The Point

It is a curious phenomenon you have when you consider, for example, Gordon Fee. The guy writes all the books we use to teach exegesis and responsible Bible study and yet we disagree rather strongly with him in a few crucial areas. Even Carson, an admired, responsible scholar, has his continuationism which at least from our perspective (RB) is due to his mishandling of Scripture in his interpretation.

We have the same problem at the level of our church with people who agree with all our principles about the law and the Lord’s Day. You should see the look of weariness that crosses pastor’s faces when it come to these subjects because the practice doesn’t correspond to the principles, especially here where no underlying protestant culture exists. And the same is true in the area of worship. The debate isn’t so much about the principles, but about a consistent working out in practice of the basic principles everybody nearly everywhere affirms.

And I think the explanation of this situation is that while it is hard to get to the principles, requiring study and method and such, it is much harder to achieve a consistent implementation of the principles in our lives. Which should make us consider our own practice with the soberness of fear.

While I haven’t been a pastor for very long, it seems to me that this is the difficult but very crucial point to which everything essentially comes. And a good pastor has to be one who is dealing with this first at a personal level and from there helping the congregation. It isn’t simply a matter of principles understood, but of principles so assimilated that they are loved with a love seeking obedience in complete implementation of the spirit that underlies the letter of the principle.

To take it beyond the cliché of head knowledge and heart knowledge with which I think we sometimes diagnose to avoid any useful prognosis*: it is a failure of imagination, which can be a failure simply at the level of imagination but also a failure at the deeper level of desire which seeks the capacities of the imagination in finding solutions. It seems to me this failure gives us the results we live with and with which our principles daily die.

*That it is another cliché cannot be disputed: it might be called a principle that leads to no implementation. However fresh the insight may have been in the past (and it can stand for the heart of the problem if it can be rejuvenated, but that would require a great deal of imagination as the unfortunate division it created has now to be overcome; though I sometimes wonder if a thing does not become a cliché because it was never true enough to begin with), you know it will get a thousand wagging heads today, but how many assenting hearts? It is a thing frequently said, not fervently believed = cliché. Which is why Bauder is right in saying that clichés are the death of spirituality. And also why clichés must not be uttered from the pulpit–a temptation most difficult to overcome, I add in order to drive home the point of the discontinuity between our principles and our practice.


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