Sunday, May 15, 2011

going without a map

A few weeks ago, I had to make a bit of trip out-of-state. It was to a place I had not been before, and while I had a general idea of how to get there, I still needed some directions in order to reach the city, and even more to find the place in the city I needed to go to.

Now, let's test our imagination, shall we? Let's suppose that as I was preparing to leave for this trip, I pulled out of my driveway and simply decided to go any which way I wanted. If I cam to a turn in the road, I went whichever direction I though seemed ok, basiced on strictly subjective reasons. If I happened to make it to a highway or interstate, I got if at whatever exit I wanted. I consulted no map, disregarded all road sign, didn't care about directions.

What would be the odds that I would get to where I needed to go? Not being very exact, but I think the term "mathematically impossible" would be an accurate description of those odds.

Keeping that little fiction in mind, take a look at this.

Practice Precedes Doctrine

One thing that’s intriguing to note, and easy to lose sight of two millennia later, is that in the very earliest church, practice begat doctrine. That is, the early church didn’t convene theological conferences to debate the nature of the godhead and then spin out a practice of prayer.

Instead, it’s clear in the earliest Christian documents that the people prayed, and out of their experience of God’s nearness did they develop doctrinal beliefs regarding who God is and how God acts. That all changed, of course, by the dawn of the fourth century: as the Christian religion was afforded more freedom, church leaders rose up to fight heresies. Thereafter, the formation of doctrine seems to have had as much impact on the evolution of Christian practice as it had happened conversely in the earliest years.

Do you really want to share your FAIL with the whole world?

Really? It's clear from those documents that this is how they did it?

Consider, for example, Peter's sermon at Pentacost. Taking Jones' words, one may be surprised to see very little about practice in that sermon. It's mostly about doctrine--Jesus fulfilled Scripture and prophecy, Jesus was crucified, God raised Jesus from the dead. Jesus is the Messiah. The only action Peter tells them to do is to repent and be baptized in His name.

In other words, doctrine preceded practice. It wasn't until there was a church and believers, people who believed in certain things, that there were discussions about certain things.

Those practices did not happen in some kind of spiritual or doctrinal vacuum, which seems to be what Jones is contending.

And how could it otherwise? Putting actions first is simply pragmatism--whatever works. Questions of right and wrong are shunted aside. If the church had not begun with doctrine, with for example belief in the Scriptures that they had (the Old Testament) and faith in a crucified and risn Christ, it would have stood for nothing.

I think that, if you look at what Jones believes, you'll see why he's so eager to put practice first. If he put doctrine first, if he put the things Scripture teaches first, he would not be able to believe the things he believes.

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