… in order to qualify for the fellowship of some believers in my church tradition:
- That God is sovereign. Because Romans 9:18 says so: “Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.”
- That God is not sovereign. Because if you complete the five acts of salvation, He has to save you by contract because He said He would, and that is the only way you can be saved. (Jesus extending grace to the thief on the cross was a one-time only exception to this rule. And maybe Zacchaeus. And the man who was sick of the palsy. And the woman who anointed his feet. Maybe. But she probably sinned again after He said that, and was lost.)
- That God tells us everything we know to be saved. Because Romans 15:14 says so: “And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.”
- That God doesn’t tell us everything we know to be saved. Some of it we have to logic out for ourselves because He has hidden it in scripture, like the fact that He forbids everything that He does not specifically command, exemplify or imply there. And since he doesn’t mention instrumental music in (most of) the New Testament, it’s forbidden. Except pitch pipes, which are expedient. Or tuning forks. Or harps, when we get to heaven, but not before. Or when you’re not in church. Maybe.
- That we are no longer under Old Testament law. Especially the parts about instrumental music. And the Sabbath.
- That we are still under Old Testament law. Especially the parts about God punishing those who disobey His unexpressed will, like Nadab and Abihu … and we’re still under most of the Ten Commandments, because Jesus repeated them. Except the one about the Sabbath.
- That couples who divorce and marry others must never divorce their new partners and remarry each other. Because Deuteronomy 24:4 says: “Her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the LORD: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.” Although this one’s dicey, because it might be part of the old law that we’re no longer under.
- That couples who divorce and marry others must divorce their new partners and remarry each other. Because that’s what 1 Corinthians 7:11 means when it says: “But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife” and, hey, we’re being generous because literally this only applies to the woman; the man should not divorce anyone in the first place.
- Women are to keep utterly silent in churches. Because 1 Corinthians 14:34 says so: “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law” and the Greek word for “keep silence” there means utterly silent, making no sound.
- Women are not to keep utterly silent in churches. Because they are commanded to sing like everybody else, but that’s all they’re authorized to do. Except for teaching other women or little children under the age of accountability, which is twelve even though the Bible doesn’t say so and teaching them is not forbidden because, well, we say so because it’s hard to find men who are willing to do it. And they probably really ought to wear a veil, too; but good luck making that stick.
Oh, there’s a bunch more: Faith saves without works; faith plus works saves. In Christ there is no male-female difference and we should all submit to each other; women should submit to men and never vice-versa. Early Christians met every day to break bread; early Christians only met on Sunday to break bread.
This is just a bare sampling. I don’t think I’m smart enough to be able to believe all of it at the same time. It’s just too complicated.
And – well – contradictory.
You know what’s much easier – though still deeply difficult in a way – for me to understand and believe?
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” ~ John 3:16
“He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” ~ Micah 6:8
That tells me that He loved the world to death. That law wasn’t good enough anymore. That we couldn’t pay off the debt of sin under it. That we all sin. That Jesus levels the playing field. He satisfies the justice, extends the mercy, walks the walk, fulfills the faith, loves the love, works the work, lives the life, dies the death, pays the debt, lives the life again and wants for all of us to be blessed by the fellowship of doing the same, to the very best of our ability – with Him walking at our sides! And with His help, we can share that blessing of fellowship with others who don’t yet know and don’t yet believe. That’s life worth living forever.
And the rest of stuff some require for that fellowship is just so much mint, dill and cummin.