The writer of Hebrews encourages Christians to move forward in knowledge and in maturity. Please start off by reviewing Hebrews 5: 11-14; 6:1-3. Are we still in need of 'milk' after many years of being Christians? Or are we indeed maturing in faith and in knowledge?
Are We Inclined to Argue in Peripheral Areas?
When we congregate with other believers are we inclined to argue about peripheral areas? To do so can be an indication of Christian immaturity. For example, I am always amazed that a few like to spend hours arguing about a millenium, or about a rapture when neither word even occurs in the Bible! If a word does not even occur in the Bible, let us at least consider that any accompanying doctrine may not be as important as we may like to think! After all, if God did not consider it necessary to carefully outline the meaning of a teaching, is it not reasonable to conclude that - while such a particular teaching may be important for us - that it might not be so vital for God?
The New Testament gives us huge and copious information about redemption through Christ, and how this justification can be obtained, it makes plain all the vital points about Christ's sacrifice, about calling, about faith, about the fruits of the Spirit, it continually warns about compromise over these main points of the Christian message. It even carefully outlines the true purposes of the Old Testament, yet a few apparently think that God got it wrong in not carefully outlining a doctrine of a "millenium" or of a "rapture" !!
Arguing About Hell!
This can also be applied to the teaching of Hell. Now let me say at once that the teaching of Hell is entirely biblical, however, while one area of fundamentalism has preachers who appear to spend rather a lot of time in screaming "hellfire" warnings, the truth is that 'gehenna' (Gk for 'hell') only ever occurs 11 times in the New Testament. Other word comparisons are certainly intriguing and do not lead to the results which certain hellfire enthusiasts might expect: For instance, the wonderful word 'salvation' occurs 163 times, but 'damnation' only occurs 10 times and 'damned' occurs three times! Meanwhile, concerning 'heaven,' the word 'heaven' occurs in the KJV 568 times (I have not even included or counted the words 'heavens' or 'heavenly'). This tends to suggest that the traditional 'hellfire' preachers may not have used a correct biblical balance! Now, of course, it is part of the gospel message that we must warn about the possibility of hell for those who willfully sin and willfully reject God, however, the Bible says so little about 'hell' (and much of the language used appears to be heavy in symbol) that while we must indeed warn about hell, we must allow some honest differences of opinion among true Bible believers regarding exactly what that word "hell" constitutes. What we can say is that hell represents eternal separation from God and - to put it mildly - it appears to be highly unpleasant - yes, that really is putting it mildly. The Scriptures also seem to indicate that it is a one way ticket. Some believers believe that people will not be tortured in hell for eternity but will be annihilated. Some Scriptures appear to support that position. It is immaturity to get into long arguments about this or to assert that those who don't share your particular opinion are "heretical" - once again, we are told so little about hell that we must allow some differences. It would be heretical to say that heaven or hell do not exist but to have slight differences of opinion among true believers regarding exactly what hell is like is fine and probably very healthy. Some scream compromise but there is no compromise here whatsoever - as long as we all stand in the true Faith, we should probably all be more willing to treat fellow evangelical believers with respect rather than to be going around looking for division everywhere! You also may wish to consult The Utter Folly of Arguing Over Hell.
Overly Protecting Children - A Trait of the Cults!
Another indication of immaturity is to try and protect your children from everything in life which is "unchristian" - neither is this even possible! The cults and sects greatly fail their children in this manner. They usually raise them in a highly protected and sheltered environment which fails to protect them from the evils they will certainly face in life. Sadly, some evangelical parents attempt to do the same thing! Give your children the necessary exposure to the truth of the gospel but do not attempt to 'shut up their minds' from the realities of life. Let me illustrate: I think some are shouting too long and too hard about elements of witches and witchcraft in Harry Potter books. Why not look up The Christians in the Toy Shop for an interesting insight. Now please understand me correctly: I think it is not good for our kids to get too involved in this stuff, but don't raise their curiosity by banning it entirely. Instead, expose them to a little and use it as a teaching tool!
I am also distressed that a few of my fellow-believers are starting to scream about CS Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia even though the recent film is a most wonderful teaching tool for children. Do we seriously think that if we ban them from seeing this movie because it contains a witch we will better prepare them for life or for eventual Christian understanding? If we are going to ban references to witches then we would also have to ban the Bible (the witch of Endor!) Please - do not make the mistake of the cults in banning your kids from most everything. Do you want your kids to grow up to be unknowledgeable as well as possibly being emotional cripples? Encourage them to develop balanced all round personalities who will be prepared for life. Again - I have to say it - I find that some parents who are overly protective in this manner are also inclined to be a little immature in the faith, as well as being inclined to slip into legalism. I am even starting to read comments by certain extremist fundamentalist writers saying how bad CS Lewis is for Christians!! Are they kidding?? Probably few writers have been so influential in bringing thousands to Christ as has Lewis! It really saddens me when I find such undeserved nonsense being written. Somebody said a few years ago (I can't remember who it was) that Lewis brought as many to Christ as Billy Graham, only very different sorts of people on a very different path.
Robin A. Brace, 2006.
The Christians in the Toy Shop is a brief testimony somewhat akin to this article which you might enjoy reading.
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