13
Jul
2015

7 Areas of Unbiblical Conscience Binding

Conscience

In what is one of the most beloved statements penned in all of church history, the Westminster Divines explained that “God alone is Lord of the conscience, and has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in anything, contrary to his Word; or beside it, if matters of faith, or worship” (WCF 20.2). Few things can be so damaging to the church as when one believer seeks to bind the conscience of another believer with a personal application of a biblical principle of holiness. To be sure, we should all be zealous to teach and exemplify every principle of holiness taught in Scripture; but more often than not, individuals who are most zealous for holiness fall into the trap of teaching their personal applications of a biblical–or a supposedly biblical–principle of holiness rather than simply teaching the principle. After all, very refined personal applications of a principle tend to feel more potent–they make us feel more effective in our attempts to help people grow spiritually. However, the more refined the application the more we are in danger of crossing the fault line of legalistic conscience binding. To be sure, the line between pious advice and unbiblical conscience binding is a razor’s edge.

Many times such unbiblical conscience binding occurs in less than explicit ways. The personal applications are subtly presented as the principle. Sometimes they come in the form of an individual setting himself or herself up as the example of piety in application specific ways. You’ve witnessed this sort of thing. One believer tells another believer how often he or she prays every day, or how long he or she spends in the Scriptures each morning. Then, the conversation slides into exhortation without differentiation: “I’ll be glad to hold you accountable to doing this too,” or “I don’t know why more people don’t spend as much time praying…” Such attempts at unbiblical conscience binding occur in every sphere of life and ministry–often resulting in creating undue guilt in the minds and hearts of God’s people. Consider the 7 following areas in which you have most likely witnessed such unbiblical conscience binding:

1. Etiquette, Dress and Hygiene

Before we consider the danger of binding consciences with personal applications of biblical principles regarding etiquette, we have to understand what principles the Scriptures do and do not teach on this subject. “Cleanliness is next to godliness,” right? Not according to Scripture! James tells us that if a man with “filthy” clothes comes into the assembly of the saints and we give preference to those with costly and clean clothes than we are the transgressors–not the man in the filthy clothes. “But, what we wear outwardly reflects what’s on the inside, right?” Maybe. It all depends on what guidelines the Scriptures give us on that issue.

The ceremonial laws of the Old Testament have absolutely no binding application to our external etiquette, dress or hygiene. They were given to point to the internal cleansing accomplished by the blood of the sacrifice–which, in turn, pointed to the cleansing blood of Jesus. They were cultic in nature. They had to do with the worshiper’s acceptance before the infinitely holy (clean) God.

There were those, in Jesus’ day who were really into external cleanliness. They were called Pharisees. The Pharisees were so commited to external cleanliness that they made it their life’s ambition to bind others to both those ceremonial washings that God had ordained in the Old Testament Law as well as to washings that weren’t God ordained. On account of this, Jesus purposely didn’t wash His hands before he ate to prove a point (Luke 11:38). Furthermore, nothing is more ridiculous than parents teaching their children that they need to clean their rooms and fold their clothes because Jesus folded His grave clothes after he rose from the dead. I have actually heard parents say that sort of thing to their children. Children need to obey their parents with regard to cleaning their rooms or folding their clothes because they are commanded to obey their parents in the moral law of God–not because Jesus folded his grave clothes. We have to make sure that the principle of holiness is founded squarely on the clear and divinely intended meaning of the teaching of Scripture.

What about our “Sunday Best?” That’s clearly taught in Scripture, right? Actually, the only dress code set out in the Apostolic writing is that we are to be clothed in the righteousness of Christ and that we are to dress modestly. Even when we begin to unpack modesty, we run up against the same challenge that we have been addressing. If you asked most Christians what modesty dress is, you will almost certainly get responses about how covered a Christian sister’s body should be. True though some of the responses may be, the biblical teaching on modesty actually has to do with the immodesty of heaping up clothing and jewelry (which might be even called someone’s “Sunday best”) in order to get attention from others (1 Tim. 2:9; 1 Pet. 3:3).

