Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Doctrinal Accountability: Can Anyone Avoid It?

"They have spoken falsely of the Lord
     and have said, ‘He will do nothing;
no disaster will come upon us,
     nor shall we see sword or famine.
The prophets will become wind;
     the word is not in them."
- Jeremiah 5:12-13 

This is an Old Testament version of Romans 1:18: "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth." Paul continues (verse 21): "For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened." The Prophet and the Apostle are both testifying against the claim by some that they don't believe in God: those men and women are lying! They know full well that God exists and that they are accountable to Him. As Paul also says (verses 19-20), "For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse."

This is sometimes referred to as "natural theology," the witness that God has revealed of Himself in His creation, so that all men know of Him, even if they pretend otherwise. Why? That is what Jeremiah is talking about: they believe that they are not accountable for what they refuse to acknowledge. I compare it to the bratty child who sticks his fingers in his ears and sing-songs, "La-la-la, I can't hear you," with the belief that he can then claim not to know what his parents said to him.

Do responsible parents allow their children free rein under this pretense? Of course not! And neither does God allow the atheist to escape judgment, simply because he pretends that he doesn't know, or believe in, God. 

Jeremiah also addresses a Catholic error, the concept of "implicit faith," i. e., the medieval doctrine that the Christian believes whatever the (Roman) church believes even if one does not know it personally.While Rome no longer teaches this doctrine explicitly (please forgive the pun), it is, nevertheless, the heart of the practice of most Catholics. In other words, they admit that they aren't personally familiar with the content of Roman doctrine, but accept it implicitly, not on the basis of evidence, but rather because their Church advocates it. Jeremiah's remarks here, directly, and Paul's indirectly, cut through this form of self-deception: intentional ignorance is no excuse!

Is there anything more explicit about where our doctrines should originate and be tested? I say, emphatically, yes, there is! In Isaiah 8:20, that prophet tells us God's prescription: "To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn." Passively receiving the teachings of the Church of Rome (or of any church or teacher), without
checking them against the Scriptures, is to indicate that you are void of spiritual light.

Remember what the bible says of the believers in Berea (Acts 17:10-11): "The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and, when they arrived, they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so." I know that Catholic apologists have demonized the Protestant teaching of sola scriptura, but here it is, in Old Testament and in New. Your spiritual welfare depends on it!

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