Thursday, February 19, 2015

Pastoral Pings (Plus) ~ Would That be Doctrinal Experience, or Experiential Doctrine?

          Right now I am praying through the verse, “Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.”[1]Of particular note to me is the connection between the “think this way” that is already revealed in the Scripture, and the “God will reveal that also to you,” that applies to anything in which we “think otherwise.”
          Ever since my Bible college days,[2]I have been aware that there is a strong rift between those who live by the extreme of basing everything in the Christian life on experience with little or no connection to doctrine, and those who live by the equal-but-opposite extreme of basing everything on doctrine, with little or no connection to experience.
          Since life had trained me to be a people-pleaser, this has been a difficult thing for me. On one hand, I wondered why we need to keep picking sides over things that are both wrong. On the other hand, I wondered how to have fellowship with fellow believers who are stuck on their side of the extremes, quite ready to blacklist anyone who doesn’t see things their way. I have lost friends who seemed to have very helpful spiritual gifts to contribute to the church, but couldn’t fellowship with me in my concerns about their unbiblical doctrines. I have also lost friends who seemed to have a strong grasp on doctrine, but couldn’t allow for the ways that these doctrines related to real-life experience (even though there are doctrines that teach about experience!).
          And then we come to this amazing verse, yes, just one verse, in which God himself speaks of both sides of the picture as belonging together in all the churches. Paul says, as an apostle speaking the breathed out words of God,[3] that the things he had written in Philippians 3 were the way that “those of us who are mature,” were to “think this way.” Everything to do with God revealing himself through his apostles and prophets is involved in this. This phrase, written down by Paul as a man who was carried along by the Holy Spirit,[4] is God revealing himself and his truth to his people. We are all to live by the doctrine Paul gives in that chapter.[5]
          However, part of this doctrine speaks of something that is beyond doctrine, beyond the direct revelation of the breathed out Scriptures. There is one doctrine that speaks of what Scripture says, and another that speaks of further revelation happening in whatever distinctive and unique ways that people “think otherwise.”  Each possible “otherwise” is not stated here, but the doctrine that God will reveal things to each “otherwise” is clearly stated.
          This is such a beautiful connection between our dependence on what is already revealed in Scripture to know what we ought to think, and also our need for the experiential interactions of God to continue revealing to us how to move from our “otherwises” to full agreement with his word.
          Lately there have been two “otherwises” that stand out to me. One is when people fully agree with a doctrine, but they know that something is broken inside them and it just doesn’t get the reality of what is revealed. In this case, Paul’s words tell us that we can take the revelation in God’s word of what we all should think, and connect it to the things inside us about which we “think otherwise.” From there, we can expect God to reveal to us how to get from where our inner thoughts and feelings are stuck, until we are in the full experience of thinking the way Scripture has revealed.
          A second “otherwise” is when people have already experienced an inner attachment to something that is contrary to what God has revealed. It isn’t just that they can’t connect to what is revealed, but the attachment to God they should have as those who are mature has never happened, and so they have become attached to other things, like food, entertainment, pornography, attention, excitement, and the like.
          Now, when they hear the pastor preach about what we should all think as those who are mature in Christ, the mind gives full agreement with the wonderful calling of obedient faith, but there is an inner battle with things that are “otherwise” from what is revealed.
          There is hope for such people, whether those who believe what God says but simply don’t feel it in their inner being, or those who have become severely attached to something that is holding them in bondage to inferior things. The hope is this: “God will reveal that also to you.” So continue seeking God about your otherwises until God brings you from wherever you are starting from, to whatever he has already revealed.
          Both sides of the doctrine/experience extremes must come together in this. For the extreme experientialists, there is a “let those of us who are mature think this way.” If you think differently from what the apostles teach, including what Paul has written in Philippians 3, it doesn’t matter what else you experience, you are in the wrong. Get in God’s word and make sure you know what to think.
          On the other hand, for the extreme doctrinalists, there is a “God will reveal that also to you,” that connects the clearly revealed doctrines of Scripture with the personal and experiential problems of people’s hearts and lives. Do not deny people the right of experiencing God revealing things to them when it is God’s revelation that says he does this. When we keep together what we expect God to reveal about our otherwises with what he has already said in his word, all will be well. It is only when we deny one or the other of these activities of God that we get into trouble.
          In a world where so many Christians are filled with otherwises that don’t line up with what the mature should think, the personal relationship of God to continue revealing these things to us is a huge and wonderful message of hope. I encourage you to get to know God that way, both in person, and in fellowship with an assembly of believers.

© 2015 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] Philippians 3:15
[2] 1977-1981
[3] II Timothy 3:16-17
[4] II Peter 1:21; 3:15-16
[5] I shared about these things in my video message: “The Way the Mature Think” ~

No comments:

Post a Comment