I have witnessed one theologian attempting to bind the consciences of seminary students regarding their need to wear their “Sunday best” by appealing to the command of God for the Israelites to wash their clothes before they came to the mountain to worship (Ex. 19:10). This is clearly ceremonial in nature. To suggest that God cares whether someone’s clothes are clean or not is to bring God down to the creature’s level. God Himself says that He “does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7). Matthew Henry, in his comments on Exodus 19:10, wrote:

In token of their cleansing themselves from all sinful pollutions, that they might be holy to God, they must wash their clothes (v. 10), and they did so (v. 14); not that God regards our clothes; but while they were washing their clothes he would have them think of washing their souls by repentance from the sins they had contracted in Egypt and since their deliverance. It becomes us to appear in clean clothes when we wait upon great men; so clean hearts are required in our attendance on the great God, who sees them as plainly as men see our clothes.1

2. Purity

Jesus said, “Whoever looks at a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Applications of biblical principles don’t get any clearer than that. However, when we move from that to telling others that they have to put certain filters on their computer, have their wife lock down their iPhone from allowing them access to download apps, etc. we move from the realm of principle to the realm of personal application. Don’t get me wrong. I think that having Covenant Eyes and having someone lock down your iPhone is wise–really, really wise. However, we must be careful not to try to bind the conscience of another regarding how they seek to protect their heart from the sin of adultery.

We are all aware of the way in which Christians seek to bind the consciences of others regarding a personal application of the principle of purity regarding what movies and TV shows they can and cannot watch. While I wholeheartedly believe that there are movies that believers should absolutely refrain from watching, one man may not be able to watch movies with wartime violence in them while another may. Or, as John Frame has so helpfully observed:

Indeed, for similar reasons, we must beware of G-rated films as much as of R- and X-rated films. Yes, let us limit our exposure to all of these influences; but not to the extent of leaving the world, or to the extent of becoming ignorant of Satan’s devices…

That balance, of being “in” but not “of” the world, is sometimes difficult to maintain. One’s choices in this area should be based in part upon his or her own moral and spiritual maturity. Some people, especially children, or those young in the faith, or those with special problems like alcohol addiction or unusual susceptibility to sexual temptation, should limit their exposure to secular culture in appropriate ways. But at the same time they should be trained in Christian maturity, so that eventually they can enter more fully the secular arena, not fearing that they will be compromised by the culture, but expecting to influence the culture positively for Christ.2

3. Education

Homeschooling. Need I say more? The past decade has given rise to a plethora of marvelous resources for families who chose to homeschool (for which this homeschooling family is grateful)–as well as a plethora of sinful conscience-binding books and conversations. Does God command homeschooling? Absolutely not. Neither Scripture nor history support that idea (no matter how much the homeschool revisionists try to convince you that He does). In Psalm 119:99-100, David speaks of having more understanding that “all his teachers.” Note that the Hebrew doesn’t say, “than all my parents.” Furthermore, the Apostle Paul sat at the feet of Gamaliel. Jesus Himself left his parents and sat in the Temple, listening and asking questions of the Scribes. What the Scriptures do teach is that Christian parents are to be committed to giving their children a consistent and thorough Christian education. That may mean that they have to do the long, hard work of undoing certain things that the children learn in public school; or, it may mean that the parents deem it best to delegate the education of their children to teachers at Christian or private school. Not everyone is equipped to teach in the home. Not every mom is gifted and called to teach a full orbed curriculum, just as not every man in the church is gifted and called to teach the congregation. Seeking to bind others’ consciences with a personal application of the principle in this regard has caused much harm in the church.

4. Food

The Apostle Paul had much to say about “food legalism” (1 Tim. 4:3; Rom. 14:14; 1 Cor. 8:8, 1 Cor. 10:30, etc.). In what is, perhaps, the clearest summary of what the Scriptures teach on this subject, the Apostle wrote, “Let no one judge you in food or in drink…Why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations—“Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body,but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh” (Col. 2:16-23). For a fuller development, see this post

