What Doth the Lord Require?

There seems to be a cognitive disconnect in the Adventist Church. Maybe it exists in other churches too. I think most denominations would agree that the process of sanctification (or whatever word the denomination has for gaining knowledge of Christ and how He wants us to live) is an individual process. We don’t get saved in groups. Each of us will be judged by the Father individually, with Christ as our Advocate. But if this is true it leads to a question. Why is it that so many of us insist that everyone, within the church and without, live by the standards that we have established for ourselves?

The Bible seems to have a lot of evidence that supports the idea that God will require each of us to do different things at different times in our lives, and that we will not all necessarily do the same thing in order to be in accordance with God’s will. For example, in Matt 8:18-22, Jesus responds differently to two potential disciples in seemingly the same position. A scribe says he wants to follow Jesus, and Jesus seems to discourage the scribe by telling him how difficult it will be. The second also wants to follow, but wants to bury his father first. Jesus is quick to tell him to drop everything and follow Him. Why doesn’t Jesus tell the scribe to drop everything? Why does he not talk to the other about how hard it is to follow Him? I submit that regardless of the reasons, Jesus treats them differently because they’re different. (Truism alert!) They each needed to hear different things, would respond to different stimuli. Jesus told some people to follow Him, and told others to stay where they were. There were different standards for different people and there is nothing wrong with that.

Paul gives an implicit example of this same point in Rom 2:13-16. Paul defends those who keep the law without any direct knowledge of it. These people are keeping the law because God is working with each of these people and guiding them to right behavior. This in itself is proof that God will be working with individuals separately to bring them to a knowledge of the truth (and that he does not even really need the church to do it.) Paul supports this point in Rom 14:5-6, and goes even further by implying that doing the “right” thing from an unconvinced heart is problematic. I’m reminded of one of my Dad’s favorite sayings – “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” Someone should not be living a certain lifestyle simply because other Christians are doing it. Neither should the Christian refrain from what they believe is the right way to live simply because no other Christian is doing it. The point is that the road of sanctification is your road, and you should do what the Lord has asked of you.

But we still have not answered the question of why the cognitive disconnect exists and why we tend to pressure people to live by our own standards. I think some of the answers come from the realm of social psychology. In 1950 Leon Festinger gave two reasons for member pressure within a group – social reality and locomotion. Social reality means that members of a group look for consensus in the group to validate their beliefs that are not anchored in reality. It is easy to see how this would apply to religion. Religion is all about faith and proving things that we cannot anchor in any tangible reality. The principle of group locomotion posits that consensus is needed in the group to propel them to whatever goals the group has set. Once again, the connection to religion is easy to see. The church has at least a clearly stated goal. The members are all people who love Christ, want to do His will, and want to be saved in Heaven. How can we all reach that goal if we can’t agree on how to get there? In both of these principles we see that group consensus is important. Festinger believed that group consensus had two benefits for members. Consensus allows each member of the group to say, “I was right to think this because everyone else in the group thinks this (confirmation of opinion), and thinking this must be right because everyone else thinks it (the appearance of correctness). There is a subjective element where we convince ourselves of our rightness, and a move to the objective in terms of the standard of truth which is based on the group consensus.

The presence of outliers, however, destroys this dynamic. If an outlier does not agree with the consensus, he/she can cause doubt in the other members of the group, which has the potential to fracture the group itself. People begin to think, “Maybe I’m not right to think this, and maybe all these other people are wrong, if Jason thinks it’s OK to buy food on the Sabbath… or if Jason thinks it’s OK to wear his wedding ring… or if Jason thinks it’s OK for women to be ordained.” So we put pressure to conform on the outliers of our group because we are seeking to protect ourselves from our own doubt, not necessarily because we are concerned with the salvation of others.

The problem with that external pressuring of outliers is that there is a lot of biblical evidence to suggest that we should not be overly concerned with the appearance of other people’s salvation. First, God tell us in 1 Sam 16:7 that only God knows the heart, and that we are misguided to trust the outward appearance. Jesus addresses this issue more directly in Matt 7:1-5, when He warns us not to judge and that we should be more concerned with removing the beams from our own eyes before we are concerned about removing the motes from the eyes of others. Peter calls for us in 2 Pet. 1:5-10 to make your calling and election sure, not someone else’s. Sometimes we are so busy walking other people’s paths of sanctification that we forget to walk our own.

But here’s the great part – God tell us exactly what He wants from us. Micah 6:8 says, “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” If each of us were to act justly towards others, love to extend mercy to others, and focus on walking humbly with God in the way that He has given to each of to walk, I think we’ll all be OK in the end.

Jason Hines is an attorney with a doctorate in Religion, Politics, and Society from the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor University. He is also an assistant professor at Adventist University of Health Sciences. He blogs about religious liberty and other issues atwww.TheHinesight.Blogspot.com.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7339

Some very good thoughts in this article. I especially resonate with the point about the outliers in a group. They question group consensus, and are deemed as dangerous.

