Note: As we go through the series on doctrinal perspectives, I will constantly be referring back to the chart I posted in the opening article. It is a chart that I made over the course of a year concerning the three types of doctrine. Remember that it is man-made, nowhere near infallible, and arguable in a few (a few, not many) areas. As we start in Primary Doctrine, the conservatives among us will be pleased. As we move into "Doubtful Things," more liberal believers will probably enjoy what I say more. However, I hope that all of us will learn and grow in our relationship with Christ.
Well it has been quite some time since I last updated in this series on the blog, but I think it is important that I finish what I have started. Better late than never, right?
"Doubtful things" are fun to discuss with other people (insert sarcasm here). Doubtful things are issues that are not absolutely clear in Scripture. They will sometimes affect the consciences of others, therefore our actions should be adjusted accordingly.
The verse where this comes from is Romans 14:1 within the context of food appropriate to eat and days that are recognized by individuals. This is how the ESV translates the verse:
"As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions."
Concerning the word "opinions," there are a variety of translations.
"...disputable matters," NIV; "doubtful disputations," KJV; "doubtful things," NKJV; "doubtful issues," HCSB; "scruples," Phillips.
The Greek word used is dialogismos from which we get the word "dialogue" in English. Strong's defines this word as being an inward back-and-forth reasoning of thoughts, a deliberating, questioning, about what is true. When it is in reference to what ought to be done it connotes hesitation and doubt along with dispute.
Basically, as much as most of us don't want to hear this, it means a gray area.
I say that most of us don't want to hear this because of how much we like knowing something for sure and clinging to it as everlasting truth. Christians, especially American Christians, are not fond of having opinions that are not shared by everyone else. We like to know what we think about a certain subject and to be proven right about what we think...but what if it is impossible for someone to be absolutely right about said subject?
For instance, as Paul was talking about in Romans 14, a believer can argue that he should be a vegetarian and another believer can argue that Christians can be vegetarians or they can be blood-thirsty carnivores without reproach. Who is right? Paul calls these opposed ideas mere opinions, and as noted, opinions refer to inward thoughts which are, by definition, individualistic.
"But!" you may say, "The one who eats only vegetables is called weak in Romans 14!"
This is true.
2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
Although the vegetarian is certainly called the "weak person," there is another aspect that has to be considered to understand what this means. The weak person is a servant of a master (v. 4). According to this verse, the Lord is his master. Who tells the servant what to do? The master. Who does the servant obey? The master.
So, though a vegetarian is here called "weak," he is not weak in the sense that he is in rebellion to the Lord's will. He is the Lord's servant, willing to obey all of God's commands. But for the converted Jew, foods were an essential part of his former religious vigor. For someone who grew up his entire life obeying certain rules about food because there were unclean meats eaten by the Gentiles, it would be very difficult to pick up a BLT and start chowing down.
In application to today, we must understand that we are all at different points in our sanctification process. In this case, the vegetarian Christian does not fully understand the liberty that Christ has provided (Galatians 5:1). However, that does not mean he is disobeying God. It does not mean that he is not serving the Lord. Notice that verse two says "the weak person eats only vegetables," not "the weak person maintains that all believers should eat only vegetables." We are not talking about someone who is forcing opinions on others, because that would be, what I will call for the purpose of this blog, an improper column transfer.
Remember the chart? There are three columns: primary, secondary, and doubtful. When we take something listed in the "doubtful" column and treat it as we do something that is in the "primary" column, we have made an improper column transfer. If we really believe that something is doubtful, we should treat it as such.
Therefore, if a disciple of Christ believes that it is not right for him to eat meat, then, believe it or not, "What's true for him is true for him and what's true for you is true for you," in that context. If one of us who is not vegetarian approaches that person and declares that he is putting himself back into bondage, the one who confronts is actually in bondage to a man-made mandate of food freedom.
However, the moment we judge and condemn a person for holding a certain "doubtful" view, we become no better than the Pharisees. The Lord gives convictions concerning these matters and Jesus is a much better Master than we are.
The principle which serves as a foundation for this entire concept that has been put forth in the Bible is that we should not violate our God-given conscience or cause others to stumble. As we will see next time, there are several topics that fall under the category of "doubtful," but we clearly treat some of them as though they were spelled out clearly in the Word.
I hope you enjoyed this mini-study and one-sided conversation. Feel free to leave comments.
God bless you!