How to handle differing interpretations in Bible teaching

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darinhouston
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Re: How to handle differing interpretations in Bible teaching

Post by darinhouston » Thu Apr 21, 2011 9:00 am

I think you're right that we are very close in our personal views. However, the illustration above seems to be a simple situation of a man teaching AGAINST the church's views, and not teaching ALONGSIDE their views. If he were to say "we all know that the pastor and the denomination exclusively teaches xyz, and I'm not here to tell you they're wrong, but it's not my personal belief or that of many others in history, and I want you to be aware of and understand the basis for the other views, so you can accept or reject whichever doctrine your personal conviction commands armed with the facts, so.... abc..." then I think it would be the pastor who would be being narrow-minded and self-absorbed to prevent such views (provided they weren't harmful to the congregation, spiritually).

The whole discussion, though, begs the question -- a man shouldn't have such control over the doctrines being taught that those with knowledge of truth or wisdom can't share that from the spirit simply because it may conflict with some other teaching. The whole structure of most churches today is built with this in mind, and to squelch disagreement (ironic considering the reformation) or "dangerous talk" among the congregation. I have no problem with recognizing those with particular teaching gifts and authorities, but a helathy congregation in my mind should be sharing among themselves and asking questions and holding up historic views to test against the word and others' collective conscience, etc.

I think the reason I am so passionate about this is because I took the sunshades off late in life, and realized I had been being protected all these years by well-intending churches from whom I assumed the prevailing views were the only ones throughout history. Luckily, I stumbled across Steve's teaching and others such as Tozer and Lewis because I was about to chuck the faith at one point becuase so much of it seemed so contrary and arbitrary. What peace I have knowing that things that seem wrong may well be wrong, and not just proofs of biblical error and inconsistency. It's too bad I had to struggle through some of these things alone without guidance from spiritually mature eldership. Shame and albatrosses for those pastors who would prevent such exposure in a safe and nurturing environment, and require the wilderness for those seeking truth and understanding.

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mattrose
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Re: How to handle differing interpretations in Bible teaching

Post by mattrose » Thu Apr 21, 2011 9:22 am

I don't disagree with anything you said in that post. In the illustration I provided, the man is not in the wrong b/c he's making people aware of Calvinism, but because of the way he's doing it and because of the attitude he's doing it with. In your paragraph, the man is charitable and open minded. In my illustration the man is acting somewhat secretly and aggresively.

Thanks for providing some of the background on your passion for this issue. Perhaps my apparent lack of passion is due to the fact that I grew up in a denominational church (Wesleyan) and now pastor in that church and teach with a 'steve-style' of presenting various views. Indeed, I not only hold, but teach a number of views that are not the 'official' views of the denomination. Not only am I not rebuked for this, but I think it is seen as a positive to challenge tradition so long as I'm doing it with biblical support and with a charitable attitude.

I'm sure other denominations aren't as friendly toward this sort of thing. That sort of control by a denomination or senior pastor has just not been my experience.

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darinhouston
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Re: How to handle differing interpretations in Bible teaching

Post by darinhouston » Thu Apr 21, 2011 10:23 am

You are very fortunate. I know this thread isn't about credalism so much, but you also mentioned a credal commitment along the lines of Nicene for teachers. I understand the value of congregational confessionalism, but unlike a congregation who can pass over parts of disagreement, that would put doctrinal purity to the test and require a pledge on something that one might have honest disagreement over (I know we've discussed this dilemma before here).

My son's school had a well-intended pledge requirement for admission that the parents sign on to a number of confessions like this -- pretty mainstream stuff, but things I can't confess (much less "pledge"). 99.9% don't think deeply enough to care, and would (and do) confess gladly. I had to risk admissions by explaining why I could not do so, but that I wouldn't teach "against" the school in such matters with my child, giving me freedom to teach "alongside" while maintaining respect for the school's views. I don't want my son to stir up controversy among students, but I also don't want him to grow up with a lukewarm vanilla faith. In the end, the headmaster respected it and my explanation (and may be questioning some confessional points himself now). However, a denomination putting such a test to a teacher similarly puts him and the pastor in a very awkward position.