Many years ago, I was engaged in a week-long intensive post-graduate class in which we had very short lunch breaks built in between class time. Since I didn’t have long, I drove to a fast food restaurant nearby and brought my food back before the next class started. As I sat there eating my lunch, one of the staff members walked by, stopped at my desk, looked at my french fries and said to me, “You shall not kill.” I nearly choked on my food (which ironically would have been paramount to this individual breaking the 6th commandment!). He was seriously insinuating that I was sinning by eating french fries. That is the core of food legalism. Jesus made things abundantly clear when he said, “Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man” (Mark 15:11). Instead of listening to Jesus, this individual came up with the brilliant eisogetical idea that the 6th commandment forbids the eating of french fries; then, he went around seeking to bind others’ consciences with his own misplaced application of a biblical principle. The 6th commandment teaches that we are not only to cease from taking life but that we are to preserve and promote life. The only thing I knew to do at that moment was to apply the 6th commandment to this situation, letting this individual know that the fries were keeping me alive at that moment!

5. Corporate Worship

When we move into the realm of worship, conscience binding becomes all the more prevalent and serious. Just as the Pharisees made the commandment about the day of worship the centerpiece in their policing of others, so too can serious minded believers with regard to what goes on in the worship service. Those ministers who take the regulative principle of worship (or what they believe the RPW to be) love to judge others for not doing exactly the same thing in exactly the same way as their church does in the worship service. In his 2010 Tabletalk article on the RPW, Derek Thomas has helpfully explained that the regulative principle of worship doesn’t mean absolute uniformity in all things done in a worship service. He writes:

The regulative principle as applied to public worship frees the church from acts of impropriety and idiocy — we are not free, for example, to advertise that performing clowns will mime the Bible lesson at next week’s Sunday service. Yet it does not commit the church to a “cookie-cutter,” liturgical sameness. Within an adherence to the principle there is enormous room for variation—in matters that Scripture has not specifically addressed (adiaphora). Thus, the regulative principle as such may not be invoked to determine whether contemporary or traditional songs are employed, whether three verses or three chapters of Scripture are read, whether one long prayer or several short prayers are made, or whether a single cup or individual cups with real wine or grape juice are utilized at the Lord’s Supper. To all of these issues, the principle “all things should be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40) must be applied.3

This means that we must be very, very careful when seeking to apply the categories of elements and forms to such things as style of worship, specific hymnody, instruments, etc. in a way in which we attempt to bind the consciences of others to do exactly the same as we do in worship. Of course, the principles that establish a biblical model of worship with the elements and forms set out by God are binding on all; however, the unbiblical conscience binding usually comes in through the back door of adiaphora circumstantial aspects of worship (i.e. whether you use acoustic or electric instruments as accompaniment, whether a minister wears a robe or jeans, etc.).

6. Family Worship – Family worship is one of the least practiced graces in the Christian church in our day. It is one of the most important too. My friend Jason Helopoulos has written an incredibly helpful book regarding the practice. That being said, serious proponents of family worship–who are consistent at doing them at every meal, three times a day–sometimes seek to bind the consciences of others with the same personal application of a principle. While the Scriptures charge us to diligently teach our children the word of God, nowhere is family worship “explicitly”* commanded–let alone how often or in what specific ways we should carry out family worship. This is an area, as in all the aforementioned in which we must be careful not to seek to bind the consciences of others with personal practices.

7. Pastoral Ministry – Another sphere in which unbiblical conscience binding often occurs is in the realm of pastoral ministry. I knew a seminary professor who once insisted that students ought to get up at 5:30 AM, put a suit on like all the other men in town going to work and eat breakfast at the restaurant where they all met to eat at in the city prior to work. While he did not say that we needed to do the same, the emphasis that he placed on his own personal example came dangerously close to binding the consciences of the students to whom he spoke. While it may have been good advice, it should not be presented as a binding command.

Additionally, the idea of home visitations may also be a wise personal application of a biblical principle of shepherding the flock; however, the only verse to which ministers–who bind the consciences of others regarding this practice–appeal for support of the idea is in Paul’s farewell discourse to the Ephesian elders in which he suggested that he “taught…publicly and from house to house” (Acts 20:20). This could just be Paul speaking about meeting in the fellowship of believers in different homes since they did not have church buildings in his day and they met in houses. It is a stretch to be dogmatic that this is a binding descriptive passage teaching that all ministers are required to do home visitation.

