Wednesday, January 23

How do you answer all those tough theological questions?

One of the recurring themes for me as a missionary has been to mediate, or interpret the age old question Pilate made to Jesus, "What is truth?"

Hardly a week goes by that some theological issue, or church practice isn't brought to our attention in hopes we will side with their Biblical viewpoint, rather than the opposing viewpoint.

Some of the more recent issues to come our way: reformed theology in churches, women's roles in ministry, demonic oppression and how to deal with it, is there such a thing as "hearing God" speak outside of what we find in the Bible, are apostles/prophets valid roles today, can women be ordained, can house churches really be legitimate expressions of NT churches, the role of government in telling churches what they can do or not do, can believers be demon possessed (a really BIG issue here), what practices in Pentecostal churches cross the line making them cultish, G-12 practices, what does the Bible say is the "right way" to worship, appropriate evangelism practices, what is biblical discipleship, can a church leader continue in their responsibilities if separated from their spouse, can a person be a practicing Catholic and still a Christian, can a person be a Christian and agree with the theology of certain TV evangelists, etc.

Is there such a thing as absolute truth on all the above matters? Is there a clear black or white answer to every Biblical question?

For me, truth might be likened to a house.

We start by getting to know the house by entering through the main door into the foyer. Here we admire the prints on the walls, hang our coat on the rack, and wipe our feet on the door mat.

Just about the time we think we have figured out the house based on our experience and observations of the foyer, our host leads us into the living room. There we discover even more wonders as we sit in the soft chairs, walk on the plush carpet, and admire the flower arrangements on the coffee table and mantel.

With our visit to the living room we are even more sure we know and understand what the house is all about. We begin to tell our friends about all we have seen and experienced based on the foyer and living room.

One of our friends mentions liking the fried chicken and mashed potatoes he had enjoyed in the dining room.

Fried chicken? Mashed potatoes? Dining room?!?! For one not yet introduced to the dining room and kitchen areas of the house, this sounds suspect from our foyer/living room point of view.

I begin to deny the "truth" of my friends fried chicken experience. I lovingly try to correct him in his error and restore him to the FULL TRUTH as was revealed to me in the foyer and living room parts of the house.

While maybe a flawed illustration of how we understand truth, it does reveal how many of us interpret truth based upon our experience of a portion of the whole.

Back some 25 or so years ago, as a new missionary to Guayaquil, a national friend invited a bunch of us over for a Sunday evening parillada (Bar-B-Que). I was horrified and disappointed that the invitation was for a Sunday evening at 7:00pm. Why? That, of course, was the same time as the Sunday evening church service. What would God think of us having a parillada when we all should be sitting in church? Sunday was the Lord's Day, not a day for parilladas and partying with friends.

I remember sitting in church that Sunday evening totally convinced that I was right and my worldly brothers were wrong for going ahead with the parillada. I had understood the truth of church through my limited exposure as something I had learned in the "foyer." Since the kitchen, patio, and Bar-b-que grill portions had not yet been revealed to me, I was quite certain that my paradigm of church was right, and that my unspiritual brothers were quite immature in their worldly ways. It was up to me to correct their "dining room theology" with my "foyer theology".

Isn't truth an ever-deepening revelation as we allow the Lord to lead us further into his "house of truth?" Just when we think we have finally discovered the truth of one of God's mysteries, He leads us through a new door into another room of the house, revealing yet more wonders which add to our understanding of that truth.

It seems to me a lot of arguing and divisiveness--especially amongst fellow believers--is that we argue our case for truth out of our limited exposure to only a portion of the whole truth. Those who have journeyed through only the foyer and living room think those enjoying fried chicken in the dining room are way out of bounds.

But could it be that the riches of Christ Jesus, the author of all truth, go so much deeper than most of us have experienced to date?

What do your think?

7 comments:

John Nix said...

Guy, this article leaves an impression on me. I think your analogy about "foyer theology" makes a great deal of sense and helps break things down to a level where we can understand what God really has in store for us. I love the scripture, "In my Father's house are many mansions." I can't wait to see what is beyond the foyer and the living area. Thank you for the way you challenge us to think. I love reading your posts. John Nix

J. Guy Muse said...

John,

Thanks for the kind comments. All of us are confronted with tough issues and each try to answer as biblically as possible. But there are still many mysteries out there that are difficult to answer with some of our pat solutions. I too have been helped by the "house" analogy for understanding, as you so well remind us all, "in my Father's house are many mansions." Each room has new delights and truths.

Teddi Phillips said...

You're a really good writer Mr. Muse! Easy to follow and very deeply ponderful <<---Hmmm... I wonder why my spellchecker didn't like that word I just typed? haha Anyway, I love your analogy of the house. My name is Teddi. John knows me.

J. Guy Muse said...

Teddi,

Welcome to the "M Blog" and glad you stopped by. I appreciate the comment!

damancd said...

Very good piece, Guy and I'm sure there is such a thing as realising that what we believe to be the truth, is just part of the truth, or worse still, not quite true at all, and it takes much to be humble enough to receive correction and further insight into truth. That's why I'm all for growing in knowing, rather than believing that a destination is already reached when it comes to truth.

J. Guy Muse said...

Christopher,

Thanks for stopping by and for the comment. I took the liberty to check out your blog. Right off the bat I loved it...especially the "Clean" song, and the next by one of my favorite authors, Alan Hirsch! Keep up the good work blogging!

Anonymous said...

Before I saw this discusssion I had asked a leader in our small house church if he thought it would be a good idea next Sunday to instead of having our regurlar gathering, that instead we have a Superbowl party and invite the greater community.
This did not go over well. Thank you for the story about the BBQ>