“Nothing is more curious than the self-satisfied dogmatism with which mankind at each period of its history cherishes the delusion of the finality of its existing modes of knowledge” ~ The Philosophy of John Dewy.
As I get older in life, I have found myself getting more dogmatic about what I am seeing in a lot of churches. Although I am now in a church environment that feels…more comfortable. I have lived in this part of Washington State now for 10 years and have been associated with five different backgrounds of doctrine; I am definitely not complaining but stating my desire for ‘a better way of doing things’ philosophy. I really hate change, so changing churches really isn’t part of my make-up. So what is the problem here?
Some people are terrified of change.
Any deviation from “the way it has always been” rocks the foundations of their own world and mine also at times. The change removes us from our comfort zones or as I like to call them, “ruts.” It propels us into the great unknown and becomes more than we can handle. It’s a preference of “safety”; the status quo; THEIR status quo of course. Do you know anyone like that? Might it even be yourself?
We might hear those who resist change say when cornered, “there may, in fact, be nothing biblically wrong with the proposed changes, but why to take the risk, let’s play it safe; stick to the old paths.” TRANSLATION: “We don’t like it and we’ll work against it.” Come on Pastors, do I hear an AMEN?
An observable, verifiable fact:
The most resistant to change is the very ones most resistant to any challenge; on the basis of their resistance. And then a barrage of stones, sticks, and dirt are tossed up from the depths of a well-dug rut. Do we dare to ask someone why they are down there in the first place; opposed to coming out!
Challenging a legalist to provide a reasoned basis for their position (to even state their position or pattern), you will quickly witness a vicious assault. Maybe not at first notice, but possibly later on; when you least expect it. OUCH!
One reason for the militancy against those who dare to challenge them or their theology can’t withstand close scrutiny and will collapse under examination. The religious leaders even will shelter their followers from anyone who dares to challenge them to think; flee from responsible dialogue rather than make a defense.
“Always be ready to give a logical defense to anyone who asks you to account for the hope that is in you, but do it courteously and respectfully” (1 Peter 3:15).
For those so determined to follow the exact pattern of Scripture often displays a great reluctance to follow the instructions of this passage. Most of their theology is pick and choose.
There’s A Need For Loopholes:
When the basis of your salvation, even your fellowship with others is preciseness of practice regarding a perceived biblical pattern, there has to be some provision in place for the ‘legalist patternist’. They avoid those aspects of the pattern that are not comfortable; to adopt extra-pattern practices when its convenient for them.
The Pharisees were experts.
They were experts at binding heavy loads on others and then finding ways to avoid such burden themselves. One of the ‘loopholes’ for today’s Pharisees is “The Law of Expediency.” The patternist squeezes themselves through this loophole at every opportunity, yet denies its use to all others outside the narrow parameters. The exclusivity of expediency becomes a great earmark. If they engage in some practice beyond the specific patterns, then the practice is declared “expedient.” However, when anyone else engages in some practice beyond the specifics of “the pattern”, their variance is deemed “unauthorized innovation” at best. More likely “godless apostasy.”
What is an “expedient” and is it a biblical concept?
Webster’s New World Dictionary; an “expedient” is anything that is “useful for effecting the desired result.” Does the Word of God ever speak of expediencies? The answer, of course, is Yes.
The Greek word is sumphero, meaning “that which is advantageous, profitable, expedient.” Notice a few examples:
Jesus is telling His disciples that because everyone is doing it and it’s legal, doesn’t mean its okay; He speaking to them about divorce in the society: “The disciples said to Him, If the case of a man with his wife is like this, it is neither profitable [sumphero] nor advisable to marry. “But He said to them, Not all men can accept this saying, but it is for those to whom [the capacity to receive] it has been given” (Matthew 19:8-11).
Jesus on the night of His arrest told His disciples, “it is profitable (good, expedient, advantageous) for you that I go away” John 16:7 AMP.
Our Lords imminent departure from His disciples in returning to the Father, while leaving them behind in the world, was certainly not something these men initially thought about with a degree of joy. Yet there was a great benefit (profit, advantage) in His departure:
“Because if I do not go away, the Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Advocate, Intercessor, Strengthener, Standby) will not come to you [into close fellowship with you]; but if I go away, I will send Him to you [to be in close fellowship with you]” John 16:7 AMP.
His going away was expedient.
The apostle Paul told the church in Corinth:
“Everything is permissible (allowable and lawful) for me; but not all things are helpful (good for me to do, expedient and profitable when considered with other things)” ~ Corinthians 6:12 AMP.
Again the Greek word sumphero is used. The apostle Paul clearly recognized the legitimacy of expediency. However, he also understood expediency is not a license to do as one pleases. There are additional factors to be considered before an expedient is hired (see also 1 Cor. 10:23).
