Focus and Distractions
One of my constant endeavors of study is the twofold relationship between proper methods of biblical interpretation and understanding and the methods employed resulting in deceptions and falsehoods. If you want to truly tax your intellectual capabilities, this is a good place to do it. There are so many things influencing people in this regard on so many levels. Trying to compile a list for both categories becomes quite a challenge, especially when it comes to the methods of deception.
The “rules” of proper biblical interpretation are, for the most part, strait forward. The methods used in deceptions and falsehoods can be incredibly subtle and easily glossed over, or given credibility especially when they come across as rational and reasonable.
I have found very little available out there in the cyber-world on the proper methods of biblical interpretation. The common catch-word here is hermeneutics, which has a fairly broad interpretation, which I find lacking when it comes to specifics. It would appear that the vast majority of what I call “church corporates” have resisted attempts to produce a truly comprehensive “Systematic Theology”. Back in the late 1970's, a group of ministers in the then WCG were working on just such a project called, appropriately, the “STP” aka Systematic Theology Project, in an attempt to better define the doctrines of the church and the Scriptural backing for those beliefs. Herbert Armstrong wasted no time scrubbing the project, and demanded that all copies of the STP be destroyed. The truth be known, he was the authority for doctrine, and not Scripture, and he was not about to let much of that doctrine be exposed to the scrutiny of Scripture in a “systematic” way, designed to examine the beliefs of the WCG in a manner based on any proper hermeneutic.
The Bible itself gives a number of proper methods of keeping to the truth of Scripture. One of the most basic is:
Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.
Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.
What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.
In Deuteronomy 12, tithing is mentioned, and later in chapter 14, tithing is covered in greater detail. I find it interesting that v. 32 of Deut 12 is stated in this context, for my studies of the tithing law suggest that there was some wholesale alterations of this law by the scribes at some time prior to the diaspora, due to some conflicts within the Scriptures. If, for example, a Scripture has been purposefully altered, it is bound to conflict with the rest of Scripture that deals with the same subject. We also have a statement where God refers to the lying scribes in what they wrote/copied when it came to preserving the oracles of God. What is someone most likely to alter? Something that affects them personally. Who were the scribes? Levites. Could it be they altered the tithing laws in order to better situate themselves? How is it they ended up getting part of the tithe earmarked for the Levites/Priests, and “double-dip” the part earmarked for the poor, such as widows? How is it the widows and poor only receive assistance once every three years, when the Levites, who also had their own lands to till and livestock, receive “assistance” from the tithes every year, and three times a year at that? How did “the” tithe end up being “three tithes” which idea in itself is an oxymoron?
If Herbert Amstrong's tithing system were held up to the scrutiny of this one rule of biblical interpretation alone, members would have fled in droves. But, by applying some of the methods of deception to the tithing law and command not to add to, or take away from the words of Scripture, members complied with his interpretation that was in plain violation of the tithing law as stated.
I have written on this topic before, regarding discerning truth and discerning error, and in this regard want to expose what I have found to be another method of deception that has come into greater focus to me now.
This would fall into the methodology of deception and falsehoods as a sort of sub-set, and I have noted that even mainstream Christianity has fallen for it. I call this sub-set “Distractions” and what they do is to take one's focus off of what is important, and puts one's focus onto something else that appears to be important, but is not, and is actually counter-productive to true Christianity.
Specifically I am referring to the focus so many people and groups/churches have on “sin” and its avoidance.
Given that statement, I know a number of people would respond that I have truly lost it here, but like so many other distractions or questionable beliefs, they get their association with what are known as “conditioned responses” so as to close out anyone who dares go against the status quo regarding said questionable beliefs. Is sin a serious matter? Absolutely. Sin is so serious that Christ came and died a most horrible, painful, and degrading death in order to counter the effects of sin. That's what makes this topic so pervasive in the cults, and even in mainstream. Sin, and its avoidance becomes a powerful tool in the hands of deceivers and wolves in sheep's clothing. But here's the real problem. By being such a pervasive focus among many in Christianity, true, spiritual growth is curtailed, and another form of spiritual egotism (self-righteousness) grows in prevalence.
