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authority pattern truth Uncategorized

The Inevitable Standard

Neal Pollard

Everywhere, each generation tries to figure out the why and how of living. Most will not find the right path (Mat. 7:13-14). Almost all are convicted, even passionate, about the way they wish to live life. They may be fiery about politics, social issues, relationships, and even religious ideals, and to be consistent they must appeal to some ultimately, overarching authority that makes right right and wrong wrong whatever their point of view. Will it be feelings, friends, the majority, the minority, the church, family, a teacher, culture, or something else? The Bible claims to be the arbitrator by which all matters are judged. But if not the Bible, there has to be some universal absolutes with an adequate origin to compel people to follow it. Whether the issue is rape, murder, stealing, or similar norm that stands between order and chaos, there has to be adequate reason to submit to it. 

This inevitable standard helps us decide whether or not a Creator exists. If there is nothing (no One) greater, bigger, wiser, and stronger than us, why can’t we decide right and wrong as our whims determine? Why would we desire civilization and peace? Why would we wish good will or at least peaceful coexistence with each other?

The inevitable standard helps us decide which god (God) is to be followed. Do their alleged writings and teachings cohere and show consistency? Do they adequately answer the great questions of life?

The inevitable standard helps us decide whether or not Bible doctrines taught by men are consistent with and true to what the Bible actually teaches. How do we know how to worship, be saved from sins, what roles to play in life, what our purpose is, and how to reach a desirable destiny? The nonsensical claim that you have your truth and I have mine is unacceptable in every other discipline (building construction, medicine, physics, mathematics, etc.). Even falling back on “you have your interpretation and I have mine” is a dangerous slope since there are matters of life and godless ( Pet. 1:3). 

The inevitable standard helps us fulfill our roles in the home, the church, and the world. How should we live and how should we help our physical family, spiritual family, and communities live? It matters!

It may gall us to think we all must concede to a standard of right and wrong, of absolute truth. To say that all of us are accountable to the same standard may be construed as bigoted, small-minded, or narrow, but everything falls apart if each of us follows our own set of rules. Imagine an interstate where every driver followed whatever they thought they should and ignored whatever they felt they could or should. All of us are on the road of life heading somewhere. How will we get there? There is an inevitable standard, given by God to us through men He moved to write it down (2 Tim. 3:16-17). 

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authority Bible pattern Uncategorized

THERE IS A PATTERN OF TEACHING

Neal Pollard

The Bible claims to hold the answer to your greatest problem. Not only that, but it helps you to identify what that problem is which you may or may not even know about. In Romans 6:16-18, Paul talks about a “form of teaching” given to those at Rome. 

Paul writes this powerful epistle to emphasize that salvation is by faith and not by works of law, but faith in what? One might say, “Faith in Jesus,” and Paul makes that point repeated in Romans (3:22; 3:26, for example). But how do we have faith in Jesus? He says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (10:17). 

Elsewhere, Paul reminds us that there is “one faith” (Eph. 4:5), so a purely subjective faith (what we think we should believe) is not the faith commanded in Scripture. So, we’re looking a t a faith produced by reading, learning, and following God’s Word.

No wonder, then, that Paul emphasizes the importance of obedience in this text. Does God want you and me and everyone else to obey the same thing? Or can you pick what you want to obey while I pick what I want to obey and everyone else do the same? Paul talks about an objective standard of teaching that is for everyone, everywhere, for all time. Look closer at what he says in this brief passage of Scripture and what it means for us today.

THE FACT OF THE PATTERN (Rom. 6:17)

Paul talks about a form, a kind, class, or thing that suggests a model or pattern (BDAG 1020). It is the word used in the Greek Old Testament in Exodus 25:40 and quoted by Stephen (Acts 7:44). Translators chose the word form (“standard,” ESV, or “pattern,” NIV) in this verse. 

For those who pour concrete, you use “form boards” to cause it to conform to their shape in width, length, and height. Without some way to hold the concrete, what a waste of time and money! The concrete would be totally useless. It’s the same concept for those who bake and use cake moulds, muffin pans and cookie cutters. If you put dough or mix into a round pan, you don’t expect a rectangular finished product. 

Paul talks about a teaching that conforms to a certain form or pattern, having definite, identifiable structure. So, the Romans received teaching that was meant to produce the same result in every case. A growing number of people look at the Bible as basically shapeless and formless. They reject the idea of pattern theology, the very thing Paul appeals to in Romans 6:17. The alternative to there being a pattern for salvation, worship, church leadership and organization, sexuality, morality, gender roles, and all teaching is that we have no pattern.

Without a standard to appeal to, how do we determine right and wrong? Historically, when humanity rejects an absolute standard, we choose what we think is right and wrong (cf. Jud. 17:6). This is a fatal way to live (Prov. 16:25), and it destroys societies (Prov. 14:34). But everyone is going to appeal to something as the final say and authority, even if it’s only self. There is a “standard of sound words” (2 Tim. 1:13). It must be retained and it carries with it the authority of Christ Jesus.

THE FRUIT OF THE PATTERN (Rom. 6:17-18)

Since there is a pattern of teaching, what are the consequences? Paul implies that we must obey it and commit to it, just as the Romans did. The end result of such obedience is that we become slaves to the right master. Everyone will inevitably be enslaved, whether to sin or righteousness. This pattern shows us the right choice to make. We’re not just talking about information, but rather information which leads one to do something and become something. 

