Friday, October 8, 2010
The read and do mentality is antithetical to the gospel
Several Christian leaders are questioning the way that most evangelicals read the scripture. Brian McLaren calls it a constitutional reading and I have heard Darin Hufford refer to it as a policy manual reading. So to be clear, I would call it a constitutional, legislative, policy manual approach that can be most easily explained as a read and do mentality. Read and do is the foundational proposition undergirding a constitution, legal code or, policy manual. My point is that no matter what you call it, the concept is antithetical to the gospel message.
Still, a large portion of the words written in the scripture deals with constitutional, legislative and, policy manual type issues and, it is easy to see why so many evangelicals view it that way. Commandments are not suggestions; they are edicts... aren’t they? In fact, I think that it would be fair to say that the Old Covenant was indeed a constitutional, legislative, policy manual type covenant and the read, memorize and do edict was just that, a commandment.
The question becomes; how has the new covenant changed that if at all? It appears that the New Testament writings are full of instructions that answer a different question... a question that asks; how then shall we live? That after all is an important question and not one to be easily dismissed. One would hope that redeemed people would be different than those who do not believe that they have been redeemed. This however, does not answer my first question; has the new covenant changed the read and do aspect of the scripture? Has it changed from a constitutional, legislative, policy manual reading to an all together different reading method? I think that the answer is a definite yes.
So the question then is what type of reading method is taught? The short answer is a redemptive method. The gospel of the death burial and resurrection of Jesus is the focus of the scripture (John 5:39-40; Luke 24:27; 44-48 ). The redemptive reading is meant to spiritually transform the individual that believes the gospel. So then, it is the transformation of the person that should not and can not be accomplished by a constitutional, legislative, policy manual, read and do reading method.
Unfortunately, the above mentioned reading method is the one that is stressed by evangelicals the world around. Here is how it works: Believe the gospel and be born again.... then, begin immediately to apply the read and do method to change your behavior and answer the question how then shall we live with proper obedience. I have explained it as Nike Slogan Christians.... Just do it!
However, I think that the redemptive reading method emphasizes the spiritual reality of our situation. We must first believe and accept the spiritual reality of our situation and position. What is the spiritual reality of our situation and position when using a redemptive reading of scripture? The spiritual reality is the affirmation of the redemptive decrees. All are declared righteous by the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. I like the way that the New Living Translation puts it: Col 1:19-22 For God in all His fullness was pleased to live in Christ, (20) and through Him God reconciled everything to Himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ's blood on the cross. (21) This includes you who were once far away from God. You were His enemies, separated from Him by your evil thoughts and actions. (22) Yet now He has reconciled you to Himself through the death of Christ in His physical body. As a result, He has brought you into His own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before Him without a single fault.
The positional declaration of righteousness is very important in the true transformation of the individual. If one believes the good news.... that is.... that we are holy and blameless as we stand because of Jesus... then and only then, will the Spirit of God in us begin to cajole us to have our behavior line up with our actual position... it is all generated out of love that is based upon the grace of God. Read and do is eliminated and yet, if we are resting in the redemptive decrees about us and our positional righteousness... we can attempt the read and do as long as we do not see it as evidence of our transformation and, instead see it as a natural response out flowing from God’s love and grace. This completely eliminates the constitutional, legislative, policy manual, read and do method of scripture reading.
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