In an earlier post I wrote about the pope being called a “hard-liner” by the media because he upholds the principles and foundational beliefs of his religion. Now I want to focus on faith and morals in the context of being a “hard-liner.”
Faith and Morals
The first thing we need to do is to distinguish between “faith and morals” on the one hand, and what I call “policy and practice” on the other. Faith and morals in Christianity are based on the Bible, and should be therefore considered non-negotiable. Policy and practice, on the other hand, are typically coming from human traditions, and their continuance can’t always be justified by any firm biblical commands. First, let me talk about faith, and then I’ll discuss morals.
Regarding faith, I’m referring to teachings about God and Jesus found in the Bible. Why is it so important for us to adhere to biblical teachings regarding God and Jesus? Are we going to be given a #2 pencil and a 500 question theology test before we can enter the pearly gates to our heavenly reward? I don’t think so.
The main reason for our existence is to have a close relationship with the living God thru Jesus Christ, and then to serve God thru worship, fellowship, ministry and mission. It’s difficult to have a relationship with somebody if you don’t know them very well. For example, would you marry someone you hardly know?
For us to have the kind of relationship God wants us to have with him, there has to be a level of knowledge, understanding, and trust, out of which develop love and devotion. That’s why we study the Bible and listen to sermons. Paul tells us the reasons why we should follow biblical teachings in 1 Timothy 1:3-7:
As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work – which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaning-less talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm. NIV
Knowing God thru sound doctrine, based on biblical teachings, is emphasized frequently in the Bible. Ephesians 4:12-14 tells us that sound teaching is:
To equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming.
Note the reasons Paul gives in that passage: equipping for ministry, building up, unity of faith, knowledge of the Son of God, maturity, giving stability. We hear a similar message in Paul’s instructions to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:1b-4:
I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. NRSV
We see today, as in former times, that people don’t always want to put up with sound doctrine. Notice also that Paul uses the word “truth” in his instructions: “[They] will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths.” In the Gospel, Pilate asked that famous question of Jesus: “What is truth?” Qui est veritas? To us Christians, truth is that which has been revealed to us by God in the Bible. We believe the Bible contains God’s absolute truth in matters of faith and morals, and truth by its very nature is not subject to change. God’s truth in the Bible is the foundation of our faith in God and our trust in Jesus as Savior, as well as the basis for our code of morals and ethics.
More on morals, policies, and practices in a future post.