I do question the point being made concerning Romans 2:13-16. I don’t think that Paul’s primary thought is that God causes people to keep the law without them having a knowledge of it, or that he is bringing them to a separate, or saving knowledge of the truth, apart from the gospel. Paul’s point here is that Gentiles, who live totally separate from the Law/Torah, unlike Jews, still have consciences. They still have a knowledge of right and wrong, "their thoughts excusing them, and also accusing them…so that they are without excuse."

Rather than indicating an alternate way of salvation/sanctification apart from law, Paul is saying that Gentiles, apart from Christ, are just as culpable, and just as lost as those who have the Law without Christ. This builds to a crescendo in Chapter 3, "All (Jew and Gentile) have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.

I feel that this text is often misused to make a point about the law and salvation that it simply doesn’t mean.

Thanks…

Frank

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@JasonHines, can you clarify this definition for us? Is this ‘knowledge of Christ’ comprehensional? rational? relational? inspirational?
It seems to me that God wants to live through us to enjoy the universe which He created, so I don’t imagine that He wants us to live other than in Him who relishes His creation. Is it not that when we distinguish ourselves of Him that we sin? Was that not Adam’s dilemma?


[quote=“spectrumbot, post:1, topic:10468”]
But we still have not answered the question of why the cognitive disconnect exists
[/quote]It seems a capsule version of this ‘cognitive dissonance’, heretofore undemarcated, would clarify its existence, such that the ‘why’ could be questioned.

The Festinger hypothesis of peer pressure is certainly admissible among lower-order groups, including pre-teens, by which age most cultural institutions have indoctrinated their spawn, including those ‘outliers’.

Practice the Presence of God.

(Edits: to come)

This is a rather amazing piece to pop up at this time. While I am not a practicing Adventist, I stay in touch with Spectrum because of the fond memories I have of the conversations and magazines that I encountered at Walla Walla College as a student. I enjoy seeing familiar voices and points of view on the online forum. A little taste of home.

I started out saying that it was amazing timing because I’m working on a piece that is my personal response to a challenging Frontline Documentary called Chasing Heroin. It chronicles the new ways that communities are trying to combat the impact of drug use on their citizens. One particular program the covered does not demand that the addict stop their drug use before the service takes an active role in helping them. The belief is that you have to meet someone where they are, love them and help them find the strength to choose differently. You might lose some of them, but in the end the goal is to save the lives that you can.

I see that same spirit in this post. There can never be absolute conformity there will always be outliers because that is the reality of human nature. IF we accept that individuals have a right to choose their own response, then we have to accept that they will choose differently at times. Even in agreement, there are differences of expression.

Just tonight as I was thinking about my response to Chasing Heroin, I realized that there was a little use comparison that I was trying to wrap my head around. In the case of drug laws, do you believe the law is a proscriptive tool, hammer that is meant to compel obedience? Or do you believe that the law is a prescriptive tool, something that is meant to give guidance and expect reparations when the liberty of one person impacts the property or the liberty of another?

I see this dynamic all the way back to the very beginning of the Bible in the story of the fall. When Adam and Eve sinned the writer says that they became aware that they were naked AND THEY HID their nakedness. God returned in the evening as was his custom but Adam and Eve were not to be found. If we believe in God’s omnipotence, is there any truth to the fact that God could not find Adam and Eve when he returned? He could have appeared right next to them at will, but he chose to appear at a distance and call out to them. An invitation to commune with him. But they were afraid.

God’s relationship with Adam and Eve was not different. He wanted to commune. It was Adam and Eve that were changed and they chose to tremble in fear in his presence. So, how are we to take the fact that God then, in counsel, decided to banish Adam and Eve from the Garden? Was this a proscriptive punishment because they had sinned? Or rather, was it a prescriptive punishment meant to give them a chance to repair the relationship? I believe in the prescriptive kind. God wanted to save a relationship so he set up conditions that would make it clear to sinners that relationship was the most important thing. Let go of fear, let go of your failings, embrace a relationship. Whatever I have to do, God says, that is what I want to be brought back in communion with my creation.

So, that is my immediate response, while the path of my Salvation may not look like the one that I was taught as a youth in the church, I still believe in relationship. I trust that there is something beyond this mortal existence and I want to be prepared for whatever that may look like.

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Jason, as the reaction in the response thread clearly reveals there is much more that can be, should be said about sin and addiction.

To properly understand addictions, in a biblical manner, we must grasp the doctrine of sin. Rob Ruder’s response does not demonstrate this understanding. While it is not the most important doctrine in the bible (doctrine of Christ), it certainly arouses the most objections.

