(Caison Jones is a contributor at Apologia Appalachia: Theology from Them There Hills. I thought this article would be a blessing to the readers. Another one of their writers was the author of the post yesterdaty about the convention name-change. There is some quality writing being done at their group blog site!)
“The trouble is that, nowadays, there are so many who receive the testimony of God only so far as they can satisfactorily account for all the reasons and grounds of His conduct,…” A.W. Pink
I’ve heard this referred to as “Cafeteria Christianity”, where we pick and choose only those things in the Scriptures that we like and reject those things we don’t like. Generally when one hears this charge it’s almost exclusively aimed at laymen within a church. I think it is an accurate statement to say there are many within the laity of a congregation that view their lives in and out of their local church this way.
I have somewhat of a unique perspective on this issue. I view this issue as a layman who has a desire to be an elder, i.e. pastor, and is being discipled toward that end. As long as I’ve had this desire though I’ve been very careful to observe and learn from those who are already leading churches. What I have observed is that if you were to take 100 laymen and 100 pastors and placed them in the “cafeteria line” of the teachings of Scripture you wouldn’t find much difference in the percentage of laymen and pastors that are picking the things in Scripture that they like and rejecting those things they don’t like.
The only difference I have been able to discern between the two groups is that laymen will pick and choose from the line that contains things like fornication, adultery, homosexuality, abortion, gay marriage, gossip, lying, disobeying parents, reading and studying the Scriptures, honoring God’s name, praying, and things like this. Most pastors and elders that I have met generally do not feel the need to pick and choose from this line because they generally accept the biblical position on things such as these. However I have observed pastors and elders picking and choosing on things like church discipline, discipleship, a plurality of leadership, leading the church instead of having committees and deacons perform that function, i.e. biblical church polity, keeping women from teaching men, holding fathers responsible and accountable for discipling their children, and things like this.
To go back to A.W. Pink’s quote that I began with I think the issue I’m raising can be broken down as follows. While the laity of the church will at times deny the inerrancy of the Scriptures by our “cafeteria style” Christianity, the leadership within the church is denying the sufficiency of the Scriptures because of the constant worry over church splits, people leaving the church, et cetera.
I end with a solution. Let us remember Isaiah 55:8-11 and the prophet Jeremiah. You can read Isaiah 55:8-11 for yourself but you may not know what I’m speaking of when I refer to Jeremiah. Did you know that according to what we can find in the Scriptures that for Jeremiah’s obedience to God and for proclaiming His Word faithfully, and for pouring out his life as an offering to the Lord we can only find 2 converts during his ministry? That’s not exactly a church growth model there is it? No, it’s not, but it is better. What we seem to have forgotten in both the laity and the leadership is that our wisdom in our actions, our wisdom in dealing with divisive issues, our wisdom in all these circumstances is not in figuring out a way to come out the other side of the “situation” with a positive or even acceptable outcome. No, our wisdom is rooted only in one thing, obedience to the Word of God. This is where Adam and Eve failed and it is where we are failing. We believe we can figure it out and find a better way to be wise and have a “positive” outcome, but we, like Adam and Eve, are only wise inasmuch as we are obedient.