There are many, many, many other ways in which all of us can fall into the trap of unbiblical conscience binding. The best thing for us to do is to stay in the Scriptures–comparing Scripture with Scripture, and learn to be cautious about pushing our own personal applications of a perceived principle on the consciences of others. We should be zealous to quietly live out, exemplify and teach the principles of holiness that are clearly taught in Scripture. We should follow the advice of our Lord and do our praying, fasting and giving in secret–not wanting to be seen by men. In all that we do we should be exalting the Lord Jesus Christ as the source of any and all holiness, holding up the cross before men so that they might be drawn to Him by faith and seeking to promote the liberty that He has purchased for us in the Gospels. After all, “God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are in any thing contrary to his Word, or beside it in matters of faith or worship. So that to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commandments out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience; and the requiring an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also” (WCF 20.2).

 

1. An excerpt taken from Matthew Henry’s Commentary on Exodus

2. Excerpts from John Frame’s ebook, “Theology at the Movies.”

3. An excerpt taken from Derek Thomas’ July 2010 Tabletalk article, “The Regulative Principle of Worship.”

 

*Because some read this sentence in the worst possible light and with the least amount of contextual care or charity, I have added the adverbial word “explicitly” for epexegetical clarity.

37 Responses

  1. Thank you for a fine investigation.

    Another area worth probing is clergy compensation. The Pastoral Epistles are clear that “lovers of money” not be elevated to church leadership. But most of the warnings against greed, which is idolatry and a spiritual danger, are directed at all Christians, not just clergy.

    There’s that saying about how pastors should be humble and poor, and “God, you keep ’em humble and we (church board) will keep ’em poor.” Completely inconsistent with Paul’s teaching that NT norms about sharing all material good with the one who imparts spiritual teaching, with “the right” of apostolic teachers to support themselves and a family, and Paul’s humorous application of “don’t muzzle the ox while it is treading the grain.”

    There is a pagan streak in churches, that says consigning the pastor to some kind of spiritual discipline means the laity don’t have to engage it. The pastor should pray without ceasing, so I can just come to church on Sunday. The pastor should live according to Scripture, so I don’t have to read all that confusing stuff. The pastor should be poor, so I can live in the real world of making money. Etc., etc., etc.

  2. Cathie Ochoa

    This is excellent, although the language is a little confusing. I had never heard the term ‘conscience binding’, but it makes perfect sense. I was in a church years ago that became dogmatic about some things, like home-births, and whole-wheat bread, and avoiding doctors. Finally one of the pastors took a stand and said, ‘We are not the Church of Whole Wheat Bread! We are the Church of Jesus Christ.’ It was quite freeing! And I believe that above all, God desires freedom for His people. Instead of binding each other, we should be enjoying the many freedoms the Lord has given (without, of course, falling into areas of sin) such as eating fast food when time is limited. We must always keep in mind that we are unique individuals; what is harmless for one may be very hurtful for the next. So we give grace, and willingly lay down some of our freedoms to protect the consciences of others who are weaker in faith–without demanding that they conform to our personal convictions.

  3. There are massively unbiblical and “un-westminster” problems with this article. Also, Frame’s “Theology at the Movies” is a rationalizing disaster.

    This will be the first time I really disagree with you and Nick Pastor. (not that there’s any particular reason anybody should care).

    This is post modern American relativism smuggled into the church under the guise of “liberty”. Especially in the area of media entertainment. Historic reformed orthodoxy knows nothing of this brand of “liberty”. I WILL make that case if anybody’s interested.

    We have “gay marriage” in our culture today exactly because of the church having embraced this kind of mushy moral relativism decades ago.

    1. Robert

      Yes, do make your case against the sort of liberty outlined here.

      But beware–If you make your argument simply on historical theology grounds–“My summary of Historic Reformed orthodoxy says this is wrong so it’s wrong”–you will be cooked like a goose.

      With the love of Jesus, of course. 🙂

      1. I didn’t see this until this morning. Sorry.. Please. Refer to the discussion at at Cassidy’s page here.
        https://www.facebook.com/jjcassidy.1974/posts/10205943808907238

        Nick has seen this whole exchange.

        If he says he is interested in having that debate here. I am all in. Fully prepared to be cooked and stuffed. (with the love of Jesus of course 🙂 ) My greatest disagreement is in the areas of media and entertainment.

