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Sunday, February 12, 2012

On what do we base our doctrines?

Growing up as an Adventist, I was taught to favor the King James Bible and to prefer the Old Testament over the New Testament. After all, that's where most of the evidence for Sabbath-keeping (and other doctrines) was found. I thought all Scripture was on the same level as far as being something you should base doctrine on. But that's just not the case. Mind you, I'm not saying that all Scripture isn't inspired. That's not at all what I'm saying. What I am saying is that certain passages should be given more weight than others.

First of all, since we are all living under the New Covenant and we believe the Old Covenant was fulfilled in the New, we should first look at the New Testament to see what it tells us as Christians. There are obviously lots of amazing things to be learned from the Old Testament, and we should certainly study that, too, but we need to read it through the eyes and understanding of the New Covenant/Testament. That's pretty basic. If someone revised their will, upon their death you would first want to see the most recent copy of it. Certainly you could learn something from reading the old will, but the new will is what applies to us.

In addition, there are many different types of passages. A few examples - there are poetic passages, prophetic passages, narrative passages, and teaching passages. We shouldn't give something from, say, the poetic passages the same weight for building doctrine as we would a teaching passage. And if the Bible casually mentions something happening, we shouldn't necessarily take that as a command that should be applied to everyone for all time.

For example, on another discussion board something asked the question of whether wearing jewelry was forbidden or considered sinful in the Bible. The only response (until I gave mine, of course! :) ) was someone who simply said, "Take a look at Genesis 35." I did read it. It's a passage where Jacob & his family got rid of their foreign gods and took their earrings out. So based on this person's comment, we, too, should take our earrings out because of this. I'm sorry, but by this logic Judges 13 would "prove" that men shouldn't cut their hair because that shows they are set apart by God.

I've noticed that many SDA doctrines are not based on clear, New Testament commands but instead on (1) obscure passages, (2) passages that are often taken out of context, (3) Old Testament commands given to specific people, (4) narrative things mentioned in passing (but not commanded to everyone), and (5) often ignoring specific teaching passages on the subject that teach the opposite view. On the contrary, since I've been out of Adventism, I have loved the freedom that comes from just reading the Bible as a whole and seeing it all fit together without having to ignore or excuse away passages that don't fit with what I think they should say.

One obvious example of the differences in reaching doctrine is what happens when you die. Ecc. 9:5 is one of the main proof texts - "For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing..." First, it's taken out of Ecclesiastes which is an OT book, poetic (or maybe there's another word for it), and depressingly teaches that this life is meaningless (a few verses later Solomon also tells us to drink wine with a joyful heart, but that is ignored). Second, it's taken out of context - the very next words, "neither have they any more a reward", aren't believed by Adventists to apply in the eternal sense. If they believed that, this verse would prove there was no heaven or hell after death. Also, this passage repeatedly talks about "under the sun" and is clear it's talking about life on earth.

Contrast that with the multitude of New Testament passages (some which mention death in passing, but others which are specifically teaching passages). But the OT obscure passages are given more weight for whatever reason. It just doesn't make sense. If something is important enough to matter, it should be clear. If it's not clear, maybe it's not important.

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