Friday, July 30, 2010

The Good Old Days Weren't Perfect

As I mentioned in my last post I am an old soul. I yearn for the transparent joy in the Holy Spirit that those who came before us basked in. However, it's easy to sentimentalize those days while disparaging our own. Honesty demands fair-handling. The good old days weren't perfect—far from it. We had some problems in our more demonstrative years.

1. Legalism

Not fun to look at but it's true; legalism went far beyond the boundaries of scriptural holiness and imposed more rules. For example, early in the 20th century my reformation movement of the Church of God (Anderson) had a controversy over neckties. Yes, neckties! Since we didn't want to dress in a worldly fashion some of the saints took a dim view of neckties. A necktie wasn't functional, only fashionable and, thus, vainglorious. We can laugh now at the silliness but God's holiness children of a century ago weren't laughing.

2. Bad Doctrine/Poor Scholarship

Last night I listened to an mp3 of a holiness preacher from years ago, I don't know the date. He was giving some reasons why holiness churches have "protracted meetings" but they don't turn into revivals. One reason, the good brother informed his audience, was because women in pants were praying for revival! He quoted Deuteronomy 22.5:
The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.
There are big problems with condemning women who wear pants today by appealing to this verse. First, this verse probably had to do with a pagan practice that the Lord refused his Israelis, not that God is condemning the modern fashion industry of today. Second, as Gentiles we aren't under the Law of Moses. The Torah was for Jews, not Gentiles, and it's been abolished as a covenant, anyway.

Over the years I've seen some poor handling of the Word of Truth. Verses taken out of context can place people in bondage to something God never commanded. In this regard inadequate scholarship can lead to legalism. Lack of scholarship and education led to some lousy theological points. Sloppy interpretation makes for bad doctrine.

Let me give you another example. A common appeal for entire sanctification has been taken from Paul's command to the Thessalonians:
For this is the will of God, your sanctification:
(1 Thessalonians 4:3a ESV)
Fair enough but the preachers need to quote more Scripture in that passage to get the gist of Paul's specific thought:
For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 ESV)
When all of these verses are read together in context it shows that Paul isn't giving general instruction about entire sanctification but speaking of believers living in holiness involving sexual matters.

Let's seek entire sanctification...and use proper Scriptures to support the doctrine.