        I WILL however be sticking to scripture and the reformed standards. If you have some other reference point, find somebody else to play with please.

        1. Oops. “Greg The Terrible” is the name they gave me at oldlife. It was stored in my browser. Used by accident in my hurry to get tot his funeral I am working at the church.

  4. Jon M

    Greg Smith, please do give a critical response! Or link to one. An alternative analysis is always helpful.

    I think this post brings out some great points. I also do believe if we look at it in light of a marriage/family, then it would magnify some of the effects. If a husband has a personal application that he is set on, it can cause exceptional burdens on the rest of the family. Of course it gives the family an opportunity to develop some specific fruits of the spirit. If the remarks of an Elder about a personal application of holiness can be influential and damaging, how much more the husband’s headship in the home! I do plan to study and pray more about this.

    1. Scott

      But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. (Eph 5:3)
      I think that punches quite a hole in Frame’s view.
      Never read anything on here before but arguments are more convincing when they are not sarcastic or condescending. It smells of fear or uncertainty in ones position when one uses them.
      I agree with some of the statements made but I think some maturity would go a long way.
      Keep up the good work and grow in Christ.

  5. Mark

    I appreciate the direction of this article but we also must understand that in some of these issues, the author has declared them to be a “non conscience binding issue” where the Bible itself has not. There is clear teaching in scripture to NOT make judgments based on food, but some of the other issues can be understood as direct applications of biblical instruction in our day.

    The author said that Scripture does not command homeschooling. Well, that’s just not true. Parents are commanded to instruct their children when they rise, when they lie down, etc. These things happen at home. The question is not should parents homeschool (educate at home) but are parents permitted to employ external resources (ie. private/public schools) for this task as well. And then there’s the issue about having your children indoctrinated by “Rome”. There is room for discussion as to whether raising your children in the instruction of the Lord permits you to send them to learn evolution and secular humanism. I’m not saying that this is necessarily a sin/conscience issue, but to declare it a freedom of conscience issue is to shut the door on the discussion. We then start with the presumption that the Bible doesn’t instruct us either way, before we actually dig in and look at it.

    1. They are trying to shut the door on this discussion. The vast majority of the parents do choose ‘Rome’ to educate their kids, and the church leadership is mostly silent about it. Check out my film IndoctriNationMovie.com

    2. Steve

      From the article.

      “What the Scriptures do teach is that Christian parents are to be committed to giving their children a consistent and thorough Christian education. That may mean that they have to do the long, hard work of undoing certain things that the children learn in public school; or, it may mean that the parents deem it best to delegate the education of their children to teachers at Christian or private school?”

  6. abbie smith

    So rich, Nick. Thank you. Much to ponder here…and I’m still pondering what you said at the Covenant Care banquet that, “Adoption is not charity; it’s war.” Stunning, and true. A peaceful Tuesday to you.

  7. Andrea

    Another good topic for discussion on conscience binding would be MUSIC preferences. I have been criticized in the past for allowing my sons to listen to Rap and HipHop music like Lecrae, Andy Mineo, and Shai Linne. Would you mind terribly addressing that as well? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thank you.

    1. Tom

      Hi Andrea,
      Yikes, not even Christian rap or hip hop? I don’t personally generally enjoy the genre, but it seems to be attempting to glorify the Lord so have at it I say. I am sure every generational change in music has left the prior generation scratching their head. Most hymns we sing, not all certainly are relatively new to the scene compared with the Psalms.

      I did go to a Tobymac concert with my 11 year old son so I guess I do like some of it. I am all for having children relate to God through our Christian music, but also through their own style as long as it is Christian.

      I liken it to the suit and tie in church argument. There is not a single thing in the Word that would require or even suggest a suit and they are a relatively new invention, Jesus certainly did not wear a suit, and yet because some people get stuck on a certain idea it gets pushed outward onto others.

      Kind of like the article is saying:)

  8. Pingback : Eyes to See | Conservative Christianity, Worship, Culture, Aesthetics, Classical Education, Homeschooling, Family – Religious Affections Ministries

  9. John S

    Good, agreed. Freedom in Christ! examples of misapplication of Scripture is helpful.

