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Sunday, September 28, 2014



I don’t know if you happened to read the comment Mary Kay Anderson posted after my last blog, but it got me to thinking.  

If you haven’t read the last blog or the comment, a quick summary of the blog was that I picked up on a poorly chosen word in a devotion my wife and I were reading, and explained why it was incorrect theologically.  The wording was that God made choices based on what he “felt” was right.  And here is the comment that was posted in response, a supportive comment I really appreciated:

"That He feels is right"- We have to use discernment even with "Christian" writing, preaching, & music. I agree with this writer that the devotionals author got that wrong.”

I thought Ms. Anderson made a good point, and I decided I should also expand on her thought, but in a different direction.  I picked up on our writer’s poor word choice, and addressed the issue of why it was not appropriate.  Ms. Anderson expressed her agreement, affirming that it IS important that we maintain a thoughtful and critical eye with the various Christian teachings we receive.  (That, by the way, is nothing new.  The church in Thessalonica was praised in the book of Acts because they didn’t simply accept what Paul preached, but checked it against the scriptures before God themselves.)  

What I want to pursue today came to mind because Ms. Anderson used quotes around Christian in her comment, which made me realize something else we should take into account.  She put the quotes around the word Christian, I assume anyway, because there are a lot of things out there claiming to be Christian that are actually theologically deficient, maybe even not truly Christian but some watered down version or a mixed bag of Christian teaching and whatever else.  And she is right (assuming I understand her correctly), there is a great deal of very sloppy and very shallow pop-theology out there.  Some of it is very misleading and potentially harmful, some of it is not untrue, just very superficial.  It is important for each of us to become as literate as possible in scripture and in historical Christian doctrine by familiarizing ourselves with it so as to be able to test modern materials in light of that knowledge. 

But there is another point I want to make:   I was wrong.  I may not be able to tell you exactly where, but I know I was, because I know I am fallible and still learning.  It is a scary thing to put theological words in print, because they will be subject to the very kind of scrutiny that I gave the devotion, and a poorly chosen word can be taken as false teaching or easily misunderstood.  I doubt that the people (it was a couple) who wrote our little devotion are not Christian.  And I doubt that their wording was intentionally misleading…it was just an expression that is commonly used in speech these days.  But it could also be that they need more depth in their theology, or that they have not been taught well, or that they have a significantly different interpretation of scripture than historical Christianity.  Whatever created the issue, I can guarantee that somebody looking closely will find the same kind of thing somewhere in my writings.  

I have tried very hard to check and double check my books.  I have had others proof over them for content as well as grammatical issues.  But even so, even I have found typos and phrases I might have worded differently since publication!  Even in the second volume I added a scripture reference I had forgotten in the first.  There are other references that could have been included for certain topics and their exclusion, while purposeful on my part, could be seen as nefarious rather than simply a selective focus of usage.  

I have often said that if I fully agree with something I read, it would either have to be the scripture itself, or something I wrote myself…but it would have to be something I wrote very recently.  As time goes by and I grow, my understanding grows as well.  

There are a couple of interesting scriptures in this regard.

Proverbs 10:19  (NASB)
 “When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable,
But he who restrains his lips is wise.”

James 3:2  (NASB)
“ For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.”

Ah, well, so I am not the ONLY one to realize how risky it is to put things into writing, to try to put our words out there as best we can.  To do so perfectly is, therefore, an impossible challenge.  To do it well and to the best of the ability we have at the time, to do it responsibly, that IS possible.  But there isn’t a single Christian book out there that is perfect…all are written by humans just like you and me.

As a reader, it is important, though sometimes tricky, to use discernment well.  We need to be able to discern false doctrine, but not all mistakes are false doctrine, they are merely mistakes.  We need to be able to glean out what is true from those mistakes, perhaps seeking to draw the intent of the speaker or writer.  Many a time I have heard preachers, musicians and note Bible teachers say things that are not true, usually overstating their case or making assertions beyond what the scripture text allows.  Generally speaking, if it is just a mistake that is not the main point of the presentation, I usually just let it go as the chaff mixed in with the wheat.  There are times, though, that the teaching can be misleading at the core, and then we need to speak up.  But I would hope none of us would fret so much over the fallible parts of the materials we are offered that we deny ourselves of the blessings and truths that can come our way through gleaning the valuable nuggets included.

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