Friday, October 9, 2009

Steadfast on Essentials, Open on Debatable Issues

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound
more and more
in knowledge and depth of insight,
so that you may be able to discern
what is best
and may be pure and blameless until
the day of Christ,
filled with the fruit of
righteousness that comes through

Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

--Philippians 1:9-11

On some points scripture is abundantly clear. The deity of Christ is one of the strongest examples. Despite the contrary teachings of certain sects, Christ clearly, in multiple parts of the Gospels, declares himself not only to be the Son of God but also to be one with the Father and, therefore, to be God Himself. John 8:58 is one of the most salient—but also just one among many—examples: "’I tell you the truth,’" Jesus answered, "’before Abraham was born, I am!’"

On other points, however, God seems to challenge us with richly nuanced revelations, through His word, that we might not be able to fully comprehend in this world. Just when will the rapture occur in relation to the second coming, and what precisely will be the timing and specific nature of the 1,000 year reign?

The complexity of the scriptures on these issues is such that room for debate still remains among those who hold to essential doctrines of the faith. On some of these issues, the Holy Spirit may one day open up for us a clearer understanding. But God also challenges us to search the scriptures for truth, and some truths may not be fully revealed to us until after Christ returns and we are living in the new creation.

On other points God seems to grant us liberty in terms of how we may practically apply principles that, in a general sense, are essential. Baptism is a good example. As Hank Hanegraaf argues in his essay on “The Importance of Baptism,” scripture appears to be quite clear that baptism, though not essential to salvation, is a vital exercise for the believer in expressing his or her faith. But in terms of the specifics of the exercise, Hanegraaf argues that “Christians may forever debate whether one should be dunked, dipped, or drycleaned.”

As a school that, while steadfast on the essential doctrines of the faith, is not committed to any single denomination or set of teachings on issues that are subject to interpretation, our practice at Christian School of York is to be non-dogmatic on such issues and to encourage their active discussion.

It’s all a part of how God helps us use His word for the renewing of our minds. While abundantly clear on essential points, the more complex and nuanced areas of God’s word challenge and enrich us—this is one of the factors that makes scripture “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).

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