    Perhaps you have done already, but I think there is room for another article about falling off the other side of the horse. When I was a kid, about 40 years ago, I would have been more concerned about what you call ‘conscience binding’. It is no doubt still around today, but I suggest that the pendulum has swung from legalism toward licentiousness in the current western church. ‘Don’t judge’ has become all-inclusive in scope to be applied in the Church, while progressive sanctification is the equivalent of personal preference if it is even considered. Intolerant and judgmental are the worst things you can be.

    In my opinion there is more reason for concern about a lack of interest in personal holiness, a looking more and more like the world, abandoning not merely rules but principles, an unwillingness to look at motives of one’s own heart, or how one’s life affects their brothers and sisters. Love is more concerned with serving others than self. (Gal 3:13, I Cor 8:9, 2 Peter 2, etc)

    These issues require a lot of wisdom. I’m sure that every Christian has boundaries regarding modesty (for example) and would not say it is ‘conscience binding’ to confront a fellow believer about nakedness. So at what point is it love to bring up immodest dress, and at what point is it conscience binding to broach the subject? Of course how it is done is probably as important as what is being discussed.

    Or if a fellow Christian (not an unbeliever) hasn’t bathed for months, smells horribly, and has filthy clothes by choice (not because of poverty or other challenges) as an expression of his freedom in Christ, should we give him preference in the assembly and rejoice in his freedom, or engage him in conversation that he is a distraction and that his choices make it difficult for others to fellowship with him.

    What about a gluttonous person, or a man who never reads the Scriptures with his family? Some examples of application of Scriptural principles in these cases is more needed today. There is not much iron sharpening iron as I see it. Though the warnings in the article are helpful and significant.

  10. Nate C

    While I agree that these issues should not rise to the level of “conscience binding” as you put it; I’m not sure that your piece deals with the wisdom of practicing some of these issues very well. Perhaps you were simply focused on the negative aspects of these issues which is fine.

    I’ll admit I’m new to your blog hear so I don’t have anything to go on but this article, however it seems to me that the pressure is always on those pressing for growth in personal holiness to take a step back and not encourage others in that direction. It would be nice to see a companion article that speaks to these same issues and the wisdom in pursuing these issues in a good way.

  11. CJ

    Agree with poster above. This is moral relativism smuggled in under Christian vocabulary.

    1) Are you trying to ‘bind people’s conscience’ about ‘conscience binding’? Logically, that’s a game over.

    You implode your own argument when you say: “Nobody should bind other people’s consciences” “Oh, except me, when I’m telling you about conscience binding and what should or should not be bound”? Huh?!

    2) I thought Protestants (I am Catholic) were for Sola Scriptura and all that jazz? But here you are appealing to the ‘divine’ traditions of your Creeds. Problem #1.

    3) Problem #2. Using even the precept of Sola Scriptura (which I find lacking, but still) “Conscience binding” is nowhere found in Scripture, either as a principle or linguistically. The Holy Spirit convicts our consciences. According to Sola Scriptura, you should let Scripture speak for itself and allow other people the freedom in Christ to pursue Him as their conscience allows for Scripture is self-interpreting according to Protestant theology,no?

    If on the other hand,you mean to delineate what true sin is or isn’t that is another issue altogether and that has already been carefully laid out in Holy Scripture, through natural law, and by Church Tradition throughout over 2000 years.

    There is such a thing as sin and as gospel-proclaimers we are called to bear witness to the bad news (sin in our hearts) in order to exclaim the good: Christ died for your sin and for mine!

    But to want to be creating niggling ‘categories’ of sin – that some things are more or less important sin-wise and that some people make mountains out of molehills sins – as you seem to want to do here points to a deeper reality…..

    To that extent, if that is truly where you are going underneath all of this relativistic and unscriptural language, you are merely trying to delineate or categorize small sins versus large sins, then I would say you are on the right track. Keep going!

    Behold, the Catholic Church has already masterfully addressed this problem in the form of delineating mortal versus venial sins as outlined in Scripture and in Christian tradition.

