Monday, January 14, 2008

No More Biblical Principles

You can find people offering "Biblical Principles" for just about any subject:

So what's the problem?

The problem is that these "biblical principles" do not all agree and are often more an expression of culture than they are of any clear teaching of the Bible.

Just because something is stated in the Bible that doesn't mean it is a "biblical principle."

Some things are clearly presented as biblical principles, especially statements by Jesus. When Jesus said, "Bless those who curse you," he intended for it to be a guiding principle for his disciples.

But a passing statement in the Old Testament should not necessarily be turned into a "biblical principle."

The book of Proverbs is a collection of general truths. These are not "biblical principles" as the phrase is generally used. The precepts collected by Solomon and others require wisdom in their application. Some are even contradictory:

Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself (Proverbs 26:4).

Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes (Proverbs 26:5).

Notice that these contradictory statements are found right next to each other. They were never intended to be "biblical principles."

The book of Psalms is a collection of Hebrew poetry. It is not a theology textbook. It is not a collection of "biblical principles."

Here is one of the milder imprecatory psalms:

Break the arm of the wicked and evil man (Psalm 10:15).

Surely that statement was not intended to become a "biblical principle."

The book of Job is a drama composed of speeches by Job, three of his friends, another guy who just shows up without explanation and God. God takes issue with what Job says. He repudiates the speeches of the three friends. And he ignores the comments of the other guy. There important theological lessons to be learned from Job's story. But be wary of any "biblical principles" that are based on proof texts from Job.

Statements made by God to Jeremiah (1:5) or through Jeremiah to the Israelites going into exile (29:11) are not "biblical principles" applying to Christians.

Actions taken by biblical characters are not necessarily templates for "biblical principles" to be applied to business, leadership or government.

Evangelicals seem to prefer a black and white world. They seek rules that they can blindly apply to every situation.

But being a disciple of Jesus Christ is not a paint-by-number project.

Let's have a little less talk about "biblical principles" and a little more focus on living as apprentices of Jesus Christ.

Jesus clearly avoided simplistic answers in his earthly ministry. Why would he want his followers to reduce his teaching now to simplistic rules?

Jesus did not call potential disciples to a code of conduct. He called them to follow him.

As a pastor, I must repent for all those sermons I preached when I said, "This is what the Bible says you should (not) do."

It's not my job to teach "biblical principles." My job is to say along with Paul, "Follow me as I follow Christ."

Pastor Rod

"Helping You Become the Person God Created You to Be"


Kathy K said...

I was doing a search on Biblical Principles in order to write an article regarding the difference between following so called 'principles' and following the leading of the Spirit when I found your blog. Took some of the words right of my mouth. Glad to see I'm not the only one who sees the potential trap of following 'Biblical Principles'. Good stuff.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Rod,

First of all, well put.

Second of all, even though life in Christ isn't always visible as black and white to such fallible beings as ourselves, there are still some things that the Bible clearly says we should (hope, love, etc.) and should not (lie, steal, commit any of a whole disgusting variety of sexual sins, etc.) do. All I'm attempting to get across is that you oughtn't repent of ultimatum sermons when like as not they were right.

Walk in Christ,
A willing slave of the Most High