Here are two observations:
- Everyone believes something
- Those beliefs depend on what/who we hold up as our authority
I recently heard an acquaintance make reference to how doctrinally incorrect it is for Catholics to believe in praying to dead saints. Well, depends on who your authority is. If your authority is church tradition and the pope, then praying to saints may make sense. But if your authority is the Bible alone, then this doctrine becomes more tenuous.
Was talking with Jay yesterday about Universalism – the idea that in the end God saves everyone. Jay pointed out Universalism arises more from philosophical arguments than it does exegetic arguments (from Biblical texts alone).
In other words, Universalism is an extrapolation from a certain viewpoint of God’s character, to the exclusion of clear teachings from the Bible. Reason takes authoritative precedence over the Bible. This same thing happens when folks lean towards hyper-Calvinism, hyper-Arminianism, Preterism, or any number of other “isms.”
At another level, perhaps everyone – consciously or not – takes queues from their immediate culture, accepting the values of their surroundings like a trojan horse. This truism has the potential to turn any group of people into an “echo chamber.” In America, the echo is “Materialism” and “Individualism.” In Asian cultures, the echo is “Honor” and “Community.”
This is why I believe there is is at least some value to exposure of other ways of thinking. In preparing for my upcoming short term missions trip, I read the following:
- “As people we carry with us both a sense of poverty and a sense of abundance. When we go to another culture to serve in some way, we go to offer out of our abundance and our abundance collides with a poverty and often our area of poverty collides with another cultures area of abundance. It is within this collision that we learn about the body and it’s many parts and the fact that we are all on equal footing.” (source)
I realize stepping outside ones own cultural paradigms can be akin to grasping the concept of infinity or visualizing dimensions beyond the third. Tough. I hear the affects of cross-cultural experiences generally rub off quickly. I wouldn’t know, I’ve never been outside the country.
But back to my original topic: Authority.
Some exalt their own brain as the ultimate authority. To some extent, I guess we all do. Because at the end of the day all our experiences and thoughts and feelings are filtered through our unique prisms.
Some trust only their five senses, like those in Missouri – the “Show Me” state. This road leads to dismissing all forms of supernatural as irrational, unscientific. Humanism is the result, and evolution the prop for this rationalization.
I observe that when people start throwing the term “heretic” around, usually at its root is a difference in accepted authority more than accepted belief.
Mormons have an extra book, Catholics keep a few Apocrypha, and Jehovah’s Witnesses have their Watch Tower.
Hindus have their Vedas, Mahabharata, and the Bhaghavad Gita. They also have gurus, Indian culture, and ponderous years of tradition.
Muslims have their Qur’an, Hadith, and Sharia code. Extremists an inflammatory set of religious Fatwa’s.
My authority is the Bible. From my investigations, I feel it is a rational decision. Yet I also admit the leap of faith involved. I didn’t personally witness God create the world. I didn’t personally witness Jesus rise from the dead. They don’t call Christianity, “The Faith,” for nothing.
Yet I believe. And that’s what the Bible requests of me. Paul reminds us that three things remain: Faith, Hope, and Love. Seeking yields Hope. Hope yields Faith. Faith yields Love.
I do understand clearly the authority of the Bible can be undermined by merely proving one point false. The rest would inevitably crumble. So far, the Bible still stands, and still remains the best selling book of all time. Translated into 3,000 languages and counting.
Here’s my final point: Who our authority is affects what we believe. What I believe affects how I live. How I live affects my destiny.
As a “for-instance,” the Al-Qaeda hijackers were merely acting consistently with their beliefs. And they believed their actions would yield them a specific destinty. A positive one even.
Christianity too asks us to lay down our lives for a positive result. But not through taking the lives of others, NO! Rather, the exact opposite: to save the lives of others. Jesus is our ultimate example in this.
So, who’s your authority?