|Volume 3||July 1, 2004||Issue 10|
But That's Being So Narrow Minded...
Has anyone ever said those words to you? How did it make you feel? Were you somewhat insulted? Most likely, your reaction to such a statement would depend on the rest of the conversation — or exactly what you were discussing at the time you were accused of being "narrow minded." For example, let's suppose that someone tells you that your "religion" is narrow minded. Is that an insult or is that a compliment? Perhaps the person who is resorting to such a name-tag is confusing bigotry with narrowness. Bigotry is certainly condemned by God but what about being narrow?
"Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it." (Matthew 7:13-14 NASB)
Let's look at this from a bit of a different perspective for a moment. It is a fact that absolute truth is always narrow. Five plus five equals ten. That's a truth that will remain a truth from kindergarten to college and from nation to nation, no matter where you are in this wide world. That is not going to change. But why isn't it going to change? Will it not change because that's what the math book says five plus five is? No. It's ten because it can't be anything else. If you're a math teacher and there are one hundred students in your class and ninety-nine of those students say that five plus five equals eleven, does the fact that the majority agree, make the actual truth change from ten to eleven? No. The one student who answered ten is still correct and the majority is incorrect. That's because truth doesn't change. Would that one student who answered correctly be considered narrow minded because he or she was out of step with the majority? Even if the majority did attempt to tell that one student that he or she was narrow minded, would that make the ninety-nine right in their assessment? Of course not — because the one student would have "truth" on his or her side. You can see the point here — there are twelve inches in a foot, three feet in a yard, four quarts in a gallon, and so on, all over the world. It doesn't matter who is doing the measuring or where they are in the world. Refusing to recognize these absolute true facts would throw the world into hopeless confusion.
Still another perspective — historical truth is also narrow. The battle of Valley Forge was fought in Pennsylvania. No one would argue that fact. If a student gave a different answer in a history class, would anyone think the teacher was narrow minded for telling the student that he or she was incorrect? How about a few other facts. Facts like, you can't take a four foot cube through a three foot door. You can't "pour" concrete that has completely hardened. Ten plus ten will never be fifteen. Well, it's pretty obvious that we could go on and on but since the point is obvious, we'll stop here.
So none of us is reluctant to admit that truth in other fields is narrow and perhaps could even be described as "dogmatic." There are simply certain things that we all accept as truths that can not be challenged or changed. So here's the question. Why is it that we would suppose that divine truth revealed to us in the Word of God is so flexible that it can be susceptible to numerous interpretations. How is it that mankind can settle for reasoning that says; "we just see it differently," or "we just don't see it the same way"? Are phrases like that saying that man is more capable of making himself more clearly understood than God is? Mankind agrees on other absolute truths, why not truths in the Word of God?
Let's go back to the ninety nine students who answered incorrectly and the one who answered correctly for a moment. We all agree that because the ninety nine had the wrong answer, it didn't change the answer. There was still a correct answer and there was still an incorrect answer. The true answer didn't change because the majority of the students had it wrong or because the class failed to agree on only one answer. In a like manner, it certainly is possible for man to misunderstand passages of Scripture, but because man — perhaps even a majority — misunderstands it, doesn't change the passage to whatever the majority agreed upon. The majority could be wrong. Neither does it mean that all of the answers are correct.
To give an example — the largest denominational group in the United States (almost 25% of the total population in the year 2001) teaches that infants are born in a totally depraved spiritual state because of "inheriting" the sin of Adam and Eve. The thirteenth largest denominational group accounts for only 0.5% of the population and teaches that everyone is born sinless and becomes sinful by his or her own transgressions after reaching an age of accountability. Can both of those groups be correct. Of course not. One is right and one is wrong. Five plus five can not equal both ten and eleven. So why would it make sense to believe that I should encourage and cooperate with those who are teaching something that is totally opposite of what I believe to be the truth? If I was the principal of a school, would I allow and even encourage a teacher to continue teaching a class that five plus five was eleven because that's what the majority of his or her class had decided? How is it different then if I encourage others to preach and teach what I believe is not true concerning the Word? To further explain, If I'm a preacher and one Sunday I preach that infants are born spiritually depraved and the next Sunday I preach that an infant is born pure and spotless, I'd probably be called a hypocrite. But if preachers in two separate churches preach those same two conflicting doctrines, how can I possibly be convinced that they are both preaching the Truth from the Word of God? How can I pretend to have unity with one who preaches a totally conflicting gospel from that which I believe to be true? It simply violates the basic idea of what truth is. Perhaps even more troubling would be if I didn't have enough of a conviction in my own belief that I would have no problem encouraging others to teach something totally different.
While we should certainly not harbor any animosity toward those who teach something we do not believe to be true, conviction to our own beliefs should prevent us from bidding them God speed. In II John 10 the Scriptures state:
"Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds." (II John 1:9-11 KJV)
Paul stated in Galatians 1:9 —
"But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed." (Galatians 1:8-9 KJV)
It's evident from just these two Scriptures above that the Inspired Word of God teaches that what an individual believes and what an individual teaches is a matter of great importance.
An extremely important point to understand in context with this article is that there is no one among us who is infallible. We can all make mistakes and should always be open to change when presented with Scriptural reasons that show us to be in error. That's why Bible study is of such great importance. We should never resist changing a belief when convinced of its error. There are however two things that are absolutely certain.
When it comes to the Word of God there is no such thing as "Unity through diversity" or "unity, not uniformity." Two or three or four different churches can not preach two or three or four different doctrines and all be right with God any more than one preacher can teach two or three or four different doctrines and not be a hypocrite. It is simply not possible. We readily accept that there is undisputable truth in other areas of our society that can not be, and is not questioned. Why then do we not accept that there is truth in God's Word that also can not be questioned. It is our individual responsibility to study until we know what that truth is and then it is our responsibility to —
"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you..." (Matt. 28:19-20 KJV)
In a previous article in Diligence we discussed that Change Agents are using New Hermeneutics to attempt to abolish foundational truths found in the Word of God. The battle cry of those who want a New Hermeneutic to dictate what the Scriptures say is "the Bible doesn't really mean what it says" or "the Bible says something different to each reader." New Hermeneutics teaches that what the Bible means to you isn't necessarily the same thing it means to me. Everyone interprets the Bible in relation to his or her own culture and own life experiences. If this is true, then there is no set standard of authority. Every man is a law unto himself and God's Word is not the absolute authority. This is like saying that five plus five can equal something different to every person. It simply depends on whatever one thinks or feels is correct — excusing the absolute authority of God's Word with statements such as "we just don't see it the same way."
The real danger in this attitude or belief is that any attempt to discuss with others what we believe to be the truth taught in the Scriptures (concerning any given subject) is looked upon with disdain. After all, if the Word teaches something different to every person, then there can be no conviction on anyone's part to defend their own belief since "yours" is as correct as "mine." Failure to have any desire to discuss differences of opinion concerning the Truths taught in the Word means that no one has an opportunity to correct errant beliefs — whether their own or those of another. Without conviction in one's own belief it is impossible to "go...and teach..." as we are instructed to do in Matthew 28:19-20 listed above.
Truth, by its very nature is "narrow minded." To be narrow minded about God's own Words is not bigotry. It is accepting God at His Word. The Bible does say what it says. Attempts to use New Hermeneutics can not change what God discloses to us in His Word. Our job is to "...let us reason together..." (Isaiah 1:18 KJV) until we understand that Word in the way that God intends.