Tag Archives: pragmatism

On pragmatism and biblicism

(Old Facebook Post – Revised)

I would rather be part of a biblical church that lasts only 10 years than be part of a human institution that lasts for 10 generations.

When it comes to church governance, leadership, and applications, the question “What will work?” (that is, “What will keep my church from falling into sin?”) must always be subordinated to the question, “What does the Bible teach us?” The former question, when given precedence, leads to rationalization and humanistic pragmatism, no matter how baptized with good intentions and genuine spiritual sincerity. The second question forces us to submit our thinking and planning to what truly works in God’s eyes, from his eternal perspective. And his Church will not die, no matter how many human religious institutions stand or fall. Nor will our churches die if we exalt His Word, no matter how radically they may experience outward change in the process.

The heavenly pragmatist remember’s Paul’s stinging admonition: “Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:2-3 ESV)

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On the danger of turning norms into absolutes

(Old Facebook Post)

One danger in biblical interpretation is the temptation to turn pragmatic norms into absolute rules. I’ve been thinking about this in relation to the question of who may baptize or serve the Lord’s Supper.

It is only natural and right, given biblical teaching about the responsibility pastors/elders bear to lead churches, and given socially-driven expectations placed upon leaders, that they will regularly perform baptisms and serve the Lord’s Supper. However, besides the command in the Great Commission about baptizing (Matt. 28:19), no biblical text gives any explicit instructions whatsoever about who should perform either of these tasks. Yet most Protestant and Anabaptist congregations have created a near-absolute rule that only ordained ministers may “administer the ordinances.” I think this does violence to Scripture, turning norms into absolutes.

Indeed, it could be argued that the more mature a local church is, the freer its individual members will be to all baptize and serve the Lord’s Supper without direct ministerial participation. As I understand it, Ephesians 4:11-12 does not say that leaders are given “for the work of ministry” (as KJV wrongly indicates), but that they are to given “equip the saints for the work of ministry” (ESV). Should not a well-equipped saint be prepared for “every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16), including baptizing new believers and celebrating the Lord’s Supper with fellow saints?

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