New Covenant Writings Are NOT Unfamiliar With The Concept of Expediency:
The concept of expediency is biblically sound! How we employ an expedient often is not. There lies the major problem that, and what various disciples of Jesus perceived to be “authorized” valid expedient. “The precise identification of what is, what is not ‘expedient’ remains a point of contention among many congregations” [The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement; page 325].
An expedient, however, properly understood does allow for a significant degree of freedom among even today’s disciples to choose for themselves what they believe as the most profitable method or means effecting the desired result.
Again in The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement, this concept is defined better than I could explain:
“Procedures or practices that, while not explicitly enjoined by the biblical text are nonetheless not explicitly prohibited because they are instrumental (or ‘expedient’) to the execution of some other biblical command” [pg. 325].
What does all that really mean? I was searching the web yesterday and as a good detective might do, ran across this email question by a man living in the U.S., regarding expediencies:
“In studying expediencies I have thought of something that no one has been able to answer thus far–maybe you can share your thoughts with me on this. Brethren typically justify the use of a church building on the basis of it being an ‘expediency.’ And yet, according to the ‘rules of expediency’ (I realized these are man-made rules), an expediency cannot be specified, then how can we specify how an expediency can or cannot be used?”
Here was the answer was given to this man’s question: “A kitchen in a church building is sinful.” Really? Church buildings are never even mentioned in the NT Scriptures. So, by what ‘authority’ declares a room in such a structure is ‘sinful’?”
Our various choices in the church; what is or is not “expedient” (and we all make them), have become a source for squabbling and schisms among spiritual siblings. Why? Because human nature being what it is, we have the tendency to regard our own choices the most profitable. Thus we regard the choices of others being less so. In time, it moves beyond mere profitability or lacks thereof. It moves to ‘absolute necessity’ for fellowship, salvation even; AGREE with ME or perish! When we become this legalistic employing mere expediencies, the satanic spirit of sectarianism captures, enslaves their hearts and minds causing the destruction of oneness in the family of God. They can’t stand in AGREEMENT; ‘United we stand, divided we fall.’
How does one then determine when something is truly expedient? Has the Bible offered any assistance?
IT MUST BE BIBLICALLY CONSISTENT– In 1 Corinthians 6:12 and 10:13, Paul regards expedients as falling under the umbrella of “lawful”.
“Everything is lawful for me, but I will not become the slave of anything or be brought under its control” [6:12].
I’ve heard of several stories of young people coming under the influence of the satanic; joining in a satanic cult, then coming out of the influence and giving a testimony of the “lies” they were told; ‘it’s okay to sacrifice a chicken on Satan’s altar. Nobody will even know you did it except those around you and they all believe the same thing.’
Since then, I have not commemorated “Halloween” after hearing about the subtleties of dressing up in “harmless” costumes and calling it something else other than Halloween (see my blog post: HALLOWEEN “Just Harmless Fun, Right?“). Is that choosing Biblically Consistent or is it ‘My Sacred Cow’? Should my attitude be more expedient toward such church observations even if they call it by another name? “A Rose is a rose…” I’ll address that point later.
IT MUST BE BIBLICALLY UNSPECIFIED— When God specifies something in His Word for or against, we are obligated to obey. When God speaks we listen and comply.
Jesus says in John 14:15, “If you [really] love Me, you will keep (obey) My commands.” It’s not optional for the Lord Jesus to become “the Author and source of eternal salvation to all those who give heed and obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9). Therefore, if something is clearly specified in Scripture, it can’t rightly fall in the realm of expediency. It must be biblically consistent and biblically unspecified.
IT MUST BE EDIFYING— My choices; your choices must build up and if not…it’s not truly an expedient.
When we demand something resulting in harm to the One Body (the church), we’re not behaving responsibly to the blood-bought church. Our expediencies must ‘edify’ our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus.
IT MUST NOT CAUSE STUMBLING— Overriding principles of the New Covenant must exercise our liberty in a responsible way; with consideration for our brothers/sisters less settled in their faith. Harvest Festivals; HALLOWEEN might seem expedient to most but if it causes ‘stumbling’ to a new babe in Christ, it is not the responsible action. If my choices good and right as they may cause a brother or sister to stumble and fall in their walk with Jesus, then I have not truly exercised my liberty in a godly and responsible manner.
Romans 14:1-15:2 and 1 Corinthians 8 stresses this principle time and again: “Do not let yourselves be [hindrances by giving] an offense to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God” ~ 1 Corinthians 10:32. This would apply to any area of liberty including our choice of what may be perceived to be expedient in accomplishing God’s will.
Expedients are employed by us ALL…on a daily basis.
Let’s cease demanding uniformity as a requirement and more accepting of and forbearing with one another in areas of choice; let us begin promoting unity instead; applying these principles of course. I believe such a new attitude and course of action will be more expedient in nature.