Ali of Kiwiandemu is, in my opinion, wrong on a number of issues. He believes in a form of continuing prophecy that is somehow not "scripture equivalent" and appears to be unduly influenced by modern Pentecostal teaching.
Having said that, I'm sure that he'd say all sorts of similar stuff about me - except in the reverse.
I will say, however, that I'm warming to the guy a lot more, especially after his comments in my recent posting about qualifications for ministry. It's not that I was never cool to Ali in the first place, but I'm gradually realising what a valuable brother in the Lord he is.
Consider his comment here:
I also think that having sound doctrine is no guarantee of wisdom. I wish it were. I am very aware of a situation right now where someone with sound doctrine is applying it very unwisely! I think, though, that wisdom could be seen in the requirements of looking after their families well - wisdom, as I understand it, involves the application of what you know in people's lives.
When I was at Bible College, a former principal turned up to speak one day and spoke of a Water well as a metaphor for the Christian life. A well, he said, for it to do its job properly, needs to be "well" constructed and needs to be full of water. A Christian who has bad theology but who is full of love and good deeds is like a well that is full of water but has been so badly constructed that the water leaks out the side and is polluted by the soil around it. Conversely, a Christian who has sound doctrine but who is not full of love and good deeds is like a well that has been built superbly but which is dry.
At the time I found it a great metaphor. These days I would not - and I would also thus disagree with Ali's comments above.
Of course this admission may sound surprising - but just wait for me to explain it and you will see how quite unsurprising it actually is.
First, however, I'll admit to an error in my avoiding the mandate article (shock! horror!). In that article I made a distinction between those who are godly and those who have sound doctrine. Moreover, I included the following example:
I saw with my own eyes a young man who had both sound doctrine and the ability to teach, but who lacked Good Christian character (he was divisive, not sober-minded and arrogant) be sent to Moore College.
I was in error in making that example.
I need to point all this out because I wish to make an assertion that has been dawning on me for some years:
Life and Doctrine are inseparable.
I don't think that the Apostles - or even Christ for that matter - ever made a clear break between that which was theology or doctrine, and that which was love and living an effective Christian life. A modern attitude would be the so called difference between "theory" and "practice". It's far too easy to write one off and accept the other for the sake of pragmatism or for the desire for holiness. I don't think the Bible ever does that. Consider the following verses:
Titus 1.1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God's elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness...
Ephesians 4.11-14 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children...
Philippians 1.9-11 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
Colossians 1.9-10 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.
To explain - I've first highlighted "knowledge", and then highlighted the "godliness" bit. Although liguistically it is obvious that there is a "break" between what is godly and what is knowledge, the link between them that we see Paul doing here eseentially makes them inseparable. In other words, for the Biblical writers, knowledge and godliness are not "one and the same", but are two characteristics of one thing.
Now if I was Ali I would be tempted to read a little into what I am saying as knowing doctrine as being the be-all and end-all - as though somehow all a Christian needs to do is know theology and that is the only real thing Christians should do. Of course, I'm not arguing that at all.
Consider the young man I saw who had "sound doctrine" but was not godly. If I've been arguing that life and doctrine are inseparable, then what would I be saying?
I realise I'm being convoluted here, so I'll just say it simply:
If a person is sound in theology but is ungodly, then he is not sound in theology.
If a person is loving and godly, but does not have sound theology, then he is not loving and godly.
You cannot have sound theology without godliness. The scriptures were written by the Holy Spirit and each time we are exposed to them He works in our hearts and our minds. Those people who read the scriptures and who "know" them well but who don't have their life changed or challenged are quenching the work of the Spirit and hardening their hearts against God's very word. Moreover, by resisting the power of the word in changing their lives, they do not experience nor understand true knowledge of God - which is essential for any true disciple. This is why I argue that those who have "sound theology" but who are ungodly do not truly have sound theology. A theology that does not lead to godliness is no theology at all.
And yet, at the same time, I would also argue that godliness and love without sound theology is not true godliness and not true love. If we are to be godly then we are to live lives that honour God, but we cannot honour God properly without God letting us know what it is that honours him. Like Israel and the golden calf at Mount Sinai, we may truly believe that we can serve the Lord in any way we may see fit. Our godliness is not determined by situational ethics, but upon what God reveals to us to be true. It is not we, but God, who determines what love and godliness are, and we cannot discern what God wants without the knowledge that he has given us.
The idea that somehow knowledge and godliness can be separated is ludicrous. For Jesus, a person who listens to his words and does not do what he says is like a builder who builds his house on sand. The point behind this parable is not to show that knowledge and godliness ("theory" and "practice") are separate, but that when they are separated, crazy and destructive things result.
I have a friend who is simultaneously attracted to and repelled by Reformed Theology. He is most definitely a Christian and he embraces much of what this theology teaches as being biblical. Yet he has had many bad experiences of unloving, arrogant, emotion-suppressing, and socially rigid reformed Christians - so much so that he occasionally calls himself a "post evangelical". To him I have said (and have to keep saying) that the culture that surrounds Reformed Christianity is not Reformed Christianity (btw, to me "Reformed Christianity" is actually "Christianity". I may explain this further in another post.) So while many Reformed Christians are arrogant and unloving and so on, it is not because they have embraced Reformed Christianity, but because they haven't embraced Reformed Christianity. How can the study of God and his grace lead us to arrogance, unloving behaviour and suppressing our emotions? The doctrines of grace must always lead to humility, joy and love. How is it that razor-sharp theology can lead to a razor-sharp tongue? Easy: The theology was never razor-sharp in the first place.
The normal experience of a person who is saturated with the knowledge of biblical theology is one of love and godliness. A lack of godliness is the same as a lack of theology.
From the Theosalient Department
© 2006 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/
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