WHAT ARE THEY TEACHING???

So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will.

Romans chapter 8, verses 6-7; from the New Living Translation (NLT)

Recently I had a conversation with a fellow United Methodist clergy on Facebook. It was focused on a post this individual had made. It was surprisingly civil (up to this point)–still, I couldn’t help but think: What are they teaching now in United Methodist Seminaries? Here’s the screenshot of that comment:

This person compared understanding Scriptures to a 3-legged stool. The top is the Scriptures and the 3 legs are tradition, reason, and experience. Thus, without tradition, or reason, or experience, one cannot adequately understand Scripture. The primary (and often times “sole determining factor”) way to understand Scripture is through tradition, reason, and experience. Now, before you call me that dreaded “fundamentalist”, hear me out. We do not study the Scriptures in a vacuum. There are traditions. We all have experiences. And God created us to be able to reason, or think if you prefer.

But it seems that many of our clergy are using reason as the final determining factor. In other words, if it doesn’t make sense to us, or if the culture tells us something contrary, then we are free to change or ignore what the Bible clearly teaches. This is what many seminaries are teaching. Not all of them, mind you; but enough of them are and the result has been the dilution and devolution of the power of Scripture to guide us and form in us the life of Holiness demanded by God for His Image Bearers. Go back to the writer’s analogy of that three-legged stool.

The writer is correct in stating that for a three-legged stool to be secure enough to sit on, it needs all three legs. And, by implication, those 3 legs need to be the same length. Otherwise it is unstable. But do not overlook the other implication–that Scripture (the seat of that three-legged stool) cannot safely support us until all three of those legs are the same length. In other words, Scripture is to be formed by OUR traditions, experiences, and reasoning.

Can I be frank with you? I know, my name is Randy. But I need to be FRANK with you this morning. Using the writer’s analogy of that three-legged stool, when those who are supposed to be our Spiritual Leaders are taught that human reasoning overrides the Scriptures and that we need to change our beliefs about anything in the Bible, then the result is the chaos and soon to follow destruction of the United Methodist, and any other church that follows the same primrose path. And to my fundamentalist friends, if you allow your traditions to determine your beliefs about the Bible, then your three-legged stool is just as unsteady.

Hear me out! Yes, reason, tradition, and experience are helpful tools when it comes to understanding Scripture! But they do not determine what is THE TRUTH! The Truth is set by the Bible for all matters of faith, life, and conduct. But none of them gives us the permission to change The Standard clearly set in The Bible! From my perspective, many seminary professors took a bite of that apple Satan offered Eve and Adam, and unlike Eve and Adam who recognized the shame and mistake, they “reason” that the apple is good, and that Satan was right. Is there any doubts now as to why the United Methodist Tribe is imploding? It looks like that three-legged stool analogy doesn’t work after all.

An S.E.C. KInd Of Grace

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.

Matthew chapter 16, verse 24; from the New Living Translation

Those who know me know that I like college football. Now mind you, NOT over-inflated ego NFL football. College football! And I love the Conference that all other Conferences like to hate–the Southeastern Conference or S.E.C. And I’m passionate about the Team that most folks absolutely hate–ALABAMA! ROLL TIDE! I got to thinking this morning that THE Season begins in less than a month. And those 3 letters that most folks hate began rolling around in my gray matter. S.E.C.! S.E.C.! And I started thinking about Grace!

Many folks want a S.E.C. Grace! I opted in for S.E.C. Grace because the term Cheap Grace was already taken. So, what’s a S.E.C. Grace? Glad you asked. It’s Simple, Easy, Comfortable Grace! And I’ve noticed this about the S.E.C. Grace crowd–they are found in both the conservative camps and the progressive camps. In fact, the theological belief systems don’t really matter. Many people, way too many people, think of grace as that Get Out Of Hell Free Card!

Granted, it sounds good to say Grace is Simple, Easy, and Comfortable. After all, doesn’t God keep us Safe? Isn’t it so Easy that a caveman can do it? Just have faith? And doesn’t it take away the misery of guilt and make us feel Comfortable? But then there’s these words from Jesus:

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.”

Those who want the S.E.C. Grace fail to understand that in accepting God’s Grace mandates that we also follow Jesus! Now, let’s do high school biology anddissect what Jesus says. First He says “you must give up your own way”. Sounds simple, but it’s not exactly simple. Here’s the truth: we WANT our way and will fight to keep our way! We have this inherent thing called sin; and it wants to be in charge of us. And it will fight against us tooth and nail to win. Then He says: “take up your cross”. I don’t know about how you feel, but to me there’s nothing that sounds Easy about carrying our cross. Sounds like to me that I need to be dying every day.

And finally Jesus says: and follow Me! Does it sound comfortable to you to go the places where messy and broken people live, work, and play? While Jesus promised us the Comfort of the Holy Spirit, He never promised that He would make us Comfortable. Following Jesus is going head-long into the battlefield! It’s about making sacrifices. I know many combat veterans, my son and son-in-law included. But never once have I heard any of them describe their battlefields as making them feel Comfortable!

Grace doesn’t mean we get what we want. Grace doesn’t mean we get to keep what we want. And Grace doesn’t mean we get to choose where we go. Now, for some, this may sound like an argument against Grace. It’s not! It’s the reason why not just any “grace” will work. God’s Grace includes His presence and power to help us overcome the sins that hounds us to death. His Grace isn’t a one-and-done thing. It’s a lifetime of growing, being stretched, and discovering the exciting things He has for us to do. And the joy that is waiting for us, on the other side. Grace that doesn’t challenge us–well, it’s just a S.E.C. kind of grace. And that’s simply not worth having; it just doesn’t give us what we need.