My Problem With Christian Movements

Posted on November 1, 2011 by

I’ve noticed in recent years, online as well as off, there seems to be an overwhelming number of believers splintering off, forming groups, movements, and new churches. This is nothing new, of course, as men have always had doctrinal differences which they deemed intolerable and separated to form communities with like-minded believers. It’s why we have so many different denominations. But, generally speaking, most Lutherans would not accuse Presbyterians of being in sin because they have different understandings of Scriptural predestination. And even if they did, at least that would be a doctrinal point of dispute, one where I can understand the need for continual dialog.

What we have today however, is a new trend of teachings based on lifestyle choices. Lifestyle choices being preached as Biblical law. Movements have sprang up touting homeschooling, Biblical patriarchy, being Quiverfull, and stay at home daughters. And of course with all these extra-Biblical movements, there are books, DVDs, and all sorts of literature to buy because none of this stuff can be found in the Bible. At least not the way it’s being touted today. Many of these choices are good, moral lifestyle choices. Most are things that I believe have some Biblical support. Many are things that we embrace in our own family. Much like the choice between breastfeeding and formula, I would say they are in most instances the best choice. But guess what, folks? My twins drank formula from 6 months of age and they were perfectly healthy!

I believe that the the Savior Himself, through the word and the Holy Spirit, should guide His sheep rather than men that at best have a misguided understanding of what makes one a Christ follower, and at worst, who have a god complex that compels them to require every believer they encounter to embrace what they believe is the only good and right way to live as a follower of Christ- even if that means they place undue burdens on people concerning issues that have little to do with Biblical standards of sin and righteousness.

Let’s move from the abstract to an example, albeit one among many. I took the time to contemplate what the plight of my daughters might be if I fully embraced the whole stay at home, maiden-type theology that is being promoted heavily online in recent years. While we understand and embrace the Bible’s teaching on the distinct and separate roles of men and women, many of the extreme views I have encountered as I read and think about these things is a bit disturbing. Namely, the idea that a young woman isn’t at all free to live a life apart from her father’s direction before marriage.

Please note that I didn’t say apart from her father’s guidance. Words are important here. I believe that much of the confusion we see in the church is because influential people have learned how to twist words, and God’s word in particular, in very convincing ways. So let me be clear: we absolutely embrace the role of the father as his unmarried daughter’s covering. Unmarried daughters (and sons) should seek their parents’ blessing when making major life decisions. However, I believe that a young adult who is following God needs to have the freedom to follow God’s path for his or her life. Our roles as parents of young adults are to be prayerful and guard our own hearts so that our desire to keep our children near doesn’t cause us to fight against God’s direction in their life. We were never supposed to be perpetual parents!

This is just one example of the potential problem with this, or any movement. Hard and fast rules that are applied to everyone with no room for thinking or acting outside the box. God’s box, by the way, and not ours. There is very little room for grace, for growth, for the working of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer. And in reading the gospels, we see many instances of grace being exalted above the letter of the law. How much more so, then, for “laws” that aren’t even Biblical?!

Of course there are more examples I could offer; from schooling debates to modesty to “Biblical” courtship, and many more. My problem is when people who embrace a certain standard for themselves insist that I have to live by it to, else I’m not really a Christian. Jesus had a few things to say to those who burden others with rules that are no where to be found in the spirit of God’s word, let alone the letter of it. What’s more, he always operated from a place of compassion and grace.

Do you remember the story of the woman with the issue of blood? She, according to the Mosaic law, had no business being in a crowd of people attempting to touch the hem of Christ’s garment. She was unclean. Yet, He didn’t condemn her. And the woman taken in adultery? She should have been stoned. He extended grace. Jesus touched lepers, healed on the Sabbath, and approached the Samaritan woman at the well for a drink, violating all types of Jewish customs. And when he needed a place to lodge for the night, he bunked with a loathsome tax collector rather than the high priest of the synagogue. Grace, grace, and more grace abounds every time we see Christ in the Scriptures.

Our tendency to want to add to what the Bible has to say can be divisive. When did the Scripture cease to be enough for the church to follow?

Posted in: Religion