Bad Ways to Argue for Church Practice

Bad Ways to Argue for Church Practice

It is entirely right to use logic to work out what seems right and true. However, we should not make our logical reasoning ultimate. For one thing, it depends on our prior commitments as to what appears logical. Unless we are able to assess all our priors, whilst we will reason logically, commitment to logic alone won’t lead us to a helpful conclusion. What do we do, for example, when the Church says things that are contrary to our logical understanding? It may be that what the church is arguing is totally illogical; it may be that our logic is faulty. We might be right in not merely accepting every word that comes from the pulpit just because it is uttered in church, nevertheless, it isn’t necessarily wiser to slavishly follow what is logical to us. The Lord, by his own reckoning, does not always work as we believe he ought.

If you are in church leadership, it won’t be long before someone disagrees with something you do or some doctrine that you teach. And that’s okay, we aren’t expecting total agreement on every issue within the church membership. It is okay to disagree.

But when we disagree, there need to be clear grounds for doing so. All too often, we default to certain arguments that really aren’t credible. Here are some of the common ones.

I was brought up to think…

There is, of course, nothing wrong with drawing upon what you were brought up with. No doubt, if you have been to a bible believing church, there will be some good things that they established. But some of those things, that may well be legitimate, are not demanded by the bible. Other times, it may simply be a blind spot in our church that what we were doing wasn’t biblical.

When we hit upon other churches doing things differently, defaulting to ‘I was brought up to believe…’ doesn’t get us very far. Two people, brought up in two different places, might be brought up to believe two different things. Who is to say which tradition is right and which is wrong? This is not a solid ground for reaching a biblical conclusion.

Our tradition says…

This is usually a more nuanced version of the previous point. We might not be rooting things in our particular, individual church’s practice, but in the established practices of our denomination. That might be a legitimate thing to raise if you are in an Anglican Church, who claims to hold to Anglican doctrine, polity and practice, but you think might be departing from that tradition. It isn’t unreasonable to say that, assuming the purpose is to be in line with the tradition and not some biblical matter on which the tradition is being challenged. Even then, no tradition can be above the scriptures. The aim of any tradition should be to act in line with scripture, so even a reference to tradition may not end matters.

But let’s say you have moved beyond denominations. You clearly are not wedded to your denominational way of doing things. You are now dealing with two different traditions. Again, which tradition is right? We can’t settle that with reference to our particular tradition. Instead, we have to go back to the scriptures to reach a conclusion.

Everybody interprets the Bible differently

Well, that’s not entirely true. Some of us do interpret the Bible in the same way as a significant chunk of other believers. So, we might be able to establish a fairly consistent pattern of thinking. It isn’t quite true to say we all interpret differently; many of us agree on significant amounts.

But where there is a disagreement that arises from interpretation, what are we to do?

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