    I suggest you look into it! It makes for good reading. Rather than forming a mini-magesterium of one (1), whereby YOU are delineating what is major or minor sin, or relying on the mini-magesterium of a couple hundred in the year 1646 the “Westminsters”, why not rely on the true magesterium that Christ instituted 2000 years ago and which still exists today?

    A good place to start in addition to the Scriptures themselves (if you are going to rely on a tradition anyway, you may go for the longest running Christian tradition) is the Catholic catechism or an investigation into natural law.

    God bless you.

  12. David

    Views on what a proper marriage ceremony is, is another one I think. The Scriptures are quite silent on what a marriage ceremony has to be. The only stipulations that I can see in the Bible are that it be for life, between a man and woman, etc. So if two otherwise unmarried people decide to enter into covenant with one another for life in the presence of a single witness w/o regard to the state or the church, etc. I can’t point to something in the Bible that says that their marriage is somehow not in conformity with the Scriptures. This probably looks like two people ‘living together’ when in fact it’s perfectly Biblical as long as they both agree that it’s for life. That said, having a state-issued certificate and a church ceremony with lots of witnesses help church leadership be more confident in their knowledge of knowing that two people are in fact married which makes pastoral care in these areas a little less treacherous.

  13. Interesting, coming from a Southern Baptist background (“We are boycotting ‘Last Temptation of Christ'”; “We are boycotting Disneyland”) and currently in a Reformed context (“The Ten Commandments are binding upon all believers”), seems to me that the “Christian Liberty” the article is defending is merely a proper rejection of the legalism to which all our religious inclinations are prone. The laws that count are “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart/soul/mind” and “love your neighbor as yourself”.

    On the subject of Corporate Worship and Pastoral Ministry, is it possible that the “ministry of the Word” has been interpreted through the lens of 1500 years of Christendom as “delivering a sermon to the church people on Sunday morning”, when really there should be a broad spectrum of “preaching” practices, including home visitation, and sermons are merely the most common and least effective of these? Is it a “binding of conscience” and a violation of the “regulative principle of worship” to obligate believers to attend a weekly sermon?

  14. CJ

    Again, I will say it: what you are really doing here is trying to syphon out small sins versus big sins.

    THIS HAS ALREADY BEEN DONE.

    There are legitimate distinctions between ‘major’ and ‘minors’ and the Catholic Church has already masterfully teased them out, using Scripture and Church Tradition.

    The distinctions are called mortal sin versus venial sin. Please look up and investigate. There is no need to re-invent the wheel on these. God bless you.

    1. Tom

      No, that is not at all what the author is doing. He is pointing out that man likes to make himself the master of deciding who is doing what correctly, rather than simply follow the clear instructions set out by the true head of the church, Jesus and trusting in the Holy Spirit to do what He does.

      It is a temptation that has been around 2000 thousand years starting with the judaizers and it is a sin that was soundly rejected by Jesus and by the early church. The Jerusalem Council of Acts 15 covers it.

      A man made distinction between mortal and venal sins is just that man made and is directly contrary to the message of the Sermon on the Mount.

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  16. The Word of God is living and powerful and sharper than any two edged sword and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteous that the man of God might be complete and equipped for every good work (my emphasis) and does not return to Him void. Love covers a multitude of sins and we were created in God’s image–created by God for God’s glory. The Holy Spirit convicts, teaches and enables by His power the believer to be conformed to the image of Christ. We are not to argue over the grey areas but let the plain things be the main things and the main things the plain things. The apostles’ doctrine, the Gospel is what saves not works. Binding a person’s conscience (I have done that in the name of religion, Bible thumper) is real if they believe something to be a sin it is a sin if it violates their conscience and they are held accountable to God for it. The conscience either convicts us or condemns us. Paul mentions that numerous times.
    We must be ready in season and out of season to give defense for the Gospel. What we wear, eat etc. doesn’t save us. If a person is a believer the Holy Spirit will guide him in all things. IF THE PERSON IS A BELIEVER trusting Christ as his righteousness. There in lies the Truth.

  17. Manet

    Thanks for this post. It is causing me to think more.. I already had some passing thoughts about some of the issues laid out. May we all be diligent to search the Scriptures and seek to have our conscience instructed by God’s Word, and to seek to glorify Christ in everything.

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