Saturday, August 11, 2007

from bondage to freedom (and back?)

Reading the naked pastor last night I ran across some thought provoking posts on freedom: here are two of them. The one I couldn't find simply stated something to the effect that people can be in bondage to the Bible, but instead need to be led by the Spirit, and in doing so they will end up finding themselves living out the truth in the Bible. I hope I'm not misrepresenting David Hayward's thought here.

This is neither an endorsement nor a censure of this Vineyard pastor's blog, but just thinking through his thinking, a bit. In reading Paul's letter to the Galatians we find that the freedom we have in Christ is a freedom not to indulge the flesh, but to humbly serve one another in love. We are to walk in the Spirit and to thus bear the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, which at the heart is love, as opposed to the works of the flesh.

I think David has a good point in that we can put people under bondage with human made rules or expectations, when people can grow only in the freedom that God brings to us in Christ. We need to be present for each other -and sometimes we need special help in the form of prayer or words spoken to us- but we must be careful not to take away this freedom.

I wonder if David's thoughts and practice on freedom reflect what we read in Scripture. We may agree or disagree in certain aspects of what he's about, but in the end we do seek to see all in the light of Scripture with the help of the Spirit. It may be that in the cultural context in which David finds himself in, this is a way that helps people to break away from bondages imposed on them by others, even other Christians, and find (be sure to click!) the true freedom which can come only through Christ.

The freedom we find in Scripture is freedom from the slavery of sin and slavery to righteousness and God. Really learning to live as humans in the love in which we are meant to live together, in Jesus.

What might be your take on this?


Ted M. Gossard said...

I think definitely that some of this gets into the region of personal freedom: what I'm comfortable with someone else may not be- with reference to something that is not necessarily a sin issue: like dancing or drinking.

But there can be also sin issues and issues of conforming to the world and getting caught up in that which is in opposition to God's will. Maybe at times it's only the individual who knows if they're crossing a certain line, though this can be sometimes hard to tell.

But certainly the church, we who are the church need to be there for each other and for everyone in the world. How that gets worked out in life I think is sometimes complicated and not that cut and dried.

But I wonder if simply following the Spirit alone is adequate. It is if it's in the context of seeking God's will in community and in Scripture. Or in just being a seeker. Otherwise, I'm not sure. Though certainly the Spirit can do unusual things in seasons for people.

Halfmom, AKA, Susan said...

Ted - I'm not quite sure I understand what you are saying in your comment (the post is pretty clear though). My first thoughts, especially when someone is on a "freedom" bandwagon - is that there is a tendency to mistake endulging the flesh for freedom. So, this raises a yellow flag for me. Also, my freedom, even if it is biblically permissible, extends only so far as it does not cause harm - to body or conscience - to another believer.

Since we are taught to "test the spirits" (1John4:1), I think it is essential to no "simply follow the spirit alone" - for it what if what is being said is not in accordance with the whole of scripture - then it's not the Spirit of Christ.

Hope this makes sense.

I've really appreciated your comments on my blog!

Ted M. Gossard said...

Susan, I come out of being in Vineyard in the past and know some of what is going on by experience as to this fellowship, I'm guessing. And I believe one of their leaders wrote in a book, which I have- about the history of Vineyard, that some of the pastors had become worldly in his estimation.

So I guess I'm meandering here and there on thinking through this issue.

But I appreciate and agree with all you say. And thanks.

joe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
joe said...

i find (speaking in generalities) that when people base it all on being led by the spirit, things get left out. if the bible was left to us as a guide and the standard, any thoughts or feelings should be weighed against it.

scripture can take a second chair to the "leading of the spirit".

there is also the sense of individuality and then you cant argue with that person when they drop the "led by the spirit" card on you. it is like the get out of jail free card.

i am challenged when i feel led by the spirit to make sure it lines up with scripture and the direction our community is moving in. of course i have been told that this point of view is a hindrance to the spirit.

go figure.

as you can see, i deal with this some in the community of faith i am in.

Ted M. Gossard said...

In an e-mail to me, Scot McKnight wrote:

"The points is actually significant: reading the Bible as God's guidance vs. a lawbook is a big deal. If we listen to the Spirit we will do the sort of thing that is now found in Scripture."

I didn't think Scot would mind me sharing this here.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Joe, I hear you. This has to be a community project, not just an everybody doing as they see fit happening, surely. And Scripture has to guide us, I would think, as we seek to be led by the Spirit. Or maybe better put, Scripture comes to us as God's word into the situation we find ourselves in. Somehow the Spirit and the word/Scripture have to come together in relationship in one way or another.

Ted M. Gossard said...

I'd like to get a better understanding of what Scot is saying in listening to the Spirit, because I do believe the Spirit speaks to us directly as well as through the word/Scripture today, and through circumstances and people, etc.

joe said...

it is true ted. i guess i have seen some abuse and misuse of the the spirit's guidance. i know there is a place for the god's leading.

i guess i wonder exactly how that synergy between God's written word and spirit's guidance work together. how does one discern properly? i guess that might always be a struggle to walk out.

Every Square Inch said...

I read naked pastors posts you referenced and cannot say that I agree with his take. He has many opinions but little reference to scripture.

I think the idea of being in bondage to scripture as a negative thing, is ridiculous has no basis in scripture. Perhaps my comment could be viewed as being in "bondage to scripture".

On the contrary, God so identifies himself with his written word that it is the chosen means he has designated to reveal to us the good news of his saving grace.

If that's being in bondage to scripture, may I be so honored by such a charge and may I be bound all the more.

Ted M. Gossard said...

ESI, I think Scot McKnight has a good point on that if I'm understanding Scot correctly: that there's a significant difference in reading Scripture as a law book and being bound to it in that way, and in reading Scripture as guidance from God, in a kind of dynamic, interactive relational, life-orienting manner.

