I find the area of "Doubtful Things" particularly challenging for several reasons.
First, I enjoy having opinions and defending things to the death (slight exaggeration).
Second, the idea of certain opinions being just opinions-- or the whole concept of a "grey area"-- is not my predisposition. Black & white seems natural to me. Everything must be right or must be wrong.
Third, I've been convicted of some of the objects I give as examples in the chart lately.
Take the first item on the list for example-- alcohol.
I used to just believe that Christians can drink if they want as long as they don't get drunk. I even thought that I would eventually drink casually and it would be no big deal. The Bible says nothing about casual drinking, but it forbids getting drunk, so the whole argument doesn't even matter, I thought.
Then I listened to this 3-part sermon series by John MacArthur.
So now I believe that Christians have no biblical basis for drinking the alcohol sold in 21st century American stores. But do I have a Bible verse/passage strictly forbidding it? Nope.
Therefore, I can't treat this issue as though it were clearly laid out in Scripture like Christ's resurrection or the mandate of baptism. I can't say that it is an issue that would cause me to break my worship or ministry with another. However, it will affect my close friendships with people, as I will not be comfortable with somebody drinking a Natty Light during devotionals or making much of the fact that their Christian liberty allows them to drink whatever they wish.
"So what's the point?" you may ask. I mean, what was wrong with where I was in the first place? I was an unassuming bystander in the arena of liberated Christian consciences, was I not?
Well, though it may seem like my study on this topic caused me to be more legalistic, it actually caused me to grow in my relationship with God. I say this not because of my conclusion, but because of the process.
God wants us all to have convictions. Each of us has a conscience given to us by God Himself and we are responsible as to how we live out personal persuasions.
Think about all of the different issues that fall into this category:
- Bible Translations- KJV vs. the world (or perhaps ESV snobbery)
- Clothes- Jeans in church? Oh snap.
- Contextualization- Can a pastor adapt to the culture he lives in without sinning?
- Food- The Daniel Diet Cookbook?
- Mission Field- "You're going where to do ministry?? You should go here."
- Music/Media- If the Baptist Hymnal was good enough for Peter, it's good enough for me.
- Politics- Use your imagination.
- Personal Appearance- Men with ponytails and/or beards to their knees...
- Personality- That guy joked around too much. And she needs to smile more.
- Schooling- "Public schools are of the devil." ... "Homeschoolers don't develop social skills."
- Social Networking- MySpace just became non-sinful. Facebook is pending.
- Sunday Morning Worship Style- How much music? How much preaching? How much shaking hands and fake smiling?
Remember the key passages:
Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.
But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.
1 Corinthians 8:9
The last blog post discussed what "weak" meant and how that plays into the situations we find ourselves in concerning "doubtful things."
But do you see the theme between the two verses? We are to consider others when we live out our convictions.
When you are in the presence of another believer, your convictions about the appropriate haircut for a woman or the best way to educate a child really does not matter. What matters is that you do not judge the other believer on this issue and that you do not say or do something that would cause him to stumble in his walk with Christ.
It is here that we should once again remember the idea of "improper column transfer." Last time I said that we should not treat something in the third column like something in the first. We should understand that certain things are, in fact, doubtful, not plainly true.
However, the reverse is also sure. We cannot treat something in the first column like we would something in the third. The uniqueness of Christ is not something we keep out of the way of others because it is a stumbling block to them. In fact, Paul made no apologies in discussing his preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ:
For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
1 Corinthians 1:22-24
There are, without a doubt, personal convictions that fall into the "grey area" of truth in our faith, but these things are certainly limited. If you feel confused or lost about how we should separate these issues, I suggest you read through the blog series again to better understand what is essential to the Christian faith, what is secondary, and finally, what is doubtful.
I hope this series has blessed you as much as it has me. Hopefully I will be starting something new soon.
All for God's honor and glory-- may Jesus be known as He desires to know each one of us!