Thinking For Yourself

In the post titled “A Radical Suggestion“, I’ve outlined an approach to dealing with concepts such as the pre-tribulation rapture, the debate about the rapture’s sequence [pre-trib, post-trib, or mid-trib], and other issues related to end times teaching. I want to develop these suggestions further, and expand this concept well beyond the rapture. It should be noted that teachings with regards to final events are not the only doctrinal positions for which there is massive debate within Christian circles.

Some other examples come down to issues such as the three major schools of thought on final punishments. The traditional view of eternal conscious torment, Conditional Immortality, and Universalism form these three schools. With regards to Prophecy, some of the major schools of thought include Historicism, Futurism, and Preterism. Not to mention those who follow “Progressive Christianity” type thinking have thrown out prophecy entirely, claiming that it is not predictive in it’s character. There is even a debate between those who hold to Calvinistic type beliefs and the Arminian school of thought, with others leaning towards Molinism.

Variation doesn’t just exist surrounding prophetic interpretation, but perhaps virtually every doctrine within Christianity. It would seem there are beliefs within the faith that are as numerous as there are denominations. On the one hand, this may not be as confusing as the variation regarding prophetic interpretation. Most choose to listen to their pastor rather than conducting their own research, or they study with a sort of spiritual “Confirmation Bias.”

The challenge really comes down to deeply entrenched beliefs. Regardless of whether or not the Bible discredits them, people will read them into the Bible. Even to the point of ripping passages out of context, interpreting the text with Esiegesis, and focusing in only on texts that support their thinking while ignoring everything else. I would even dare say that such beliefs lead to accusing the opposing side of doing those very things, whether they actually are or not. People have a tendency to build justifications for practices and beliefs which they may know are wrong, but which they have no desire to abandon.

In view of such a deep entrenchment within people’s thinking, I don’t imagine that those who hold to particular beliefs such as: the pre-tribulation rapture, Calvinism, Preterism, Eternal Conscious Torment, Universalism, or “Progressive Christianity” will be willing to accept my challenges and radical suggestions. I can expect within reason that they would either be offended, or take it on but because of a “spiritual confirmation bias” come back with evidence that supports their thinking every single time. No doubt, such persons are not confused about the variation of beliefs within Christianity. They’re so convinced of their deeply held beliefs that the word “entrenched” couldn’t describe the situation better, as this definitely implies a deliberate effort to fortify those beliefs against any attempts at discrediting them from the Bible.

My attention is more on the seeker after truth. I define this as a person with an open mind and heart. We’re talking about somebody who is seeking to know what the Bible teaches, without bias from any particular church dogma. That seeker after truth is a person not only willing to do the research and think for themself, but to surrender ideas they hold to which may not have a foundation in the Scriptures, and to lay aside practices which may not be inherently right. This person might also be willing to start literally from square one.

I want to issue something of a rallying cry to Christians everywhere. That cry is simply to think for yourself. Do not allow anyone, whether it be a pastor, elder, blogger, or some prominent teacher to interpret Scripture for you. Understand that during the days just before the Protestant Reformation, the Church taught that only the priests were competant to explain and interpret the Scriptures. Remember that such a teaching gives the church power over the lay people. It also creates a situation where in effect, you may end up following the clergy over the Bible.

We should not follow the opinions of the “learned” within Christianity as though they’re absolute truth. Neither should our pastors be placed in a similar position, where they’re given a level of trust that should be attributed to God alone. Instead all teachers, whether pastors or theologians, should be thoroughly fact-checked by the Scriptures. Their sermons and teachings should be subjected to a high level of scrutiny to determine whether or not there is truth in it, lest one be in danger of accepting doctrines and ideas potentially threatening to one’s salvation. Although lies may not be around every corner, every precaution should be exercised and discernment should be practiced rather than adopting the position of a “doctrinal sponge” where everything is accepted blindly without critical thought.

Some have at times gone to the opposite extreme. Instead of total reliance on the minister, they’ve generated theories which are not in God’s word. Speculation and theorizing have been indulged in by many, who perhaps might be seeking something to gratify the imagination over Scriptural truth. Much of this is borderline Esiegesis, but it should be noted that this is more likely what Scripture targeted when it spoke negatively of “private interpretations.” God is the source of the true interpretation of the Bible, and hence we must always come to him in prayer in order for the Holy Spirit in order to properly interpret the word of God.

But thinking for yourself when it comes to the interpretation of Scripture is important. You should not allow others to investigate, pray, research, and think for you. Satan may work in this way to control the minds of the people, locking Christians into false beliefs and deceptions through the use of some prominent Theologian whose teachings are accepted as authority over the Bible. No doubt, Christians should faithfully study the Scriptures to discern if things they hear at Church are true, practicing discernment. But also doctrines that are spread wide throughout Christianity should pass the Bible test.

To test a doctrine, you must study it carefully and prayerfully. The Bible should be approached without a “spiritual confirmation bias” where you’re ready to gather up evidence to support your pre-existing beliefs. In fact, every preconceived idea about a subject should be laid at the door of investigation. Then and only then can you arrive at accurate conclusions when researching any subject from the Bible. As originally suggested, lay aside all Bible commentaries. Even reference works should be set aside if you have the slightest suspicion that they may color your interpretation of the Bible. Any other books, sermons, or articles which speak on the subject should be set aside as well.

Begin with the key verses used to support a particular belief or doctrinal view. Lay aside all interpretations that have been read into the passage and research the context, pay close attention to the exact words to see if a text as been read Esiegetically, and carry out a comparison with other texts found elsewhere in the Scriptures. Use the lexicons which your concordance or Bible software may come equipped with to see if there is anything behind the Greek or Hebrew which helps to address the way the text has been perverted. You might also write out a list of key words or terms which are along the same subject matter and carefully research every Bible passage you can find which speaks about the subject. In this manner, through careful self-study, you will have a better grounding for your beliefs.

 

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