These sorts of "tests" seem designed to prevent the messy business of real life and open thought and to avoid correction and rebuke when things go awry. Scripture gives us a way to deal with such things, and it's not narrow pledges and commitments to avoid controversy, but to maintain a loving spirit and deal lovingly and firmly with things that damage or confuse others after they happen. If one trusts the wisdom and maturity of a teacher, such things should not be required -- if not, they shouldn't be "Teachers."

This is one of the things Steve has mentioned frequently about how grateful he is to be free to teach what he thinks is truth without homage or risk to a career or offense to an authority.

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mattrose
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Re: How to handle differing interpretations in Bible teaching

Post by mattrose » Thu Apr 21, 2011 1:17 pm

Well there are both advantages and disadvantages of both institutionalism and independence.

Steve feels very free to teach whatever he feels led to teach... and he is independent
I feel very free to teach whatever I feel led to teach... and I am in a denomination

So, done rightly, either setup can yield freedom and either setting can produce problems. And independent ministry might not receive necessary caution/warning when going astray. I denominational ministry might not provide the proper room to correct error. Both can be done right or done wrong. It really just depends on the quality of the people involved.

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darinhouston
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Re: How to handle differing interpretations in Bible teaching

Post by darinhouston » Thu Apr 21, 2011 2:24 pm

Definitely so.

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look2jesus
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Re: How to handle differing interpretations in Bible teaching

Post by look2jesus » Sun Apr 24, 2011 12:50 am

Hello Guys,

I really enjoyed reading through this discussion. However, I think that I would not give "denominationalism" quite the pass that it seems that Matt gives it. My question is where does denominationalism end and devisiveness begin? In other words, is there a difference between denominationalism and devisiveness? I think that as soon as a group of believers decides to "congregate" together mainly because of certain shared doctrinal beliefs then they have begun to divide the body of Christ, regardless of how strongly they may feel about the importance of their shared beliefs. It may seem to be a convenient expedient, for many reasons, but, to my mind, this practice contradicts the teaching of Jesus (especially in John 17) and Paul (specifically in 1 Cor. 1-3).

In John 17, Jesus prays many times that His disciples would be "one" while stressing the importance of the "word" and "truth", but culminating His prayer with these words, "And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them." In my opinion, denominationalism results in the removal from the congregation the opportunity to demonstrate Christian love (because it naturally limits a broader discussion of what might be seen as an opposing view by the majority and the ability to demonstrate Christ-like behavior were such discussions encouraged to take place); fewer opportunities to demonstrate humility (which can open the door to pride); a tendency toward dogmatism (because alternate views are rarely fairly presented and existing views tend to be left unchallenged); and a general "we're better than them" mentality.

While, I agree, the quality of the people involved will make a big difference, I question whether denominationalism can ever be done "rightly", regardless of the difficulties that a less denominationalised body of Christ might present.

Several months ago, Homer posted a copy of a document that might be considered relevant to this discussion, found here: http://theos.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=3363#p44181

I would appreciate any more thoughts you might have.

l2j
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowlege and discernment...Philippians 1:9 ESV

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darinhouston
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Re: How to handle differing interpretations in Bible teaching

Post by darinhouston » Sun Apr 24, 2011 10:57 pm

I haven't read the link yet, but I tend to agree with you -- it does beg the question, though, as to what bases would divisions be appropriate. Merely geographical? Anything else? Practicality demands some sort of subdivision or groupings.

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mattrose
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Re: How to handle differing interpretations in Bible teaching

Post by mattrose » Sun Apr 24, 2011 11:46 pm

Sometimes I speak practically rather than idealistically.

I tend to agree that the church would be stronger without denominationalism (idealistically), but I see the reality of denominationalism. And let's face it, they aren't going to cease to exist in the next few years. The good news is, at least where I am from, nobody really cares about denominations for denominations sake anymore. People attend such and such a church not because of denominational affiliation, but for such a wide variety of reasons that I can't begin to list them.

