Practical Triage: Stop Shooting Cultural Moderates.

The following is a guest post by Tyler Recker.

A couple of weeks back I obligated myself to writing on this topic by closing an entry with:

In closing, I must also add that practices, methods, and ways of fleshing out our faith also fit into this grid of primary, secondary, and tertiary.  It’s not only orthodoxy (right thinking) but also orthopraxy (right practice) that we must filter through the grid of closed hand/open hand issues.

Now, this issue quickly fans out to issues of legalism and license, as well as principles and methods.  In this entry, I will examine more of the former, while leaving the latter for a later entry.

In the entry concerning Theological Triage, I relayed Al Mohler’s illustration about how some doctrinal issues are more important than others.  As Driscoll and the Acts29 camp says, some things can be held charitably in an open hand, while others must be held firmly in a closed hand.

Here, I am contending that it is important to also use this sort of closed hand/open hand issue regarding issues of lifestyle and orthopraxy (right living).  This is the practical outworking of believing what we do about legalism and license.

As mutual members of a covenant community within the local church, we agree that some practices are good (reading your Bible, not neglecting the gathering, living on mission) and that some practices are bad (adultery, homosexuality, stealing, murder, gossip).  As a result, were I looking for a church for my family, I would call each of these issues to be dealbreaker issues for me.  “You don’t believe the congregation should read the Bible for themselves? You don’t believe that adultery is a sin? I’m going to have to find somewhere else”.

Why? Because these issues and others are very clear within the Scriptures and we ought to hold them in a closed hand, not being willing to water down the truth of the Scriptures with “Did God really say…?” (as Satan did in the Garden) about issues that are clear.

Now, on the other hand there are issues that we ought to hold humbly in an open hand because the clarity with which the Scriptures deal with the issue is less clear.

When I say this, you must understand that I don’t say that from a low view of Scripture as if God was unable to say what He meant, but rather, I say that with a high view concerning the sufficiency of Scripture because God communicated exactly what He wanted communicated.

Sometimes very conservative individuals with very strong convictions about things are tempted to hold things that are unclear in the closed hand as if they are dogma.  I don’t think it is conservative to say more than the Bible does about an issue.  I think whether you are adding or taking away from the Bible, tampering with the Scriptures is a rather liberal thing to do.

So, some behaviors, ways of living, and so on, we must hold in an open hand of “I feel convicted otherwise about that issue, however I still believe this individual loves Jesus and desires to live a life that glorifies him.”

Example time.

Alcohol- The Bible clearly speaks of the sins of drunkenness and the sins of failing to have compassion for the weaker brother.  However, the Bible doesn’t ever say that all alcohol is sin.  We know that Jesus drank wine, turned water into wine (John 2), and that Paul even prescribed that Timothy drink wine for his stomach issues.

Bottom line:  it’s more than possible that your brother or sister in the Lord can drink alcohol in moderation and still love Jesus.  This is an open handed issue.  We should not divide or look down on one another over such issues.  Some may abstain from alcohol, and they are not necessarily legalists.  Some may drink alcohol, and they are not necessarily compromised.

Speaking in Tongues- The Bible clearly acknowledges that not all have this gift.  Likewise, this gift is given some clearly laid out instructions within 1 Corinthians 12-14.

Bottom line: It’s more than possible that your brother or sister may speak in tongues in their prayer time and still love Jesus and be seeking Him honestly.  This is an open handed issue.  We should not divide or look down on one another over such issues.  Some may speak in tongues and they are not necessarily nutcase Benny Hinn types, and some may not speak in tongues and they are not “afraid of the Holy Spirit” or “keeping the Holy Spirit in a box” (The Holy Spirit is God.  You can’t keep him in a box.  That’s silly.)

Within the life of the local church, there are all kinds of differing backgrounds and interpretations on the Scriptures, I think that the practical triage that I propose here will will keep us from going on witch hunts for either legalists or worldly compromisers, instead beckoning us to better love one another.