Often when sin and addiction are mentioned in the same sentence, or necessary refinements need to be made with the disease model, people begin to squirm in their chairs. Some object because the speaker is about to “pound” them with the bible, while others “tune out” because the speaker is compassionless and is attempting to bury the addict under more guilt.

From biblical teaching and from our own experiences we can say 2 things about sin:

  1. Sin is a reality
    While not popular, this is just the way it is. In a culture where self-esteem and self-worth are prominent, talking about sin seems to be an attack on our personhood. It portrays images of country preachers calling down damnation on those who will not repent.
    It feels like tearing down instead of building up. However, to talk about sin as a violation of the Golden Rule is not cruel, condemning, or judgmental. It is simply stating the truth about the way we are, and the way we know we are.
    Then why is there such a reaction when sin is mentioned, especially as it concerns addictions?
    It could be because Scripture insists sin is even more than a violation of the Golden Rule. Sin is ultimately against God. It is any failure to conform to the law of God in either action or attitude. However, Scripture does not stop here, it tells us something else about sin.
  2. Sin is our deepest problem
    Among most Christians, sin is not their biggest problem. If we were to list our problems, they will normally be in the area of finances, marriage, vocation, relationships, etc. Sin may occasionally come up, but these other problems outweigh any sin problem I may have and it is not a core feature of my being.
    But, according to Scripture I do not love the Lord God with my whole mind and body. This is the key feature of sin and if so, then we are all sinners.

If sin is not our core problem then the Gospel itself is marginalized. The Scripture states that Christ died so I might have forgiveness of my sins, not by my own good works but by placing trust is Jesus and Him alone for my salvation. If sin is not our primary problem, then the gospel of Jesus is not the most important event in human history.

So what is the deepest problem of the addict? If we are going to be informed by God’s Word, it is clear. The deepest problem is sin. What we say about the addict’s heart is what we say about everyone’s heart. Yet, one question remains. Are addictions themselves sinful? We will look at that next time.
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While we all are born with “original sin” meaning that genetically we are predisposed to sinning, are not some more genetically predisposed than others?

In regards to “addictions” alcoholism is definitely genetically determined.
It is common knowledge that the American Indian tribes have enormous genetic propensity to alcoholism. On the other hand, it is my understanding that even though many Jews are social drinkers, the rate of alcoholism in the Jewish community is only two per cent.

Having an Irish grandfather, born in Dublin, ( who was an alcoholic), I took my sister to Dublin to visit “my roots”. We were there regrettably, on St Patrick’s Day, and I have never seen so many inebriated dissolute Irishmen. I was ashamed of my heritage, but should I have been?? The Irish are notorious drunkards, but maybe they have a genetic predisposition?

The same is true of my wife’s Swedish grandfather ( an alcoholic). Is it the depression caused by SAD ( seasonal affective disorder ) with many hours of winter darkness, that causes the Swedes to drink, or is it a genetic predisposition?

I never judge an addict as a “sinner” because I have never walked a “mile in his moccasins”.

The brain chemistry replete with chemical markers, serotonin, dopamine, glutamate and many others not yet elucidated is so complex, how can we possibly be judgmental in determining the labyrinthine chemical pathways that lead to chemical substance abuse?

Only God knows these chemical markers, so only He can judge. I am of the opinion that there will be many " drunks" in heaven, mercifully forgiven by a compassionate God!

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Try this focus: “Onward Christian Soldiers”. EGW likes to remind us that “Every day is a march and a battle”. As soldiers know, there are no victories without unity and established discipline. There has to be unified order under a hierarchal command. There is a paranoia or fear factor of failure without that premise. This reduces somewhat the natural insecurity one experiences in a life threatening situation. A degree of confidence is established amongst the troops as they engage in battle.

Likewise, the Biblical aspect of the Church. We are reminded of the enemy. “Be sober, be vigilant, for your adversary the Devil creeps about as a roaring lion seeking who he may devour”
As far as Adventism is concerned, they are “the remnant” of Revelation and all others are out of the loop.; “Satan has taken full possession of the churches” “Nominal Christians”. They are fallen Babylon and are “The habitation of devils and the hold of every foul spirit and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird” per EGW.

Therefore, the necessary establishment of the 28 FB’s, vegetarianism etc. and whatever other orders to maintain unity in the church as the anointed ones, TW for now, and whomever after may determine.

At the onset EGW stated that the believers should press together, be frugal and avoid unnecessary expenses, and to use our means and time to “Finish the work” as Jesus was coming real soon. Theirs was a group think organization that was warned that because they had not yet conformed to total cohesion that they were the fault of Jesus’ failure to return. The pattern of the early Adventists lives and expectations bear no resemblance to the Adventist church of today ever since the educational systems were established and the bloated heirarchy came about. The church has joined to the spirit of America; the big amusement park.

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