THE FREEDOM OF THE PATTERN (Rom. 6:18)

Ironically, those who reject the idea of pattern theology claim that such unfairly restricts and inhibits us. But, Paul draws a different conclusion. Obeying the form of teaching and committing themselves to it led them to be free from sin. Sin brings spiritual death (5:12), condemnation (5:16), enslavement (6:6), and deception (7:11). If we understand the true nature of sin (which biblical teaching defines), we will want to be free from the burden of it.  The form of teaching shows us how to do that. Anyone who wants freedom from sin can have it, but anyone who wants freedom from sin must follow the pattern. 

Obeying Christ’s teaching is not legalism. It is faith in His power, but also submission to His will. There is truth. We can know it (John 8:32). We must obey it (Rom. 6:17). It will free us (John 8:32)! 

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Categories
pluralism religion truth

“CONTRADICT: THEY CAN’T ALL BE TRUE”

Neal Pollard

Kathy just called me and told me she saw this bumper sticker on a truck as she fought traffic on Wadsworth Boulevard.  How clever!  It uses the same religions that the infamous “Coexist” bumper sticker uses, including Hinduism, Daoism, Shintoism, Unitarian Universalism, Satanism, Atheism, Islamism, and Judaism. There is a website where these bumperstickers can be purchased (http://www.contradictmovement.org; warning: I do not endorse everything on this web site, whether message or method).

The “Coexist” campaign is meant to promote pluralism,  a theory or system that recognizes more than one ultimate principle. The very idea is contradictory.  The Koran says, “And whoever desires a religion other than Islam, it shall not be accepted from him, and in the hereafter he shall be one of the losers” (3.85).  Shintoism says that humans become gods (kamis) after death, and they do not believe in absolute right and wrong with the soul losing individual identity and becoming part of one great guardian spirit (Japan-Guide.com; litesofheaven.com).  Atheism believes, since there is no God, that there is no judgment and no accountability to a higher power. Taking any number of tenets about conduct, salvation, our nature, deity, afterlife, and the like, one sees inescapable and frequent contradiction between these faiths and philosophies.  Yet, even without all of this, there is the exclusive truth claim of Christianity in Scripture.  The “Contradict” bumper sticker has a passage that says much.  “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6).  Jesus speaks of an exclusive way, calling it “the” way and saying there is “no other” way.

The “Coexist” mentality is founded, for some, upon a noble enough desire, the desire for peace and harmony.  Yet, it seeks the wrong way to peace and harmony, letting mankind devise their own way for this to exist. We do not have that prerogative.  The Bible reveals God, the Creator, in a specific way, revealing His nature, His will, and His expectations.  With that, there is human accountability and an expectation that people will follow that way or suffer the consequences of disobedience.  Conflicting, opposing positions contradict one another, and they cannot all be true!

Categories
authority Bible

IS TRUTH “OBJECTIVE” OR “SUBJECTIVE”?


Neal Pollard

“You folks believe baptism is essential, but we believe we are saved when we accept Jesus in our hearts by faith.” “Why does the church of Christ think it is wrong to use a piano?”  “You must not like women.  You sure don’t let them use all their ‘gifts’ in your worship and leadership.”  These are just three random examples of statements of perception made by our friends and family concerning “our beliefs.”

How would you answer these?  Even within the Lord’s church, more than one answer is often offered.  Sadly, too often the heat of emotion eclipses the light of scripture in these matters.  How is truth determined?  Is it man’s right to decide what truth is “for him”?  Can I have my truth and you have your own, different truths, and we both are right?  Please understand that I am not speaking of matters of judgment, opinion, matters that must be determined by principles of scripture, scruples, and conscience.  Take the three examples mentioned-baptism, church music, and the role of women.  Are these matters that must be decided by mere human judgment, opinions, and conscience?  Or can we “know the truth” on these things (cf. John 8:32)?

All of this ultimately boils down to our attitude and approach to God’s Word.  Do we accept it at face value and glean from it what it has already said, or do we infuse (insert) into it our predetermined values and desires?  Consider the three examples.

Baptism is connected to salvation in the gospels (Mk. 16:16), the history book of the New Testament (Acts 2:38; 22:16; etc.), and the epistles (Rom. 6:1-6; Gal. 3:27; Col. 2:12; 1 Pet. 3:21; etc.).  Why would we deny it?  Do we really hope to make scripture fit our view by trying to make Bible verses conflict with each other (cf. John 3:16; Acts 16:31)?  If the Bible repeatedly says baptism is necessary for salvation, isn’t that a truth objective and universal?  If not, why not?

Singing is specifically commanded in major worship passages like Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:19.  We have no doubt that God wants us to sing.  Now, some say that it is a matter of preference whether you sing with or without instrumental accompaniment.  I find it interesting that a New Testament writer teaching a New Testament principle makes his point with an example from the first covenant.  In Hebrews 7:14, the penman writes, “For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood.”  Moses did not forbid a man of Judah from serving as a priest.  God simply specified that the tribe of Levi was to be the priestly tribe.  Was priesthood selection a matter of personal preference?  Absolutely not (see 1 Kings 12)!  

Women’s role in the church is discussed in the midst of an epistle the thesis of which is that the church may know how to conduct herself (1 Tim. 3:15).  Part of that conduct regards women’s role in the church (1 Tim. 2:9-15).  The Christian woman is not to teach or have authority over the man (2:11-12).  The reason is not tied to Greek culture, but way back to original design at the beginning of the world (2:13-14).  When some push for an “expanded” role for women, are they letting cultural pressure of heavenly desire drive them?

Certainly, we cannot be callous or altogether dispassionate in studying or discussing these matters.  But, without recognizing a sovereign, divine standard of truth, what are we doing with Scripture?  Whether meaning to or not, we are subjugating God’s stated will to our subjective, ever-shifting will.  John 12:48 reminds us that the latter will ultimately be irrelevant.