Well, somehow I did it again. I was in a restaurant with some friends who were meeting a friend of one of my friends. Let’s call him ‘Jim’. Toward the end of our meal Jim asked each one of us in turn if we ‘had a church’. I knew what he meant. He meant did we attend regularly somewhere. The discussion for how many churches there are is another story. Everyone answered in their turn. Then, it was my turn. I pray very often for God to send me people to teach, and that I would always be a good ambassador for Christ when in the world. I am continually surprised at what things I will be confronted with and how to handle them. But, I answered, “I go to a church in Tunnel Hill (Georgia)…I go to Westside church of Christ.” His eyes darkened for just a second. He said that he had been married to a ‘church of Christ’ (again, I know what he meant-but if taken literally it would mean he was a member of the Lord’s Body, the one true Church-but what he meant was that one of his wives was a member of a church of Christ) and then he made a motion with his fists (like someone boxing another) as he spoke and said that he and she often fought or were at odds with one another. I took this to mean on religious matters. I mused in my mind what this must have been like. But, I was searching for something to say to this when he did it again (made the boxing motion) clearly wishing for a response. I supposed that he wanted some type of discussion, so I decided to try to engage him in discussion. Thinking that he wanted to make a cut at me for being a member of the church, but wishing to engage him without taking offense and with the knowledge that all who say they are a member of the church are often far removed from the truth, I decided a good response would be to acknowledge that sometimes it was unfortunate what the sign says on the door. I thought that maybe this would show him that we could talk about it. This he did not like and I surmised that it was not the response he expected. Good, I thought, I have his attention, perhaps we can talk. But, he asked what I meant. So, I elaborated that some of the groups that have ‘church of Christ’ on the sign over the door were so liberal that there was no way they believed what I believed. He darkened and was clearly flustered. He then made motions to leave asking for the check, fumbling with his wallet. He mumbled about something seemingly trying to come up with a response. He finally got his bearings, looked me in the eye and said, “better to be liberal than close-minded” and hurriedly stood up and left. I was cognizant of the rest of our party staring at me. Too quickly, conversations resumed as I showed a small grimacing smile.
This did not go how I wanted. It went rather badly. But, it has given me pause to think. I gained another perspective on how far away we are from having an honest dialogue with many who attend some form of religious body. It has made clearer the notion that there is a stigma associated with the name, ‘church of Christ.’ This is disturbing to contemplate, but overwhelmingly obvious nonetheless. We have a disclaimer on this site to clearly make it plain that we want no association with the Trinity Church of Christ of Jeremiah Wright fame. Why? Because they teach a doctrine not found in the Bible; they teach a doctrine of racial prejudice and hatred. They don’t know the Christ of the Bible; while I do believe they will become acquainted with Him soon enough, I don’t believe it will be on the terms for which they might hope. And, yet, this is only one of the groups with which we want no association.
A better way to say, “Who We Are” would be to show and define the doctrines we do believe and show the authority to have such beliefs by appealing to the authority found in the Bible. If this makes us ‘close-minded’, then so be it. But, upon closer consideration, would it not be better to be sure than doubtful? I believe there is such a proliferation of churches today because there is no appeal to authority and that many people want to find a church that fits their pre-conceived notions about what a church is or should be. But, if everyone is right and has the truth, why is there a need for so many belief systems?
When ‘Jim’ said it was better to be liberal than close-minded, what he meant was that it was better to be doubtful (not really sure about one’s faith and the truth of the Bible) than it is to be decidedly in favor of a particular position. Also, implied in his statement was that it is somehow ‘wrong’ (but if you are open-minded, you are supposed to be open to all positions) to have decided what beliefs are right and wrong. See, it is sort of like saying, “You are wrong to think that I am wrong”. This doesn’t work. In trying to be open-minded and somehow more tolerant, one has to take a position even if that position is not to take a position. To make a statement that says that one position is more desirable than another is to take a position—that which he condemns in me. So, we must conclude that if it is close-minded to take a position, then we are all close-minded to a certain extent. No matter how liberal you become in your thinking, you eventually have to take a position, thus killing your argument.
