Edited By Leslyn Kim
I’ve been pondering this question for a while and just wanted to throw it out on a blog to see what sticks…
The question is this – Is God more pleased by rightness of belief or right relationship? I raise the question because the voices of the world, and all too often the church these days, are lopsided toward rightness of belief. They claim that right relationship comes first, but then reflect the contrary by zeal or through time invested in how much rightness of belief means to them. Or, they tell you the obvious answer is right relationship, but then silently hold to what they believe as the only right belief. LOL
Here are brief personal/experiential examples of what I’m talking about…….
Reformed adherents may tell us that if we don’t believe in the doctrines of grace correctly, we have a messed up theology. That without fully understanding grace (from a Reformed perspective alone), we’re limited in knowing the true God. Some take it a step further and will tell you that you’re deceived, apostate, or completely unregenerate if you don’t hold to Reformed brands of biblical doctrine.
Charismatics may tell us that if we don’t see all of the gifts (of the spirit) the way that they do, then we’re probably not filled with the spirit. That if we don’t speak in tongues, or in a more practical sense, –if we don’t do it in public, then our spiritual effectiveness is questionable. That if we don’t follow after signs and wonders, healings, miracles, and prophecies, then we lack the faith that’s necessary or that fear prevents us from embracing these things.
The “Political Gospel” crowd, those people who bind their political views to their faith, may tell us that voting a certain way is heresy. They say that one can’t possibly detach their Christian worldview from biblical morality or even the details or civil function of government. That if the government promotes sinful policies and we vote for candidate who espouses them, then we’re risking salvation.
Our Catholic friends may tell us that there is only one true church, and that Protestants are simply in rebellion against God. That there is only one church, and that their church is the only one true church ordained by God. Peter was ordained as the first leader, and subsequent pope’s, local priests were meant to be our elders, deacons, etc…
The church I belong to, Calvary Chapel, may tell us that the only right way to do church is through expository preaching alone. It is pretty much the only right way. I agree with them. See, I’m telling on myself here. Sometimes I’m one of these people……. LOL
Traditional Baptists may tell us that everybody is wrong….. except for them – LOL (Just joking, but you probably get the point)
My point is, much emphasis is placed in “rightness of belief” or “getting all the answers right” in the world (America – being my frame of reference). Not far behind them, the church (in America) often mirrors this fixation. There’s plenty of history to be studied on where this type religion stems from, however the most recent torchbearers can often be found in circles with strong dispensationalists backgrounds or the Neo-Reformed movement.
The former has always been the official Christian megaphone to alert the troops of impending doom. The watchdog/emergency alert system for church persecution, false doctrines, political evil, and any other world turmoil that appears end-times like. Let a new development in dog collar global tracking systems come out and they’ll be the first ones on my Facebook wall tying it to the mark of the beast.
The other growing trend is in the Neo-Reformed movement that rightly places strong emphasis on sound biblical doctrine and theology and the centrality of Christ. While there’s plenty to be admired, the orthodoxy portion can become so head-strong that it often overshadows the emphasis of orthopraxy (putting doctrine to practice). The philosophy is that without having good doctrine good orthopraxy is impossible. While I believe that to be true, there are often gray areas in life that can end up making orthodoxy mutate into legalism. For example, in a Reformed effort to redeem culture, practicing yoga is bad and Christians shouldn’t watch the movie Avatar, but beer is awesome, rock music, rap music, and tattoos are eh-okay Ssssshhh……… don’t tell those dispensationalists about the beer, rap music, or tattoos, they’ll have a coronary. LOL
Catch my drift??……..
We often get so lost in finding all the right answers that we forget about the importance of right relationship with God the father, and his Son, Jesus Christ. Why do we get the two confused? Probably because it’s so hard kicking the habit of trying to please God through our works, especially as it relates to knowledge (even about God) that we gain. Or in trying to impress one another in what we know of God hoping to be found worthy in HIS eyes. Now, before I sound like a heretic here let me explain myself further.
I’m cautious about how far I take these types of parallels, because it always needs to be scriptural, but let’s consider a father-son or father-daughter relationship. I’m always pleased when my children obey me. It please it me and it brings me joy [especially before they turn three ] to ask them to do something, and the answer is a simple….. “Yes daddy”. It fills me with joy when I see them playing together, loving each other, and respecting others (the Golden Rule – Matthew 7). I also get great joy in knowing that they understand things about me – how they respect my authority, the rules of my house, my choices for them, the fact that I have good plans for them (Jeremiah 29). No I’m not God, but follow along with me for a second. Let’s call all the above the Curle Family Doctrine and Curleology. It has a nice ring to it As pleasing as all of the above are, it’s not explicitly why I love my three sons. I love them because they are my children. I love them because of the fact that I made them. Because they look like me, they have my same mannerisms, they think somewhat similar to me. Even when they don’t fully understand Curle Family Doctrine and Curleology I still love them. Sure, I chastise them when it’s necessary to bring them back into obedience. I explain “right thinking” to them as they mature and grow in their understanding. From the simplest things, like how to hit a baseball to how to hold their breath underwater to one day maybe how to study for the SAT, or how to study the bible. Point being, I love them regardless of how well they know Curle Doctrine and Curleology. My love for them extends far beyond obedience. Even when they don’t seem to follow Curle Family Doctrine and Curleology to a “T”, I still love them nonetheless. I want them love me as I love them, and to follow my will as a result of how much they love and respect me.
One trend I have noticed with my children is how natural it is for them to want to please me through their performance. Arguments often center around one of them trying to prove to me how they are better than the others at one thing or another. One will often attempt to correct the other in my presence, seeking for me to crown them as more right than the others in the search for praise.
I wonder if God sees us in a similar way. In the flesh, we long to please him as we should. Where it takes a bad turn is when we become convinced that we will win him over, or cause him to love us more based on what we know – our doctrine and theology. In other words, we don’t pursue right doctrine and theology because we want him to love us more. We pursue right doctrine and theology because we know how much he loves us and we want to please our father.
Our collective goal as the body of Christ shouldn’t be first and foremost to have right thinking, the goal should be to have right relationship (with Christ) as the top priority. Because, right relationship (with God/Christ) while doing our part according to his will (studying scripture, praying, pursuing God), leads to right thinking. Although the two paths seem to converge on the same destination, one fails miserably, because it’s done with wrong intent. The other shines as it seeks out with intent to find the creator of all good things including wisdom and knowledge.
New International Version (NIV)
2 My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.