Tuesday, July 15th, 2008 | Author:

Over the past few years, I’ve done a lot of reading about Christianity, from several different viewpoints. Last winter, I did some deliberate research on the history of Christian denominations. I’m not a historian or a scholar, but in my search for truth, some things have become obvious, even to me.

No person, church, or denomination has all the truth

Even though most every church proclaims they have “the truth” that other churches do not, I don’t believe any of them. Even those that claim they base everything on the Bible, and can show you the scripture to back it up, in practice they actually base their doctrines on someone else’s beliefs.

You’ve probably heard a version of this story before, but here’s what I remember. Some people are blindfolded and trying to identify what’s before them, using only their hands. One person declares it’s a tree, with very rough bark. Another says, no, it’s a huge wall that stretches forever. A third says it’s some kind of large snake. In reality, they are each touching a different part of an elephant.

The conclusion I draw is that all their conclusions were wrong. It was not a tree or a wall or a snake. They did better, however, when they described what they learned about the elephant, without trying to draw a conclusion. The elephant is rough skinned and huge and snake-like.

I think we should approach our knowledge of God with this lesson in mind. We can probably describe some of His attributes with a degree of accuracy, through the Bible and the revelation of the Holy Spirit, but we can’t say definitively: This is God, and all of God, and only God. Individually and collectively, we only know of God what He has chosen to reveal to us.

I think this applies to denominations, as well. When God reveals “His trunk” to one person and “His leg” to someone else, why must they argue and create a new exclusive doctrine involving their revealed truth? Typically, they declare that all Christians who don’t know about “His leg” are apostate, and create a new “true” denomination.

I did some additional reading about the classic Arminianism vs. Calvinism debate, and this is what I concluded. The Arminians took half the Bible and created a doctrine. The Calvinists took the other half of the Bible and created a conflicting doctrine. Both are based on scripture, but both are based on only some scripture, not the whole.

Paul tells us that now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known. (I Cor 13:12.) If we humbly accepted this, and gratefully thanked God for the knowledge He gives us, instead of playing one-upmanship games, I think we would all look more like Christ.

I just finished reading a1970 edition of The Spirit Bade Me Go by David J. DuPlessis, and this passage jumped out at me (p. 41-42):

The first forty years of my life I spent in Africa. I saw that most of the missionaries tried to make “foreigners” instead of Christians out of Africans. They took great pains to make them Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Calvinists, and Methodists … My whole being rebelled against this kind of mission … Our Pentecostal missions flourished because we did not have books of creeds or catechisms to teach the Africans. We gave them the Bible and told them to believe what is there, and the missionary lived the life that only the Holy Spirit can cause men to live … The Holy Spirit create[d] these churches.

This concept rings with truth, and the only thing that has changed in the fifty years since DuPlessis wrote it, is that now even the Pentecostals have creeds and doctrines. Many Christians, I think, are still fleshly, and try to “create” new Christians in their own image, instead of the image of Christ.

And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to babes in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not mere men? What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. (1 Cor 3:1-7)

This can be quite easily updated to current terminology: “I am Catholic” or “I am Pentecostal” or “I am Calvinist.” Is this jealousy and pride of any value to Christ? I think not.

[This topic will be continued, as my fibromyalgia allows. In the meantime, your comments are most welcome.]

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5 Responses
  1. Dan says:

    I completely agree with you.

  2. Reynaldo says:

    My intellect agrees with you but what I have read disagrees. (Matthew 16:18) For Christ founded the Church and stated that “the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it”. Christ commissioned the apostles to go out and preach and to repeat what he has done Luke 22:19, 20. So in those to verse you have the commissioning of a Church and a liturgy or ritual to be done.

  3. akaGaGa says:

    Reynaldo, I’m not sure what you disagree with. I think all Christians would agree that Jesus started building His church with Peter. What He built on after Peter is certainly open to discussion.

    And I did not mean to imply that the church has no doctrine, if that’s what you’re thinking. My point is that there should be a core doctrine that defines a Christian, instead of “heavy loads” that Jesus did not intend. (Matt 23:4)

  4. metamorphusthey says:

    Hi once again,

    Just an obseravtion. In order to make an assertion about the value or the accuracy or helpfulness of the variegated tactile observations of the blind men, one observer needs to know what the object is. You may say that that observer is God, and you would be right, but the problem is that if God’s word conveys nothing of the entire large animal which we are touching (to take the parable too far) then we can never, ever indicate that anyone else’s ideas are at all wrong.

    Which is not what you do. You often indicate that others ideas are wrong, which bears a clear inference that you can see the elephant and no one else can. How do you know enough of what the elephant looks like to tell someone who says it is a tree that they are wrong, which, again, is what you do?

    I am not at all against contending for the truth. But the parable you use is utterly useless to the Christian because it makes any perspective so subjective that to say anything with any certainty becomes contradictory.

    A snake is still going to bite you and and elephant is still going to step on you. haha.

    Beks

  5. akaGaGa says:

    Good point, Beks. What I was trying to say is that, in a local church body, I think God gives each of us a piece of the puzzle. Instead of arguing about the difference in the pieces, we should see if they fit together.

    For example, if I feel strongly that we need to pray for the local community, and someone else feels strongly that we need to knock on doors, perhaps we need to pray and then knock.

    If someone else feels strongly that we should lock the doors and not let anyone new into our sanctum, then we have a problem.

    The pieces don’t all come from God.