Sunday, March 06, 2005

Today at church and other such things

I'd say one of the greatest parts about writing this blog is that I get to write about absolutely anything. Whatever the heck I want. If something in politics is bothering me, I can write about it. If something that happens in one of my classes is weird, I can write about it. If some article about the foibles of society gets my panties in a ruffle, I can rave about it like a lunatic. I'm pretty much free to do what I want here. (Well, unless John McCain has his way)

For this reason, I take great joy in writing a rebuttal to my pastor's sermon this morning at church.

Let me explain.

According to my pastor, finding God's will involves four activities: 1) Studying scripture; 2) Spending time in prayer; 3) Finding Godly wisdom from spiritual authorities; 4) Interpretting circumstances. Now, I disagree with this greatly. I don't find this to be a scriptural manner of discerning "God's will," and I don't find the given concept of "God's will" as used in this case to be scriptural either.

My pastor illustrated this today by preaching out of Acts 1:12-26. Let me set the scene: Jesus has ascended to heaven, and the disciples are eagerly awaiting something in Jersualem, praying fervently in the meantime. Peter raises the question as to what to do about the slot that Judas left empty. He cites a few passages from the Psalms to make the case that they should find a replacement. So they draw lots and end up with Matthias.

He used this passage to illustrate his concept of finding "God's will." First, Peter was studying scripture. How else would he have been able to plug together these two disparate scripture verses to show that they should find a replacement? Second, they were obviously praying. The verse says it explicitly. Third, they sought spiritual authority, as they had enough present (apparently 120) for a synagogue, and they discussed the issue. Fourth, they considered the circumstances that they needed a new person for the job and decided the qualifications for the job.

On his first point, I'd agree that Peter was probably studying scrolls of the scriptures. Peter wouldn't have all that much scripture memorized, most likely. He wasn't a pharisee the way Paul had been, he had been a fisherman. But does the verse say anything about Peter pouring over scripture, trying to find "God's will?" Does it say anything about God somehow pointing out the divine mandate through the scriptures? No. I think it's one thing to assume that Peter had been studying the scriptures, but the rest is reading way too much into the verse.

On the second point, we know that the disciples were praying, but for what? Not for God to somehow command them what to do. They waited for the baptism of the Holy Spirit, just as God promised.

On the third point, I can't say much about his interpretation there. Was this general gathering of the disciples a "spiritual authority?" It's hard to say. Same with the fourth point. Were they reading circumstances to get this? Hard to say. Reading circumstances is a tricky thing anyhow. They can say whatever we want them to.

But I think the most telling thing about this argument is the disciples' reaction. How did they decide on the replacement? They drew lots. They drew lots! That certainly lets "God's will" be known to them. Is that "searching the scriptures?" Did prayer "tell" them who to pick, or even to do this method? Random chance (well, God is in control, so probably not so random) decided this!

I respect my pastor, and I think he's a very wise man, but I get so very, very frustrated when people try to read their own doctrines into the scriptures rather than letting the truth of scripture speak for itself.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Hal. If you have the time and inclination, could you elaborate more on the scriptural method of discerning God's will, not just what it isn't but also what it is? Thank you. -Ryan Herr.