Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Which Doctrine is Right?

A friend recently asked me how one goes about deciding whether a doctrine is correct or not. There are at least four answers to this question and an important caveat.

First, as my friend was already doing, one asks one's brethren for assistance. Scripture says:

Proverbs 11:14 Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.

Proverbs 15:22 Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established.

Proverbs 24:6 For by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war: and in multitude of counsellors there is safety.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Second, in particular, one should seek advice not only of one's brethren in general but of those who have the duty of being teachers in spiritual things. Thus, women should learn from their husbands, and the husbands should learn from the elders.

1 Corinthians 14:34-35
Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

2 Timothy 2:2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.

2 Timothy 2:24-26
And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.

The third was is hinted at implicitly in the previous answers:

Romans 15:4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.

Hebrews 5:11-14
Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

John 5:39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.

Acts 17:11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

The fourth answer is prayer to God for wisdom:

1 John 2:27 But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.

James 1:5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

The crucial caveat is that we need to be content with our limitations in the present life.

Titus 3:9 But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.

1 Timothy 6:3-6
If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. But godliness with contentment is great gain.

1 Corinthians 13:12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

Hebrews 13:5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

So, then, to sum up my response, one should seek wisdom from one's brethren as you, the reader, are already doing. Seek wisdom from your elders or, if you are a woman, from your believing husband. Most importantly, search the Scriptures and above all pray to God for wisdom.

When you reach an impasse in your understanding, of course you may continue to pray for wisdom, but strive as well to be content. Because our heavenly Father knows your needs, even before you ask (Matthew 6:7-8), and does graciously work all things together for the good of the elect (Romans 8:28), you can be assure that God will give you all the understanding that you need, even if that leaves one or more difficult doctrinal questions unanswered for the time being.

Philippians 4:19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

- TurretinFan

4 comments:

Kurt said...

Thanks for posting, TFan.

One of the passages you posted particularly intrigues me: 1 Cor. 14:34-35. I've read it before, of course, but now it has more significance for me than ever (I'm a young man affianced to a radiant, intelligent, independent, gregarious young woman).

How do you think this passage translates into 21st century practice? I think the passage is very clear concerning the prohibition of prophecy or tongues-speaking by women in the assembly, but what of the "learning" part?

I understand the gravity of my future role as spiritual head of my wife, but if my bride were only to learn spiritual things from me and my fallen self, I'd be afraid that her spiritual growth could be stunted. Do you think there's room for "independent study?"

Also, do you know where in "the law" Paul is thinking of when discussing how wives are "under obedience?"

Turretinfan said...

"Also, do you know where in "the law" Paul is thinking of when discussing how wives are "under obedience?""

Genesis 3:16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

"How do you think this passage translates into 21st century practice?"

I think the passage should be taken at face value. A woman, of course, sits under the preaching of the word, but if she has questions her source for answers is to be her husband (who can himself get assistance from the elders).

"I think the passage is very clear concerning the prohibition of prophecy or tongues-speaking by women in the assembly, but what of the "learning" part?"

It means that she should be asking questions at home to her husband, not in the gatherings of the church - nor privately to someone other than her husband (of course, this assumes she has a believing husband). Here is a similar passage:

1 Timothy 2:11-12 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

"I understand the gravity of my future role as spiritual head of my wife, but if my bride were only to learn spiritual things from me and my fallen self, I'd be afraid that her spiritual growth could be stunted."

There is no one except Christ that escaped the fall, but God has given you grace and a duty. It is your duty (well, it will be) to make sure your wife is properly cared for spiritually. If you fear that you are not up to the task, it is your responsibility to take the appropriate steps to remedy that problem. Spend as much time as you can in the Word and in Prayer, asking God for wisdom and strength to be a godly head for your wife-to-be.

"Do you think there's room for 'independent study?'"

Of course, she too ought to read the Scriptures and pray to God for wisdom - and you ought to encourage her in that. She can also avail herself of other tools (such as books, and the like). You, however, are to be her primary subordinate spiritual authority and you are to be her main human assistant in her Christian walk.

Some people seem to think that authority of their wives is mostly a privilege - it is, of course, but it is also a very grace responsibility, since the husband is the one responsible for the wife's protection and nourishment both physically (there are few men so cowardly that they would not defend their wives from physical aggression or so cruel that they would see their wives starve while it was in their power to prevent it) and spiritually.

So if you would put bread on the table for your wife, make sure even more so that she has the bread of life. If you would protect from the assaults of robbers, protect her also from assaults of the evil one. If you'd buy her a can of Mace, then by all means arm her with the Sword of the Spirit.

- TurretinFan

Kurt said...

"If you'd buy her a can of Mace, then by all means arm her with the Sword of the Spirit."

Well put. Thanks for the encouragement and challenge, TFan!

natamllc said...

This one is very, very sharp, cutting and dividing the matter well!

I too enjoy and enjoin in saying, albeit, after Kurt!

thanks TF, for posting both! :)