How is someone's attempt to “overcome sin” any different than the efforts of some to “keep the law”? Can you see the connection here? In mainstream, it is pretty well understood that one cannot keep the old covenant law. It would be a vain pursuit, and to those of us who have escaped the clutches of legalism, we understand that it is an insult to the sacrifice of Christ to try and enhance our salvation or salvation status with Christ by keeping the law. Even Paul weighs in on this in Galatians 3. There is nothing to be spiritually gained by trying to keep the law. If anything, it is counter-productive to Christianity. And as has been brought out so often, even in Scripture, even those who advocate keeping the law don't keep the law.
Sin was likened to leaven when we were told to de-leaven our homes when under Armstrongism. When I was a student, living on campus, it was comical to see how students would find a leavened item during the middle of the Days of Unleavened Bread, or even right after. The same scenario played out in people's homes. But all this begs we make some observations and draw the obvious conclusions. If you got all the leaven out of your house, did you feel more righteous? If you found some leaven in your house after cleaning it, did you feel unrighteous? Wasn't the whole purpose designed by God to show the futility of trying to remove sin from your life? Didn't some of the things Jesus said and taught designed to show the futility of trying to keep the law? Have you whacked off your hands and plucked out your eyes yet?
A ministry gains power over their members through the concept of sin and its avoidance. The members look to the ministry as their source of information in order to accomplish this. A dependency evolves, not on God, but a substitute; a false god, if you will. “Dancing is a sin. It leads to thoughts of lust, followed by fornication. Do not dance.” “Drinking is a sin, for drinking leads to drunkenness. Do not drink.” Need I continue? Has not the individual traded off one form of legalism for another?
Ultimately, if your focus is on avoiding sin, you would have to avoid, as much as possible, your contact with other people. You might as well move into a monastery where they take a vow of silence as another means of avoiding sin.
Where then is Christian, spiritual growth in this mix? Is this not a case of taking your God-given talent and burying it in the ground?
How is a Christian a light to others, if all they do is go about trying to avoid sin?
I submit to you that trying to live a life of avoiding sin is a life where one goes about trying to do nothing. You accomplish nothing positive. You have no interactions with others in a positive light. Jesus said to do undo others as you would have them do unto you; this being the law and prophets. Sin in this regard would be not treating others as you would want to be treated. How do you demonstrate Christian love and charity if you have no meaningful interactions with them?
James wrote that faith without works is dead. Again, those who have thrown off the shackles of legalism know James is not speaking about works of the law, but rather works of love and compassion that follow faith.
The thing then to focus on is faith and your works that follow faith, thus “fulfilling” the law, and accomplishing that which is also the opposite of sin. In other words, you truly avoid sin by “doing” the opposite, and not by avoiding doing things that “potentially” lead to sin. Sin is ultimately in the mind, and not in the actions of a man. The people who died in the flood were condemned over what they were, and not so much as a result of what they did. Their thoughts and imaginations were “evil continually”.
Your focus should be on Christ and Him crucified. He died in order to free you from sin. You are dead to sin. Armstrong and even mainstream churches spin this away. You are dead to sin. Dead, dead, dead. What does this mean, dead to sin? What does it mean to be freed from sin? Sin no longer has any power over you. You are “under grace”. You are seen by God as He sees His Son. When you repented; when you turned to God, He gave you remission from sin. He placed you into a new category, from that of a slave to that of a son or daughter. The believer is in a condition free of or from condemnation.
Focusing on sin and its avoidance is an act of faithlessness. It is indicative of not truly believing God and what His written Word reveals regarding our status in relation to sin.
The lifestyle of a sinful person is one of self-gratification and without the influence of God in their lives. God's Spirit has solved the sin problem and issue. Let more important things occupy your mind.
It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; ) Acts 17:11