We had the mormon missionaries over last night (click here for the report if you are interested). Something that came up really got me thinking about a common flaw in humans that bleeds into the church. It is a point of vulnerability for people that can lead to them (at least in part) getting caught up in cult groups like mormonism or the Jehovah’s Witnesses. We hate uncertainty. There are some aspects of Christianity that are clear and unequivocal. Jesus Christ is the Son of God, God in the flesh who came to earth, lived and died and rose again. All men are sinners and are condemned by their sins. The only hope for salvation is faith in Jesus Christ.
Those things are certain. What is not as clear, not as specifically laid out is the “what now”. Why does God elect some and not others? Why doesn’t God just save everyone? Why not just give us an exact time and manner of Jesus coming back so we can skip all of this speculation about the end times?
We want specifics. We want to know exactly what to do and when to do it because we are culturally conditioned that way, perhaps even genetically hardwired that way. Maybe it is a symptom of our desire to be in control, to usurp the role of God. I have referenced this before but church bulletins are a great example of this. People love their bulletins because the bulletin tells them what is going on and what to expect. Watch people in a traditional church, that bulletin is clutched in many hands and referenced often because it tells them what happens next. First we do this and then this and then that. It is so hard to get used to not having that specific order. Silence can seem deafening. When you gather and don’t know for sure what to expect it is jarring. Where there is uncertainty, it is common to “fill in the blanks” and that is where we get into trouble.
This is especially pronounced in mormonism. Mormons love certitude. They love that in the Book of Mormon we see a specific, word for word incantation that is supposed to be uttered during baptism. In the mormon worldview, God being a God of order means that people must have specific instructions on everything. I posed the question that perhaps the reason we don’t have specific wording for the Lord’s Supper or a specifically prescribed mode of baptism is that it isn’t the important thing, the “main thing”. It is easy for Christians to get caught up in secondary issues and pretty soon those secondary issues become primary issues. The main thing is no longer the main thing, so to speak. We hate uncertainty so we fill in the void and in doing so end up with lunacy.
Maybe God doesn’t give us specifics on some areas because it just isn’t that important. Is it an absolute necessity that we recite the words from 1 Cor 11 when we observe the Supper or that we use unleavened bread? If you baptize by immersion, does it matter if the person bends forward into the water or backward? Is it OK that when we gather we leave room for the Holy Spirit and not have a certainty of exactly what is going to happen? Perhaps when we focus too much on the “how”, we lose track of the “why” and the “who”?
Where God has clearly spoken, let us hear and obey. Where God has remained silent, let us not seek to put words in His mouth. Above all, let’s keep the “main thing” as the “main thing”.