Yesterday, I posted the main outline of “A Great Commandment Education: A Fourfold Strategy” which outline the biblical, spiritual, doctrinal, and missional aim of my desired education ministry at ARBC. It’s based on Matthew 22:37-39:
37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
So to begin with the biblical: everything in the church must derive either explicitly or implicitly from the Scriptures. Thus, the education ministry of the church, in this Colorado pastor’s mind, must entirely and completely been rooted and grounded in the Scriptures. In Christ is “hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). We are to “walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught.”
So walking in Christ, understanding our relationship with Him and (more importantly) his nature, work, and teachings must be taught. Recently books have come out saying that our theology is more often caught than taught, but where does it start. How can we discern what we are catching? And how will we know what to throw so they are catching what they should?
It must be taught. Truth is taught! Christ’s nature, work, and teaching are taught! Why?
In Colossians 2:8, we read:
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
We will come across philosophies and empty deceits and human traditions. But the key is “that no one takes you captive” to it. And Christians are susceptible to this if they fail to stay strong in their walk, if they fail to be rooted, if they fail to be built up in him. Christians must be grounded in the content of the faith. Jude 3 says we are to “contend for the faith, once and for all delivered to the saints.” We cannot contend for the faith if we do not know the content of our faith!
Beware of Reproducing Pharisees
In a recent interview on the White Horse Inn, Michael Horton interviewed Brian Cosby (5/4/2012), author of the book Giving Up Gimmicks: Reclaiming Youth Ministry from an Entertainment Culture. The interview opens with Cosby’s insight:
The sad reality is that most parents want their children to be Pharisees—they want them to behave right. And many times it’s because of the parents’ own idolatry of their children in their children-driven homes in many cases, instead of being centered around the gospel in leading a life of repentance and faith before their children. Instead of this, they want their children to behave and be nice.
The gospel and biblical theology is not merely about producing nice little Pharisees. It’s about exalting the Christ of the Scriptures who rescues us from our self and our idols (or our idol of self) by atoning for our sins, bringing us to a place of self-denial and surrender to Christ.
We must beware of not only producing ‘nice’ people, but of simply branding the gospel as a mode of therapy. “Jesus will make everything better if you just give your heart to Him.” What is ‘everything’? It’s this type of evangelism that brings more distress than anything. "But my life got worse through persecution and the devil coming after me—this is better?” Though they may not phrase it like this, the Christian life is about Christ and His Kingdom in the midst of a worldly kingdom that hates him. We need to teach on the front end of our Christian life as well as all through the Christian walk that Christianity is about persevering to the end for the reward of Christ—not simply having your ‘best life now.’
What Does This Aspect Look Like?
In church history, having a church geared around the Scriptures has fallen into two camps: the regulative principle and the normative principle.
The regulative principle is summed up in a section in the London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689):
The light of nature shews that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all; is just, good and doth good unto all; and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart and all the soul, and with all the might. But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God, is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imagination and devices of men, nor the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representations, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures (Ch. 21, para. 1).
This view, as you see from when it was articulated (the year of our Lord 1689), states that only what is prescribed in Scripture is permitted. If it’s not commanded, it’s forbidden. This is usually seen in styles/types of music. Some do not advocate the use of instruments in worship because they are not mentioned in the NT, and in OT use they are simply used for ceremonial worship. Therefore, instruments, hymns of human composition, and other things along this line, are forbidden. This is a hard, strict line.
The normative principle is outlined by Sam Waldron as this: true worship is what God commands, plus anything not expressly forbidden. Some would say this allows for creativity within the bounds of Scripture in faith and practice, but can also allow for abuses and excesses to creep into the church. The simplest reference to a Scripture that may possibly allow a practice in the church provides the permission needed to move forward.
Yet, these Reformers did bring a caveat—the ‘good and necessary consequence’ clause, if you will. Singing is permitted, and therefore I believe instruments are permitted insofar as they aid the congregational singing and not overwhelm it. Hymns are permitted, insofar as they exalt Christ and the gospel (or at least some significant portion of Scripture). I could go on, but you get my general drift.
The ultimate point is that the Bible should not simply be there to give prooftexts to our agenda. The Bible directs the agenda. The Scriptures point to the rescue mission of God, coming to consummation in Christ—so should the church in general and our education ministry in particular.
So we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart! Yes—and may the Scripture be that which transforms by the “renewing of our mind” (Romans 12:2).