If you follow us on our Facebook page and Twitter you no doubt know that every morning we share quotes from the theologian and apologist John Frame.
Here’s one quote from his book Doctrine of the Word of God:
Obviously John Frame here is not saying every theologian makes this error of chopping the Scriptures; nor that just because one is a theologian it therefore means one will make that mistake. Actually everyone is prone to making this blunder of “reporting” on segments of Scripture in isolation.
Which means we must watch ourselves even in how we read Scripture.
I’m going to go on a tangent from Frame’s book with this quote as a spring board to examine three practical examples of how people including myself can over-emphasize one aspect of Scripture over and against another:
We can pit God’s love and God’s justice against each other
Problem Described: That is, we want to focus on God’s love and the passages that talks about God’s love. But we ignore the teaching in the Bible of God’s justice. Do we downplay God’s wrath and justice? For some the over emphasis is on God’s justice over God’s love. Those who are prone to legalism often make this error. Sometimes when I talk to Christians who I am gettingto know I ask them to tell me about about God’s character and attributes. Some can list out all the attributes of God that show their theological depths–but I tell them “there’s still one more attribute you are missing that I’m thinking about.” Usually they go into the more philosophical of God’s attributes such as divine simplicity, immutability, impassibility, etc, racking their brains out to answer. But the one attribute they forget is God’s love. Then with some they say God is love as the first thing and every other attributes after that never mention about any attributes of God that explain why the Gospel is needed in the first place (to satisfy God’s righteous wrath and justice).
Practical Remedies: First, know yourself; know what you are prone to be overbalanced with. Go to God to ask Him to work in you to be more biblical. He will answer. Second, read the Bible and read it wholly. Keep a journal. Write down things you learn and spoke to you. But also write down things that challenged you, or things that you didn’t expect especially things that challenge your imbalance. Meditate them on them as part of your communion with Christ!
We can pit truth and love against each other
Problem Described: This sounds similar to the first problem but distinction can be made between the two. Some people can be all doctrine but no love. Others can be all about love but can downplay truth. It ought not to be either/or. It is both/and. Most Christians would agree with this statement but its harder to live this out isn’t it? Most of the Christians I’m surrounded with in my church often struggle more with needing to be more loving. But I found that if I try to emphasize love over truth, it can come out all funny; certainly we might want to compromise or be more “pragmatic” over and against God’s truth in the Bible. Wretched man that I am, how can God help me?
Practical Remedies: I found that what I need in this situation of truth versus love is ironically I need more truth; usually the problem is that I haven’t gone deep into God’s truth enough to let it impact my life, my heart and my affections. Once the truth of God captures my heart, once I’m bringing the truth of God to bear onto my life, once I’m thinking all the way of not just knowing what is true but also connecting the dot so to speak in rigorous thinking of how does God’s truth should impact my mind and life, it has led me to be more loving towards God, and yes, others. Theology is practical!
We can pit God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility against each other
Problem Described: I am not going to make this post into a whole treatise defending the doctrines of sovereign grace. But I believe all Christians believe in God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. Sometimes even those with the right view of the relationship between the two can be inconsistent or even mess it up in their lives practically. The relationship of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility has important implication beyond reading thick tomes of systematic theology or journal articles on philosophical theology. As a pastor one of the hardest challenge has been dealing with those who in sin and are hyper-Calvinists who have eroded man’s responsibility. Most people won’t go there; but then they might have the mentality of “let go, and let God.” But when they say “let God,” it sounds pious but it can be used as an unintentional neglect of what God clearly says we are to do on our part (repentance, confession, obedience, etc). Still, other people can be so much about man’s responsibility to the point that there’s no room for God’s sovereignty nor His sovereign grace. For example, think of the Christians dealing with an addict; they are just prescribing the individual a whole lists of “do.” These might be important and of course even the addicts would agree those things are good but their struggle at that moment might be “how do I do something when I don’t want to do it?” All along there’s the neglect of God’s sovereign grace! Or think of the example of the person who is all about serving God and overworked at church, yet their prayer life is as dry as the humidity in a desert.
Practical Remedies: Mined the Scriptures to see what is man’s responsibilities. Know that God’s sovereignty means also that He is Sovereign and have the right to demand of you obligations and responsibilities. How are you following God’s requirements in your life? Honestly assess your shortfalls and know you are responsible for them. But don’t stop there, go to God for His grace in being forgiven of your sins! Knowing God is sovereign and in control means that there are no sins that He does not know about nor so out there against His expectation that He would not forgive. No, His sovereign grace means He will forgive if you go to Him in confession and trust in His Son’s person and work. Go to Him in prayer now, if you are reading this! Believe that God’s grace is not just only to forgive, but His grace is sufficient for you to be holy as well. It is overwhelming to think of our sinfulness but realize God’s work with you is not done and He will continue to work in a believer’s life. Don’t MERELY strive for Christian victory over sin (Yes, you read that right). Sometimes people can be more about the Christian victory over and against actual union and communion with Christ. Rather, strive for loving obedience to God and Christ, moment by moment. You might fail in the future, we can’t know that but at this present moment, walk in loving obedience to God. Let the truth of God’s grace be the meditation of your heart and the source of why you want to obey Him! As this is going on in the human level know that at the spiritual level God is working within you from the inside out and enabling you to obey. Pray! Prayer is where the rubber meets the road between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. Pray, believing that God in His sovereignty has ordain prayer as one of His means of accomplishing His will. More can be said here, and I encourage readers to also read work of God’s sovereignty and God’s grace driving our practical holiness. Usually older writers of the Puritan and Reformed camp has been helpful and delightful for me. For those who want to read more modern readers I highly recommend the works by Jerry Bridges.