Scripture being God's word is powerful and God identifies closely to it, naturally. But it is a means to the end that it speaks of, it in a true sense is not the end itself.

As you would say, it's meant for us to glorify God by enjoying him forever. It gives us the way in Christ for that.

Ted M. Gossard said...

ESI, I will say God's word does bring life to the one who by grace believes.

I have to agree with those who have tied the word of God/Scripture and the Holy Spirit's work closely together.

I'm of the persuasion that we need to emphasize both and make it either/and rather than one or the other, which I'm afraid too many churches and Christians practice.

I do tend to be a word person myself, since my propensity and evident gift is teaching. Many in the more charismatic fellowships such as we find among Vineyard people do refer to Scripture, but are strong on the Spirit side. I wish we could get a hold of both, from what I've seen and read.

Ted M. Gossard said...

ESI, I know this is a long answer (three sections), and on the surface, not having read much of naked pastor, I would say I at least empathize with you and your take. And I always respect what you have to say because it is well thought out and grounded theologically.

But I'm not necessarily all that enthusiastic when I read a bunch of texts cited or quoted because too often I see that as proof texting in a way that proves nothing at all. We must get the flow of the story, and the details within that.

Naked pastor may not be that bad in that way, though I do have questions and concerns with what I've seen from him, even as I try to see it contextually in light of the whole of Scripture, and what is being dealt with in the present in peoples' lives.

But I don't back down from saying that while I see some good there, I believe, there are also some flags of concern that seem raised to me, and I'm definitely not myself, on that precise bandwagon (going back to Susan's comment).

Halfmom, AKA, Susan said...

I think that my concern is that I've seen "liberty" taken to mean that if we think the spirit is saying one thing and that scripture, especially the "letter of the law" is saying another, that we should go with what the spirit is say. If I'm understanding ESI correctly, he is saying that this is an incorrect interpretation of scripture because the Holy Spirit and Scripture will always be in agreement with each other as the Scripture represents the spoken Word - as referenced in John 1 as being part of the Godhead.

I've seen a lot of places and times where people of an "emotional" bent say, "well, that can't really be what scripture wants us to do because it is unkind, unfeeling, harsh", etc.... when what really is happening is that 1)they don't want to obey scripture and 2) theye don't fully understand scripture or it's proper application to present life - what they want is to do what feel right to them.

And to them, since I spend a good deal of time counseling them after they make these decisions and end up with the consequences, I repeat the scripture, "there is a way that seems right to a man but the end thereof is the way of death"

I don't want to come off being legalistic - because I'm not - but I do thing that if I am going to err, I would rather err on the side of taking the new testiment at lest literally and remembering that Christ, who was perfection in all things, said that He came not to do away wtih the law but to fullfill every single part of it.

Hope this makes sense. I'm a bit tired and fuzzy at this point in the evening.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Susan, I think I read the Bible literally according to what it intends being the goal. I think to deviate from what you're saying is akin to James Sire's Scripture Twisting (his book) that certainly goes on in the name of reading the Scripture "according to the Spirit."

But I think Scripture itself makes it clear that for it to come across as just law and not grace as well, is a mistaken reading of it. Jesus and Paul both dealt with wrong ways of reading Scripture in their time, wrong applications to be sure, but I also think a way of reading it that failed to let it speak for itself.

Something like that.

So I'm not at odds with what you're saying here. I just believe that carries us to a place beyond where most of us live or have lived in our Christian lives, not because we have to go beyond the letter (though in a sense we do), but because we're really not following it, in its plain sense.

Ted M. Gossard said...

I should say it's my goal to read Scripture according to Scripture itself, not that I perfectly achieve that, or don't sometimes fail.

Every Square Inch said...


Thanks for taking the time to respond to my comments. Naked pastor is entitled to his opinion and we ought to respect that. However, for them to bear the weight of truth, it should be consistent with what the Bible teaches.

It's not really a matter of citing chapter and verse...I think some of his assertions are not consistent with a biblically sound view. Hence, my discomfort with what he espouses.

On another hand, a humble response should take into account that what he espouses is really none of my business. I'm not looking for controversy or dispute but really just responding to your question.

Ted M. Gossard said...

ESI, Well said. I didn't think you had done anything wrong, and you type in a good spirit.

It is good to be able to think things through together. And everyone comes at something from different angles, which can end up being of mutual benefit.

I know David would not hold to an amoral or immoral position, but it's a practice of "grace" that bears some critique, since he's posting on it. Some things I think are good, others I do not agree with or I'm uncomfortable with.

I think your point is good. I want to see if something someone espouses is true to both the content and tone of Scripture. And we have to keep working on that for all of us, as to what we say we believe and what we practice.

nakedpastor said...

Hey everyone. I remember in seminary in my New Testament studies masters being given assignments to read through some apocryphal texts, as well as some Jewish ones, and even through the sayings of Jesus. None of them "quote" scripture extensively. No, not even Jesus. But our assignment was to see how many things that were said could be traced back to scripture or were permeated with scriptural reference without actually quoting it verbatim. I remember doing the same exercise for a Gandhi speech, a Buddhist writing, the Bhagavad Gita, and an ML King sermon. None quote scripture extensively. But there were zillions of references that could be made to scripture. Almost everything could be footnoted as an incidental scriptural reference. You may not find me quoting scripture verbatim. Satan does that quite well. But I do hope that what I say is in the spirit of scripture, if you know what I mean. Thanks for the discussion.

Ted M. Gossard said...

David, Thanks for chiming in here. I appreciate what you're saying.

While I stand by my comments and post, I'm sure we can potentially learn, benefit and grow from each other. It is good when we can listen well to the other, and I hope I did that, albeit certainly in a limited sense here.

Grace and peace to you.