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Thursday, March 16, 2006

Raw Steak and Twinkies

I've had some great conversations with some friends lately regarding the need/importance of doctrine. In most conversations, we end up agreeing that there are two extremes; avoiding doctrine and placing attention entirely on application, or teaching "heavenly thoughts" that never seem to impact this earth. Neither is a good choice.

Dangers to teaching doctrine alone with no application:

1. We can feel defeated. We see the character of God and how we fall short and are left to feel hopeless. We don't strive to honor God because we feel it's a losing battle anyway.
2. It appeals only to the intellectual. Some people love to sit and philosophize, others are geared to do things and occassionally consider why. If you only speak to the head, you lose an entire segment of the church in what they see as pointless (a segment of the church that will be your "doers" at that!)
3. You become arrogant. "Knowledge puffs up." Knowledge that lacks application is not wisdom. Application is necessary for humility that we can say, "I know this is truth, however, I still war with my flesh to accomplish it."

This, my friends, is the raw steak. Sure, meat is being served up, but it is quite unappealing and can be unhealthy. Consider that even the healthy eater, when presented with the option of a raw (not even rare) steak or a twinkie will choose the twinkie. The twinkie is application with no doctrine.

Dangers to teaching application with no doctrine.

1. Pastor-dependant believers. People are forced to come to the teaching of their pastor to know what they should do. The church is weakened by believers who can't read the Scriptures and understand them in a way that they can apply.
2. Action-specific believers. The church can understand that murder and adultery are wrong, those are clearly stated in Scripture. However, since they don't understand why those things are wrong, they aren't sure how they should respond to things like the death penalty, abortion, war, pornography, marriage and divorce, or cohabitation. Because the Bible doesn't specifically say, "Thou shalt not look at XXX websites," some believers feel unsure what their response should be, let alone how they should then act.
3. Pharisees are created. This is probably the most surprising. The attack I hear most often about those who care about theology and doctrine is that their teaching leads to legalism. In reality, that isn't consistant with Scripture. The Pharisees were never condemned for knowing the Law, they were condemned for not obeying it (and since no one could, they missed its intent) and for making their own laws to only care for the exterior. There are actions that are wrong and those actions reveal a heart problem. (Is there really any conceivable way where adultery is an action of virtue?) However, there are not actions that guarantee a proper heart. (I can do something that looks virtuous, yet sin is at the heart of my action) The heart must be the issue addressed. When we teach people to abstain from sin, or to treat others nicely, or even to share their faith, but we do not address doctrine, we run the risk of raising up Pharisees. We could produce a group of people who have a set list of do's and don'ts but don't know the God they are seeking to obey.

In the analogy of the twinkie, it's like a sugar high. Sure, you will feel energy for a brief season, but you're left with less energy once the sugar wears off. Application teaching alone can give a person energy for a season. Most of us are equipped with some form of determination and will-power. Therefore, we can live on just the application for a season, really fueling ourselves off of our own resources. However, once that fades, we are often left with less energy than we had in the first place.

How did we get here?

Cooking a steak can be complicated. (I've been married for eight years and still haven't attempted grilling a steak.) The pastor finds himself short on time, or engaging a passage that can be difficult to understand. Due to a lack of time, or insight on how to present the doctrine, we either chuck the steak at the Body raw, or resort to just throwing them a twinkie. Also, in an era where people pleasing and popularity polls are at an all-time high, we also just give people what they want.

At lunch today, I could throw a cooked steak and a twinkie on a plate. Guess which one my three year old daughter would choose? The twinkie. But as her father, I won't settle for that and I make sure she eats the steak, for that's what her body needs. Paul said in Hebrews that the people should have been ready for meat, but they still needed milk because they were so malnurished.

Nothing will motivate the believer like the knowledge of God. Nothing has universal application for situations like theology. Yet we can't just teach them facts, not showing how it applies to life. We've got to be offering well prepared steak for our Body if it is to grow and be healthy. Anything else will eventually make it sick.


  • At 3:14 PM, Blogger Charity said…

    So are you saying you'd like to learn how to grill steak . . . ? God really does answer prayer!

  • At 3:57 PM, Blogger ~d said…

    and let me recommend the grill master jon hein to teach you, danny. i'd offer my husband, but i do most of the grilling around here....

    ps - word verifications are annoying

  • At 10:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    any food sounds good...twinkies or steaks, even if it isn't cooked all the way. You don't know how to grill? Sad.


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