Thursday, October 26, 2006

Hypothetical Theology

The Lord speaks with clarity in his commandments and instructions. Paul said that he wrote in such a way that when the Ephesians read, they could understand his insight (Eph. 3:4).

But men have the tendency to ask questions where there is no knowledge. “Did Adam have a belly button?” “How many rooms were on the ark?” “What does ‘baptism for the dead’ mean?” Questions are good when they lead us to grow and to test ourselves.

There are, however, questions some use to press the issue of “situational truth.” Situational truth is somewhat like situational ethics. It is truth tied to a situation. While situationists freely admit that the general truth is settled, they use the “situational” question in order to find a theological loophole. In a religiously pluralistic society, situational questions open the door to approve contradictory and unauthorized beliefs and practices.

One asks, “If a tree falls on a man who is on his way to the baptistery, will he still be saved?”

Asking such a hypothetical, situational question is usually designed to take away the force of such passages as Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; and Acts 22:16. The question is inherently divisive, for the question divides men in heart. Some, speaking from the heart, will say the man is saved. Others will recall the words of Jesus in John 3:5 that require baptism for entrance into the kingdom. The love of God is pitted against his righteousness. The heart often creates its own myopia.

The more serious problem arises when people take their preferred answer a step further. Their myopia turns into general truth that conflicts with the clear teaching of Scripture. They reason that if the man upon whom the tree falls is saved, then anyone can be saved apart from baptism. Now it is no longer "situational." The situational, hypothetical, answer becomes the new rule for all.

I am reminded of the conversation Jesus had with Peter on the shores of Galilee after his resurrection. He predicted Peter’s death. In John 21:21-22 So Peter seeing him (the apostle John) said to Jesus, “Lord, and what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!”

Sometimes questions about others get in the way of our own obedience. The question for each of us is not so much what Jesus will do with others but whether we ourselves have become obedient to God’s will. Whether a person upon whom a tree falls is saved or lost will not make a difference in whether or not God requires baptism of me. I must answer the requirement for myself.

Now if I put off my own obedience to the gospel, appealing to a “tree falling” situation will hardly excuse me on the last day. If I teach that one is saved at the point of faith prior to baptism, appealing to the “tree falling” situation will not excuse the error of my false teaching. Why? Because rather than listening to what God has instructed, I am appealing to an assumed answer to a “situational” question to justify my behavior. Such a theological approach is suspect. It is sand theology, based on emotional judgments rather than the clear teaching of God. Testing of God’s grace is risky, far removed from “making our calling and election sure.”

The devil knew how to make a situation work for him. He used situational thinking to tempt Jesus.

Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command His angels concerning You’; and ‘On their hands they will bear You up, So that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’ ” Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Matt. 4:5-7)

If you can compose the situation, you can often manipulate the outcome you desire rather than accept the one God desires. You may think God (and others) don't notice, but this is mistaken. Jesus saw through the strategy of the devil, and so can we.

"Do you really think a godly person will be lost if he uses the instrument?"

David meant well when he sent the ox-cart for the ark of the covenant, but meaning well doesn't change error into obedience.
Nadab and Abihu meant well when they sought to offer incense, but meaning well doesn't change strange fire into authorized fire.
The Pharisees meant well when they scrupulously washed their hands according to the ritual, but meaning well doesn't turn a human tradition into a godly instruction.

Jesus did not argue against his Father with situational truth; nor did the Holy Spirit; and neither should we.

Hypothetical Theology is loophole religion, sand theology, designed to excuse rebellion and human religion.

Let's stay away from it.



Anonymous said...

Brother Phil- you had me totaly in agreement until you insinuated the bible tells us it is a sin to use an instrument. my latest blog is on this very thing traditions of the church. I found your blog through brother Al Maxey.

Phil Sanders said...

Dear L. E.,

thank you for reading my blog and for making a comment. I have no interest in the traditions of the church. I do not oppose the instrument because it "breaks my tradition." I oppose the instrument and call it sin because it violates the Scripture. IM is the tradition of men, and a late one at that. No church regularly used instruments until around 1300 AD. Until that time, people understood that instruments were not part of the teaching of the New Testament.

I oppose the instrument for the same reasons I oppose purgatory, the pope, gambling, and polygamy. While there is no specific prohibition for any of these, the positive principles of the New Testament teach us what God desires from us. These practices nd doctrines along with IM in worship violate those principles.

No one has a right to develop a new doctrine or a new practice and force it into the church--as they did IM over a hundred years ago in churches of Christ. Before that time we sang hymns without the instrument. Who's tradition divided the church? It was the adding of the human IM that caused the division to begin with.

IM is sinful because it is a human innovation that divides. I hope that you will take time to look closer.

If you would like to know more, please look at my article, Musical Worship in the New Testament Church found at:

Thanks for your comments,