Some people who hate the thought of denominationalism attend groups that meet in homes, but, practically, this is just another denomination. It just happens to be a very small one. Some who hate denominationalism start or declare their church an indepedent or community church, but, again I speak practically, it often isn't very different from the other churches in town in regards to isolation.

I'm not sure what the alternative is to a certain number of Christians somewhat isolating themselves from other Christians. Obviously I'd prefer that there were LESS isolated pockets, but I don't see an end coming anytime soon. So we've gotta work with what we've got. And that should include those churches offering different interpretations in their bible studies.

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look2jesus
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Re: How to handle differing interpretations in Bible teaching

Post by look2jesus » Mon Apr 25, 2011 10:42 pm

Good answer Matt,

You might have noticed that I didn't present a solution to the problem...just sort of railed against it, which is just a reaction to the frustration of watching my brothers and sisters in Christ act in such a petty, narrowminded, and unloving way so much of the time. I mean, is it really that important that we all agree on any of these mostly secondary issues. I'm thankful that in your situation no one has called you onto the carpet, but it has been my experience that it happens all too often.

I think most of us in this forum appreciate the fact that Christians can have honest disagreements about a multitude of things and it brings me great pleasure, personally, to be able to debate all the different issues that we debate here in the respectful manner that most of it is done in, but I don't understand the lack of love and grace and humility exhibited by a vast number of those who name the name of Christ.

How in the world are we to test all things if we're not even permitted to hear about all things. This is what bothers me about teachers in a local church having to agree to tow the party line. Why shouldn't that very assumption be challenged publicly--Paul did it with Peter; and I don't mean disrespectfully but I think too often things that should be said go unsaid because no one wants to rock the boat. But, in my opinion, sometimes rocking the boat is a necessary thing to do. We have one Lord, not several lords, and when someone says, for instance, that in order to be a teacher at this church you must agree to and sign our statement of faith (which invariably contains a--fill in the blank--view about some "sets us apart" doctrine), why is this tolerated. By the way, have you ever heard of one of these conditional statements containing something along these lines: We believe that Jesus calls us (the church) to love one another; therefore, in obedience to Christ, we agree to be patient, to be kind, to be gracious, to be respectful of those with differing views, etc., etc..?

I do realize that we have to deal with things the way they are, but maybe if enough people said "enough with the partisanship, it's more important that we love one another than that we agree on every little doctrine then maybe the name of God will stop being blasphemed among the unbelievers because of us!
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowlege and discernment...Philippians 1:9 ESV

ParadiseBrad
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Re: How to handle differing interpretations in Bible teaching

Post by ParadiseBrad » Mon May 02, 2011 4:33 pm

My background is that of an elder in my local church. We are a church that left the General Baptist denomination and just recently hired a Messianic Jew with no formal seminary training. He also is the pastor of a local Messianic Jewish church. He replaced our Amillenial/Reformed pastor, our church is predominately Dispensational and Armenian. Get the picture? I teach Sunday School, lead a Home Group and occasionally preach. We have a very healthy men's group (mostly the leadership) that meet once a month called "Men Meeting God". All views are shared. From private conversations and groups of us meeting about the subject of 'differing interpretations' we have come to the following understandings.

We discourage 'straw man arguments'. We ask that men express THEIR POSITIONS without characterizing opposing views.
We truly attempt to understand the views of others at the table taking care not to offend anyone.

Personally, I believe no one should teach unless they are truly gifted to teach the Word. My frustration is today's qualifications seem to be having a profession of faith and a desire to teach. I have seen many instructors, parroting commentaries or using any material available except the Word. Regardless of one's views on non-essential doctrine I have no problem learning from someone who has obviously meditated on the Word and recognizes the Holy Spirit as his teacher. Study is important, but meditating and praying on Scripture is the core for someone who has been gifted to teach in the Body of Christ. Above all, we must maintain a teachable heart; teachers and students alike.

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