Sims, Animals & Biblical Teaching: Wielding the Power to Shape

The computer game industry caters well to testosterone. Want to command the power of an army, fly the world’s most devastating airplane, build a city, manage a world or expand an empire throughout the galaxy? There is a computer simulation game that will pander to your drive for power.

While guys may be drawn more toward command and conquer, the gals are not without desire to control. The tempter shinnied up to Eve with a modest proposal. If you want to be like God, if the idea of possessing the power to know right and wrong is attractive to you, just eat this. With a wry smile, a thirty-something wife recently made the point well when she said, “The perfect husband says, ‘Yes, dear.'”

Suspended in the middle between God and animals aptly sums up the rightful position of humanity. On the one hand, God has given us dominion over all the creatures within creation, and we are to subdue the earth. Yet, we are not the Creator, but rather the creature. We are to submit our will to God and obediently serve Him.

What happens when the lure to be in control, to shape things how I want them, or by what I might think is best collides with my service to God? I will let you answer that question. What I am going to do is unveil the three-word tool which some might use to tame Scripture, twisting it into their own image. While not a legitimate practice, anything in Scripture which grates upon someone’s ear can be easily dismissed (at least in one’s own mind) by claiming to know “the reason why.”

How many times have you witnessed the following?

1) Someone claims to know the reason why a command was given or a particular action was taken in Scripture. (Of course you will search in vain within Scripture to validate that this was the reason.)

2) Proceeding to unveil how our context is different, the conclusion is drawn that the motivation for the command or practice no longer exists. Now being nothing more than a curious cultural relic of the past, the imperative is hamstrung.

3) Having severed the message from necessity, the creature reins in the Creator’s message insisting that a proper understanding of how to apply the text will be shaped by his or her own “knowledge” of why it was given in the first place. Appealing to your pride, the assertion is at least gently hinted that those possessing an appropriate sophistication will recognize that the message as it was originally intended to be heard is inadequate for today’s situation.

The predictable result is that those who embrace the creature’s reasoning will feel no pang of guilt whatsoever in violating God?s clear instructions or altering what God has spoken. Those who accurately perceive my intention will understand I am questioning a method and its accompanying claim of knowledge.

Although the method can be powerful in convincing self and others, is it reliable? Are there other principles which must control when and if it is appropriate? Ponder upon the following examples. Since the first two ideas will probably be new to most believers, I hope we will rightfully reject them. But how will we treat the rest?

  • The reason why Jesus commanded baptism as an initiation rite is because he accommodated conversion to his prevailing Jewish cultural matrix. To achieve the dynamic equivalence in our cultural setting, we would need to adopt new initiation rites based upon our cultural rites of inclusion.
    But Scripture says, “make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” Matthew 28:19
  • The reason why the apostles appointed elders within the early church is because they simply employed a Jewish cultural form of leadership. Today, our culture recognizes different forms of leadership and so we do not need to be limited to just elders.
    But Scripture says, “I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you.” Titus 1:5
  • The reason why the early church worshipped solely with a cappella music is because singing with instruments at that time contained a strong pagan association. Today, singing with instruments does not carry this connotation, so it is perfectly acceptable to worship with them.
    But Scripture says, “teaching and admonishing one another with psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Colossians 3:16
  • The reason why God is described with masculine language in Scripture is because the message was originally given to a male-dominated society. Today, our society is more egalitarian, and thus it is appropriate to use both male and female language to describe and address God.
    But Scripture says, “This is how you ought to pray, Our Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 6:9
  • The reason why Paul told the women in Corinth to be silent within the assembly of the saints is because … . Today, our situation is different. Therefore, …   But Scripture says, “The women are to keep silent in the churches … the things I write to you are the Lord?s command.” 1 Corinthians 14:34, 37

With the bridle and the knife of “I know the reason why,” anything within Scripture can be tamed and cut down to a manageable size as the creature makes scripture jump through his hoops. The enticement to release our imagination and intellect to command and conquer scripture is an enticing one. But we are to be in the middle between God and animals, between ruling over all things and always serving. In relation to God, we are to learn obedience.

“By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we obey His commandments. The person who says, ‘I have come to know Him’ and does not obey his commandments is a liar and the truth is not in that person.” 1 John 2:3-4

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