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7 thoughts on “Practical Triage: Stop Shooting Cultural Moderates.

  1. I do have something to add to the subject of speaking in tongues–we have to be careful when we say that it’s open-handed to the general public it can cause those to just go out and willy nilly start babbling jibberish. We should be sure we all look at it from a biblical perspective. This is something we learned from a past class on speaking in tongues–there are five conditions that are necessary for tongues to be Biblical: a.Tongues must be a known language, as in Acts 2:6-11 and 1 Cor. 14:7-11, b. There must be an unbeliever present, 1 Cor 14:21:22, also one of the purposes of tongues was to show God’s judgment on unbelieving Israel for their disobedience and to show that God’s work now encompassed the Gentiles as well. c. There must be an interpreter present, 1 Cor 14:13, and 1 Cor 14:27-28 d. Tongues must be spoken in the church in an orderly fashion, with only tow or three speaking 1 Cor 14:18-19, 1 Cor 14:23, 1 Cor 14:2, 1 Cor 14:27-28. and e. It must be done for the edificiation of the body, not personal edification 1 Cor 12:7, 1 Cor 14:12, 1 Cor 14 :26.

  2. Note: I have updated this post as of 1:50pm to fix the sentence fragment and have changed the part in quotations below:

    Speaking in Tongues- The Bible clearly acknowledges that not all have this gift. “Likewise, this gift is given some clearly laid out instructions within 1 Corinthians 12-14.”

  3. Dawn,

    I have had very much exposure to some very genuine charismatic believers. Of course, genuineness should never be taken as a reason to excuse error.

    I think that among your points, the point that “Tongues must be a known language” might be debatable. In my reading of the Scriptures, I don’t know if you can squeeze all the mentions of “tongues” into the “known languages” box. What is meant by a “heavenly language” in 1 Corinthians 13:1? How does 1 Cor. 14:14 fit within that interpretation?

    I must add that I have never personally spoken in tongues and I wholeheartedly reject the pentecostal idea that this gift is a gift that every believer has.

    I am confident that there are folks within our body who would not agree with your points. In the end, I am arguing that this is not an issue that we should divide over. Rather, we should have mutual respect for one another’s genuine desire to be taught by the Scriptures and continue on the journey towards right understanding.

  4. When you said, “I am confident that there are folks within our body who would not agree with your points.” I am confused because personally, I don’t think I had any points, I was taking what the Bible says and putting the verses down. I really just wanted to share Biblicial perspective. I also agree that it is not an issue to divide over. But I also think that if someone speaks in tongues that there are like you said, “laid out instructions.” I thought that is what I put down or what I interpret them to be.
    I am agreeing with the commentary I got from a Wesley/Henry/Spurgeon (I love the “old saints”) that 1 Cor 13:1 is “though I speak with all the tongues which are upon earth and with the eloquence of an angel.” and 1 Cor 14:14 is “if I pray in an unkown tongue-the apostle, as he did at ver 6 transfers it to himself. My spirit prayeth-by the power of the Spirit I understand the words myself. But my understanding is unfruitful–the knowledge I have is no benefit to others.”
    So, I think a language needs to be understandable. I am not sure how it can be useful to glorify God if it’s not.

  5. I too love old dead guys.

    The point is that I know folks that would see in their study of the Scriptures a different way of interpreting those verses. And these are folks who have a high view of Scripture and very conservative hermeneutics.

    So, we have to understand to some degree that the “Biblical perspective” is a little harder to come by than it is on the primary “closed-handed” issues.

    This is precisely why it is an open-handed issue.

  6. Hmmm…..I will leave this subject with having a mutual respect for others and their differing backgrounds and interpretations of the scriptures! Thanks for the talk and perspective Tyler–

  7. Speaking in tongues has been a challenging topic for me to understand. I am intrigued by the conversation between you, Tyler & Dawn, and it has given me more clarity. Thank you both for your wisdom and input!
    Lisa

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