Thursday, August 18, 2011

Getting Knocked Off the -Ism and -Ist Perch

If there was ever a time in history that has the propensity to confuse and befuddle Christians with excessive terminology, it's in this generation.  And the biggest problem with all the "isms" and "ists" that are being passed around is the division that is caused when differing viewpoints are debated - usually hotly and with little or no regard to the commonality Christians do have with each other: belief in Jesus Christ and His Gospel of salvation in its fullness.

The "5 Points of Calvin-ism"..."Arminian-ism"..."dispensational-ism"..."preterist"..."pre-mid-post-millenialist"...and every other "ism" and "ist" that can stir up and muddy the waters of the Gospel message reminds me of the photo I've attached to this post.  We  have become a bunch of different types of birds, each jostling for space on a narrow perch, and all singing discordant tunes that are out of harmony with each other.  This does nothing more than bring dissension among believers and a stubborn drive for each bird to make his position the only valid and legitimate one and to guarantee he remains on the perch.

Of course, then we have those who label themselves with cute hyphenated versions of "-isms" and "-ists" like silly little school girls.  The "Calvi-dispy" crowd and others remind me of immature children who form their own private little club.  In order to become a member, one must jump through the hoops these elitists have erected, learn the lingo, and agree completely with them.  If not, you have no hope of becoming part of this intimate and divinely inspired group and you're knocked off their perch.

This is not to say that I don't have my own convictions on these important doctrines, and most of those convictions are in line with the -ist and -ism crowd (minus half a point).  What I am saying is that all too often our approach comes across as arrogant and argumentative, rather than with gentle instruction and a desire to help others see their errors.  We become exclusive, wanting only to associate with those of like-mind.  We bar the door of our tight-knit, hand-selected, little group from those with differing opinions (and often misguided ones) and then gossip among ourselves about their ignorance.  Believe me.  I have witnessed this.

Should this be the way we, as Christians, behave?

It goes without saying that no one wants to deal with a trouble-maker.  Someone who inserts himself and attempts to cause division should be removed and handed over for the LORD to discipline, if that be His will.  But to merely turn your vitriol on someone who has the wrong understanding of a particular doctrine, and who may be quite capable through the intervention of the Holy Spirit working through you in coming to a right understanding, is the wrong way for us to behave.

Who are we to decide for God who should be the recipient of that understanding?  Is He not Sovereign in His choices?  Has He not given us the means and the knowledge to share with others what we do know and a clear mandate to accomplish it?  For us to hide our "lamp" under a "jar" is for us to also hide the Light of Christ that gives understanding and reveals the hidden and hard things.  The knowledge that has been given to us and the understanding we have should be put on a "stand so that those who enter may see the Light."  (Luke 8:16)  By employing Jesus' instructions, the goal of reaching unity in common belief is more easily attained, thereby keeping peace in His body of believers instead of us acting like a bunch of squabbling birds fighting over position on the perch.

It is no small wonder that so many refuse to hear the Gospel when they see us fighting amongst ourselves over "-isms" and "-ists."  How is that furthering the Truths of God?  At best, all we are accomplishing is proving the unbeliever correct in his assessment:  hypocrisy, arrogance, pride, and a stubborn determination to always be right are still very much present in the Church.

Like those who have gone before us have discovered, there will come a time when we all will be amazed (and probably ashamed) at how much we may have missed the mark regarding certain doctrines.  None of us should think that we have all the right answers.  If we do, we're only fooling ourselves and placing ourselves in the precarious position of being knocked off our self-elevated perch.  There is only One with ultimate wisdom regarding these issues and He will determine how and when we come to a full understanding of them in His own way.

Although I am in agreement with many of my brothers and sisters regarding certain tenets of belief, I will humbly reserve sufficient space for God to correct and instruct me when He deems it necessary, even if it's through another.  The ironic part about it is that I believed these things before I even knew they had a name with a suffix attached to their end.  I didn't need to bog my mind down with -isms and -ists in order to understand them.  They came with the Gospel, and that was enough for me.  The most important thing I can do for Him right now is to allow Him to lead me in how I share what He's given me to others with less knowledge so that they, too, may benefit from His wisdom. 

God knocked me off my self-elevated perch a long time ago, and I cannot express the gratitude I have for that lowering of myself.  Every once in a while I try and climb back onto it, but I'm beginning to see that the view is much better down here, at least until I reach the level of wisdom He desires for me.  If I do have a position on that perch, it's one that He has ordained for me, not one I've chosen for myself.

So, enough with the "-isms" and "-ists" - at least for a time.  They only benefit mature believers in furthering their understanding of God's purpose and will by digging deeper into His Word.   There's a world of unbelievers out there who need to hear the Gospel of salvation in its purest form: simple and direct with nothing left to conjecture or debate, and nothing that will confuse or distort their understanding of it.  Once they have that firmly planted in their hearts, the rest will come by the Holy Spirit's intervention and instruction.


Beshoy atef said...

The church nowadays must return to the first church "Church of the Apostles" .
If we return to this point we will experience the act of the holy spirit .

And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. (Act 2:46-47)

Beshoy Atef ,,,


Karen L. Brahs said...

Thank you for visiting and adding your comment, Beshoy. It is much appreciated.

Are you from Egypt? I pray the Holy Spirit is moving and working greatly among believers in your country and that hearts are being won for His glory.

I hope you return often.

In His Service,


Karie said...

I enjoyed this post very much Karen. I agree that we often let our differences divide us too much and don't allow our common beliefs to unite us enough. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Love you.

Beshoy atef said...

@Karen L. Brahs
yes I'm from egypt .
Thanks for your prayer.