One big problem today is that people have great difficulty saying what they mean—being honest about where they stand. Imagine turning in a math test in your elementary days where a problem is 2+3=? Would you turn in your answer that the answer is more than 4 but not more than 6? Of course not. But, this is what happens today in religious discussions all the time. So, to disguise this cowardly action, we claim enlightenment from some unknown force and deny that anyone is wrong. But, someone has to be wrong. If ANYTHING is right, something has to be wrong.
Even people who have no religious beliefs can look at an activity, deem it as unfair, based on their own sense of justice, and claim that thing as wrong. It seems that many in society today who have no claim toward any religious belief system can somehow raise an appeal to a sense of judgment and fairness. I would submit that this is not a result of mere association with others of like opinion-that it is innate-I believe given to us all by God. But, that is another discussion. Nevertheless, back to this discussion, we must deal with this idea of the accusation of close-mindedness. If we can agree that there is an authority for how we should co-exist, we must agree that to not do a thing that authority demands or allows is a violation. And, if this is the case, some actions must be declared as right and some things as wrong. Thus, the thing that needs to be done is that we need to find out what is right and do that—whatever it is. This, by implication, means that we must not do the things that are wrong. If anything is declared to be right, all other things have to be wrong!
This is true in society as well as in religion. Christianity appeals to the authority of the Bible. We believe that the Bible contains all authority and that there is no authority for actions in or by the Church that can be found outside the Bible. We believe that it is the complete and final Word of God-that it is the container of all communication from God to Man.
So, by implication, any action that cannot be derived from the authority of the Bible is wrong. If this makes us close-minded, then so be it. Can a group be in subjection to the authority of the Bible and claim to be in line with its authority if it acts and does things that cannot be found in the Bible? Is this to be open-minded? I believe it is what our friend ‘Jim’ meant. He bristled at the term ‘liberal’ and was seemingly offended at my use of it. Could it be that he did not want or like the implication-that those with a liberal interpretation of the authority of the Bible-are not convinced that the Bible, the Word of God, is to be considered as final. The liberal view of the Scriptures leads to any interpretation as being ‘right’. And, logically, this falls apart. All views of Scripture cannot be right. The nature of right-ness is exclusive by nature. That is, logically, if something is true, all other answers must be false. And, further, if anything is false, it cannot be true at the same time. And, if stating this means we are close-minded, then I guess we are. Our current sociological situation frowns on close-mindedness, but we are not concerned with that. Gods’ Word frowns on lack of conviction (another word for close-minded) to the truth.
In our country now, the political climate is full of discussion between the two main political parties. Each of course, claims to be the best for the country as they vie for political supremacy each election cycle. One considers itself to be conservative and the other to be liberal. To what does this conservative and liberal discussion refer? It refers to the position of the party to its interpretation of the Constitution of the United States. One party takes a conservative view of it; the other a more liberal view. The Constitution is the document that the founding of this Nation is based upon. The authority contained within is said to be granted by the people (and to the people by God). The party with the liberal view of it tries to cast a negative light on the party that takes the more conservative view by calling it close-minded.
In religious matters, the appeal or lack of appeal to the Scriptures is very similar. In another way it is not similar at all. For all who claim some kind of belief in the Bible do not always uphold that which is true but that which is easy. The things that call one to be responsible for their own behavior are often overlooked. Many look at the Bible as a list of guidelines and seem to want to rename the 10 Commandments to the 10 Suggestions. They seem to want to relegate God to a force and His Son as a good moral teacher and His Spirit as a whimsical mystical illusion.
Close-minded? To any liberal view of Scripture-yes. To the truth, no. Truth is narrow. We are Open to it. What are you?