An Illusory Intertwingling of Reason and Response

Musings: “Cogitations of an Addled Mind,” one might call it, or “Mr. Toad’s Adventure,” for that matter. Most of what I write stems from a long brooding process, and here I present to you, raw and untamed, the results. (Some musings are on a devotional note, and others are seasonally-oriented.)

Tafel :: musings :: devotional

Friday, December 22, 2006

A Unique Doctrinal Statement

A friend of mine noticed that on Facebook, I describe my religious views as "unique", and quite understandably asked for an explanation. (Actually, I tend to use such lables to invite queries precisely so I can define my terms, rather than some societal average being foisted upon me and all others using a given label. Try asking me if I think gay marriage should be legal: I'll tell you I don't think straight marriage should be legal . . . guaranteed to give me my nice comfy soapbox for three-and-a-half minutes!)

So, "unique" religious views? Hmmm . . . where to begin . . . Generally, I believe that one should literally interpret the Bible, and one shouldn't write one's own wishes and prejudices into the Bible. This knocks out things such as "Baptists don't dance," "You shouldn't be friends with gays or Muslims," "Nudity is in and of itself wrong," and other such things.

Don't get me wrong: I do believe in separation, both ecclesiastical and secular. However, I don't believe in reading extra restrictions into the Biblical definitions of them.

Ecclesiastical separation I define thusly: you cannot fellowship with or minister with believers who are (a) unsaved and (b) hold incompatible views of core doctrines. Specific doctrines included in said core are open for debate, but generally including soteriology, parts of theology (such as the literal Trinity), most of Christology (especially the diety of Christ), and of course compatible definitions of the two types of separation.

Secular separation I define much more simply: "abstain from all appearance of evil." (I Thessalonians 5:22) And that's "appearance of evil" to the world — if a normal, rational non-Christian around you would see your actions as "un-Christian", they "appear evil". One might well challenge such old standbys as "no dancing" and replace them with more supportable "no salacious dancing" or even the more general, but more Biblical, "no overt public display of sexuality" (that takes the place of a "no nudity" standard as well).

Appearing evil is what I would describe as a secondary sin — the sin of appearing to sin — rather than primary sin — sin that is wrong in and of itself. One might do well to borrow a pair of terms from jurisprudence: mala in se are primary sins, while secondary sins form a kind of mala prohibita defined by milieu. Sin is of course not relative, but there is a specific sin ("appearing evil") which must of necessity encompass a flexible set of behaviours. (The concept of not providing a stumblingblock to a brother (Romans 14:13) is much more narrow, and rather adjures not leading a brother into primary sin.)

You're still wondering about my mention of nudity earlier, aren't you? Well, I believe in modesty (maybe not "skirts down to the toenails", but it wouldn't hurt!) as a separate concept from "number of square inches of epidermis exposed". Of course, lust being a primary sin, under any most circumstances I can imagine, public nudity would be a sin, due to the stumblingblock principle. However, someone whose clothes were on fire, I think, would be entirely innocent in removing them, no matter how publicly.

Moving on . . .

I believe that the central doctrine of anthropology is free will (and its concomitant individual responsibility), and that free will is not compromised by the complete foreknowledge of God. Soteriologically, individual salvation by the blood sacrifice of Jesus, necessary because of individual responsibility for one's sins in their entirety.

I hold to a complete inspiration of the original scriptures, and their preservation in the original form: while the KJV is the best English embodiment of them, and is free of errors of commission, it's nothing magic, and by simple virtue of being a translation, cannot be free from errors of omission.

I also believe the Bible is to be taken literally, except where it explicitly states that it is symbolic or parable. This knocks out that Biblically unsupportable "Church-age" exposition of the letters to the churches in Revelation, as well as equally-unsupportable symbolic views of Genesis.

So most of my core doctrinal beliefs would align me with self-proclaimed "Fundamentalists", but I don't use the term, because it generally also conjures up irrational rewritings and additions of a bunch of extrabiblical doctrines.

So, is that unique? I think it is, since I find few who hold to such a set of beliefs. However, I believe as a whole it's a Biblically-supportable set of doctrines, so it's unfortunate if it is too unique (I know, I shouldn't qualify words like "unique"!), but . . . eh.

Oh, and I don't believe cannibalism is malum in se. Murder, yes, but cannibalism as a whole? Chew on that for a while! (Yes, I used a pun. I am incredibly ashamed of myself.)