray versus Black and White

Gray versus Black and White
Christians disagree over many things, such as:
1) Whether women should be pastors.
2) Whether or not there will be a rapture, and, if so, whether it will be before, during, or after the tribulation.
3) Whether a person who is truly a redeemed believer can lose their salvation or not.
4) Whether or not Christians should expect to speak in tongues, and, if so, whether such utterance is or is not really a language.
5) Whether the days of Genesis 1 were literal consecutive 24-hour days or not.
Some of us like to see things in black and white. We want to know the answers -- the right answers. Some of us don't feel this need, or don't think there is enough evidence to make up our minds. We see things in gray.
Generally, that would be me.

There are real dangers in being a black and white person.
1) Most obviously, you might be wrong.* The main reason being wrong is a problem is that if you are hard-nosed enough about your wrong belief, you may turn non-believers away from Christ.**
2) Vehement disagreements between believers will turn away non-believers.
3) God never commanded that we understand exactly what the book of Revelation predicts, for example. We can spend more of our time on such issues than we should, just as we can spend too much time watching TV. Christ has other plans for us.
4) You might disrespect a gray fellow Christian, because she hasn't made up her mind on something that you have. You might disrespect a black and white believer, because he doesn't agree with you. You might be proud of your own firmness.

There are also dangers in being gray:
1) You may be ignoring things that God wants you to know and act on, or you may doubt things that you should believe.
2) God commands that we take the scripture seriously.
3) You may not be spending enough of your thought life on God, lazily saying about whatever issue, "Well, we can't know, so why think about it?"
4) If we don't take our beliefs seriously enough, unbelievers will not consider believing as we do.5) You might disrespect a black and white believer as simple-minded, or be proud of the fact that you haven't made up your mind.

So, my friends, I submit to you that, generally, we should be intermediate between black and whiteness and grayness. I don't know what color that is.
*As Henry Neufeld recently said, there is a sort of unacknowledged doctrine that you have to be doctrinally correct to be eternally saved, but that is one thing we should be black and white about -- you don't have to have all your theological jots and tittles in a row to be redeemed, thanks be to God! (Neufeld's entire essay is splendid.)That's no excuse for not listening to pastors, not studying Sunday School lessons or the equivalent, not reading the Bible, or for ignoring other sources of light.

**For instance, if you say that the Bible says that Christ is returning before you die, and He doesn't, people who don't know much about the Bible, except what you say, will come to the conclusion that they can ignore it.
For another instance, non believing geologists are not likely to respond, if you tell them that the Bible says that they need to repent and believe, if you have also told them that the Bible teaches unequivocally that almost all geological phenomena are the result of Noah's flood.
I thank my wife for constructive criticism. Thanks for reading.

This essay was subject to serious editing on November 22, 2008, without changing the meaning significantly from that posted on the original date.


Keetha said...

How did you choose which one you would list first?????

I'm just sayin' - - - -

Martin LaBar said...

Er, good question. Probably because of my own personal preference, but I'm not sure. It's a gray area. . .

Julana said...

Christians also disagree over baptism of infants. This is pertinent to those of us who have children with cognitive impairments.
Churches who don't baptize infants won't baptize young adults or adults unless they can make an acceptable confession of faith. This leaves our children unable to participate in sacraments of baptism and communion, in many denominations.

Grasshopper said...

So, true! It seems that as Christians we tend to really get stuck in the wrong puddles.

Martin LaBar said...

November 23, 2008: Yes, Grasshopper, we do.

You are right, Julana. That's another controversy, and an important one. I wasn't trying to make an extensive list.

Church government, method of baptism, whether the church should be involved in politics, how to treat homosexuals, pacifism, method of taking communion, and how to support missionaries come to mind as other important controversies.

Samuel P said...

There is a problem with this type of viewpoint. Your so-called "gray area" is itself a "black" or "white." You may have noticed that many times the opposite of something is simply the absence of it. For instance, the antithesis of wet is dry. You believe that there are gray areas that we shouldn't bother with. If we say that your view is black than the "white" would be the opinion that such areas do not exist and should be discussed and thought out. Now I also believe that we should never be arrogant or pushy about our beliefs, but that's just me.

Spiritual truth is just as solid as physical truth. A wall cannot be both red and blue; it can be a variation of the two, but never both completely. That is, it can't be both red and blue, and if it is either of those, it can't be purple. If it is both, it will be purple, but not red and not blue. If one person says that they believe a certain wall to be red, and another thinks it to be blue, one or both of them are wrong. Let's say they can't see it, and the the wall is actually yellow. By claiming that both are right because they didn't have all the information is worthless in discovering it's true color. Not only that, their opinions in no way change the color.

Martin LaBar said...

I agree with your second paragraph, Samuel P.

Did I say "there are gray areas that we shouldn't bother with"? I didn't think so.

Thanks for your comment.