Carefully avoiding the substance

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When words lose their meaning to functional use it becomes hard to follow what is meant. For example, When “Incredible” is used to mean amazing, when it actually means something which is impossible to believe. We have substituted the meaning of the word for its modern function to mean something different. Another example, would be when the word “sympathy” which has its meaning rooted in the biblical word for compassion, is substituted for the German invented word of “empathy”, which was brought into usage in the 1920’s. It didn’t take long for people to believe that this word meant a better form of sympathy. Now, imagine for a moment that this kind of substitution happened with the very content of Scripture. what might we expect?

We might expect Christians to know that they are believers but who are not sure about what they believe. We might also expect believers to pray for answers and guidance, when those answers have already been given in the Word of God. This is like a child asking a question after just receiving the answer to the question their asking. Imagine a mature Christian providing the biblical answer to the prayer which is being prayed. They might just be accused of being un-spiritual for not committing the matter to God, but this seems more like carefully avoiding the substance.

Why does this matter? It matters if we are concerned about providing biblical answers. It matters if the anxiety of a situation causes believers to become anxious, where they feel that unless you enter into their anxiety you are not loving them, and where you are made out as being superior. But the man standing on the harbour, throwing the life ring out to the person drowning, does not suffer such profiling.

The role of biblical education is to form believers with knowledge, that shapes our emotions and affections. This is so that we do not become conformed to the world, but rather transformed by the renewal of our minds, so that through testing we may be able to discern the will of God. Without such transformation we wouldn’t be much help to those going through a divorce or how to stop one from happening, to those who don’t understand their own feelings or what to do with the way those feelings are leading them. Loving people by providing answers is biblical, and while it may be tempting to concentrate on the practical help, this is often like puffing up the pillow of someone ill in bed, when what they need is medicine. Christians are to grow in the knowledge of Scripture, understand its meaning, its implications and applications. It’s not that practical help is not needed or that prayers don’t need to be prayed, it does, they do. But we should not do this by carefully avoiding the substance of Christianity.

By Daniel Ralph

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