I’m fairly certain that in order to be a true Presbyterian, you must be theologically loaded and packing at all times, ready to gun down the sad dispensational views and charismatic feelgood ideals.
It seems that Presbyterians, more than any other denominations (barring Lutherans to a certain extent), have the greatest desire to delve deeper into the Scriptures than those before them, and to acquire strange and arcane knowledge relating to every facet of God and His relationship with us.
We have been criticized for this. Perhaps at times, rightly so – it is a temptation to forget about the intangibles such as the love of God for all men while grinding out a new theology of the significance of word order in Lamentations.
CAVEAT: This is not to say that we are correct in all of our theology – we disagree even amongst ourselves, and of course as humans cannot ever be completely correct. I am merely pointing out a trend that seems to be prevalent among Reformed Presbyterians.
The title of this post references not so much the fundamental truth of Scripture as the subtle nuances. Why is baptism important? Why should we take the Lord’s Supper one way and not the other? What makes one kind of worship sanctimonious and what makes the other kind not? Why should we care about the night visions of Zechariah or faithful translations of the Bible or any of this other stuff?
Obviously, people care about these things enough to create separate denominations each with their own set of interpretations. The question I now set before us is this: can we, with definite certainty, say that another interpretation of the Bible is wrong, and why should we insist on being right?
Usually, the last line of defense against a Presbyterian hermeneutical attack is “But we love Jesus, and that’s what matters, right?” So wrapped up in this question is how do we correct our brothers in love, while still insisting on truth?
First of all, we should strive for truth to preserve the honor of God’s Holy Name. At all times, we should inspect what we believe and ask ourselves, “What does this say about God?” For instance, if we say that baptism is not ordinarily necessary for baptism, we say that God doesn’t enforce His own rules, and does not care about the honor of his Name. If we uphold charismatic worship as true worship, we say that the purpose of worship is to make you feel good inside, and that God is a nebulous love-being without any repercussions towards his enemies (this scares me to death).
Second, we are people of the Book. We have access to the only thing in this world that we can know as absolute Truth. What possible reason could we have for not trying to unlock its every mystery? “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter.” (Prov. 25:2) If we don’t understand our own Book, which is sovereign truth, how can we pass judgment on anything else? We become no better than liars.
Third, the enemy would always have us think that liturgy and life are separate. This is false. There is no aspect of our lives that is not influenced by our theology and our worship. What you believe about God and his Creation, and how you worship on Sunday, will affect every single action you take during the rest of the week. If your worship is not actual covenant renewal, then you will spend a whole 7 days out of fellowship with God. To me, that is a horrifying prospect.
Now how do we approach our Christian brothers in error?
Obviously, we can’t change the Catholics or the Pentecostals overnight. We can squabble all we want, and all it does is give occasion for the enemies of God to blaspheme.
So we should continue to rebuke our brethren in love. And when they say “It doesn’t matter because I love Jesus and that’s all I need,” we can say “Yes, praise his Name, it is because we love him that we insist on this point.” If we love each other despite our flaws, we will be concerned if we see certain of our number fall into heresy, or dangerously close.
Because we love God and one another, we will continue to strive for truth in all that we do.