Bears repeating: our presuppositions matter

28 Dec

A dear friend of mine dove into theological waters for the first time last week.  As a result, I understand more clearly her view on the veracity and usefulness of the Bible.

She belongs to the United Church of Christ.  One of their beliefs is essentially ‘no creeds’.

  • The UCC has no rigid formulation of doctrine or attachment to creeds or structures. Its overarching creed is love. UCC pastors and teachers are known for their commitment to excellence in theological preparation, interpretation of the scripture and justice advocacy.

I am not writing a post to attack this denomination, but to use what they write about themselves to illustrate several points regarding logical and clear thought.

A couple of conclusions one can draw from that paragraph:

  1. If there is no substantive content to a belief, then there is no foundation for saying something is true or false, right or wrong.
  2. If you advocate ‘love’, who is going to criticize you, especially if you are vague about what love means?  Seems attractive and safe, yes.  Nevertheless, meaningless.

Some questions I would ask:

  1. Just what DO you mean by ‘love’?  Whose definition are you using? Is ‘love’ allowing people to continue in self-destructive ways because they believe them to be right?  Is it ‘loving’ (in order to avoid saddening or offending someone) to withhold a diagnosis for a disease that is curable?
  2. If there is no doctrine, then how can one interpret the Scriptures?
  3. And on what basis can one’s interpretation of Scripture be judged ‘excellent’?

That’s a short response, having read what this denomination writes about itself at the macro level. At the micro or individual and personal level, here is what weighs on me concerning my friend.

If I am correct in presenting her viewpoint, she believes that certainty about what the Bible teaches is impossible and in fact ‘destructive’.

I passed some sleepless hours across three nights last week working out the implications of this view.  What I have been given by God, the light and faith to believe that the Bible is not only true but authoritative, is precious and incalculably beneficial to me.  Here are just a few of its gifts:

  • God’s promises are both a safe haven in scary times and a source of REAL, supernatural strength when I both feel and AM weak
  • His Word provides guidance and wisdom
  • I have assurance that I am personally known and loved by a good Father who created me and everything in the universe
  • There is a purpose to both my life and my suffering
  • I have an inheritance safely waiting for me that outweighs all suffering on this earth

So there you have it, some out-workings of presuppositions.  Beliefs really do matter.

So what is my advice to all of us?  Not only must we know what we believe, but WHY we hold those beliefs. And we must be willing to follow the ramifications and determine if we like where they lead.

Bonnes Pensées!  Happy thinking!



2 Responses to “Bears repeating: our presuppositions matter”

  1. Darlene N Bocek December 29, 2016 at 8:29 am #

    I absolutely agree with you. I grew up in a congregation that taught that “doctrine divides the Spirit brings unity.” But all the while certain denominations were boo-hissed because “they believe in doctrine, not the Spirit.” It wasn’t until I was burned by false prophecies that I realized the protection doctrine gives. The boundaries of the faith, the biblical declarations of the character of God, the facts of the Bible–these ARE undebatables you can depend on. The Bible can be challenging to understand, but it is a finite number of words chosen by God to reflect WHO he is and WHAT his goal is for humanity. These can be known with certainty. And the Bible is a bubbling-brook of new things to know about God.

    The Westminster Shorter Catechism, for example, which my children are still learning, is so full of concise biblical truth. For anyone to object to the statements in favor of “love” is ridiculous! How can we know, for SURE, that our faith is grounded? Only through the Bible.

    Love deceives. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9 How can you teach love without the WHOLE COUNCIL of God to compare it to? How can you teach love without knowing a God who judges? He has standards, his whole outlook is not “love.” His outlook IS his character, the pure source of all wisdom, goodness, justice, peace, love, power, holiness… He is the “I AM.” Why would he have given us a “Book” if all he wanted was us to love? Love of God and love of others summarizes the commands of God, true. But love needs direction. And the direction is the “rod and the staff” of our Shepherd, the Word of God become flesh.

    God disciplines us for our good. There’s a rod in there. Kids getting disciplined often shout out, “you don’t love me,” and from their perspective love doesn’t hurt another. But that’s not real love. Real love 1) knows the path 2) prods down the path 3) rescues those off the path. Without an identification of that path, love cannot be love. Doctrine is another word for sure-things-you-can-depend-on-about-God. No church has no doctrine, they just have unwritten doctrine.

    Thanks for your very provocative blog post!

  2. Maria December 29, 2016 at 3:13 pm #

    Darlene – you amplified my thoughts so well. I still mourn what my friend has cut herself off from as well as my mother-in-law. And that keeps me praying and tugging at our good Dad’s sleeve to have mercy and remove the blinders. Good investment, having your kids learn the content of the Westminster Shorter…and the illustration of your kids saying: You don’t love me! is handy.

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