Friday, July 06, 2007

A Solid Foundation

Have you ever tried to describe something to someone who has never seen the item before? Once you have done your best to describe it, they have a picture in their minds of what that item looks like, whether it is a correct interpretation or not.

For instance, if I described a piano to you, I might do it like this:

A piano is a kind of wooden box with keys on it. When you push a key down, there is a hammer connected to it that strikes a wire string, causing the string to vibrate. This vibration makes a sound whether high or low, based on how tightly the string is wound. The harder you hit the key, the louder the sound will be, and the tighter the strings, the higher the sound. There are three pedals on the bottom of the piano, and when you push them, they can stop the vibrations instantly, or make them vibrate longer, depending on which pedal you push.

Now, if you have seen a piano before, you know that this description was an accurate overview of what a piano is and how it works. But in the listener's mind, they may have conjured up something like this:

The information is all included in this picture, but it obviously does not look like what you know a piano to be.

This happens when we share our faith with people who have never heard or understood it before. Their perception of Christianity gets a little jumbled and confused in the translation from our words to their hearts. Like the piano to someone who has never seen a piano, Christianity is not as basic as we think it is when heard through the ears of someone to whom the message is completely foreign.

I think many people who accept the message at first get this kind of distorted view of Christianity. If this is true, what can follow as they build on this faulty vision of God and spread the word as they have interpreted it could be a disastrous. The perpetuation of misinterpreted descriptions can create a false doctrine, or, ultimately, a completely vain faith is something that Christianity is not.

How do we battle this human weakness and dangerous challenge?

1. Lay a solid foundation. The description given of the piano is solid. It is right in every sense. But it is only the basic information of the looks and workings of a piano. It is impossible to describe a piano with words alone to effectively relate the image of what a piano is and the explanation of what it does; however we do need a foundational frame of reference from which to work. This description is a great starting point.

2. Answer the questions you can. After you have laid the foundation in their minds, they may start to ask you questions. In Christianity, we would call this exchange of questions and answers to learn the whole truth, "discipleship". 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that scripture is all from the breath of God, and is useful for teaching (getting the information out there), correcting (replacing wrong information with right information), rebuking (the "You know better than that," form of correction), and training in righteousness (teaching us a new way of life, not just informing us of information). The answers to almost every spiritual question can be found in this one standard: The Bible. Soon the piano starts to look more like a piano - Christianity starts to look more like Christianity.

3. Don't try to answer questions to which you don't know the answers. It seems to make sense...most of us wouldn't try to explain how a cell phone works, or how the internet works, but as Christians we feel we have to be able to explain how God works. Some things we can answer, because His word makes it clear, but in most things, God's ways are higher than ours and His thoughts are beyond our comprehension. Trying to explain God is a major temptation, but not ever completely possible. When the answer is "I don't know," use it.

If the person you described the piano to at the beginning of this post were to try to build his own piano, you would teach him, correct him, rebuke him and train him until his piano was an effective version of the "original". How can we do any less with the foundational truths of the bible when training people to live the Christian life?

1 comment:

WDIKA said...

First time blogger. You make an interesting point. However, we as believers (specifically in the west) our explanation of the piano has focused on the benefits only.

Personally, I believe that the Holy Spirit is the key to revival and evangelism. I truly believe that the growth of the Church has far more to do with the Holy Spirit moving than our dramatic skits, creativity and organization. What is even more interesting is the message that the apostles communicated throughout the book of Acts. They communicated the message of sin and salvation, of righteousness and the judgment to come, and that Jesus came to restore man to their Savior against whom they have rebelled. Today's existentially based religious experiences do have some good points, but at what point do we say “enough?” At what point do we determine that these benefit-only descriptions may not be the solution to revival and spiritual growth? Topical studies and experiences may have their place, however it seems that through these we have come to look at the Bible as a collection of short snippets on how to live rather than a continuous and unfolding story. Overuse of topical studies in some ways has succeeded in interrupting the coherency and intent of the Holy Scriptures. I believe that this may serve as a partial explanation for why the Church is being rocked with so many heresies today. Whether they are Emergent Church philosophy, Blackaby’s Experiencing God theology, gender and sexuality issues, or otherwise, believers today are consistently unable to combat this type of false teaching and the result is its permeation into the Church. We have consistently adopted these types of experience-based topical programs which, in some ways, are perpetuating this type of ignorance. I (and I’m sure you have as well) have heard believers question basic biblical truths because of an experience that they have had. When do we consider that the keys to revival (beginning within the Church) are contingent upon recognition of our sinfulness, repentance, Church discipline, prayer, and the divine movement of the Holy Spirit? At what point do we decide that what our churches need is not to engage in another program but rather to be refocused to the Biblical model that the apostles employed which focused on our sin problem and the profound need for Christ and His righteousness? When one looks to revivals and church growth that have occurred throughout history in the US, Europe, China, & Northern Africa, and elsewhere how many were catalyzed by a benefit-driven experience?

Just a few "stream of consciousness" thoughts. I hope they make sense.