Monday, April 25, 2016

The Importance Of Precision

We live in a day of imprecision, an age of ambiguity and sloppiness. From the way we dress to how we communicate, everything we do is marked by a lack of precision and even worse an utter lack of concern. A large percentage of our population is utterly unable to express even a simple thought coherently and many people don't know the difference and don't care about simple things like their, there and they're. Conversations are littered with "like" and "um" because many people don't know what they want to say and even if they do they don't know how to say it. Like so many other ills of our general culture the church suffers from this same lack of precision. The difference is that while lack of precision and indifference to accuracy might make for a frustrating experience ordering a meal at a restaurant, it can mean the difference between a true expression of the Gospel or a incorrect and damning expression of the Gospel.

I have been watching some of the presentations from the recent Together For The Gospel conference and I can't say I am all that excited by the couple I have been watching. It seems a little forced even though the topic is such am important one, a topic (the necessity for and basis of the Protestant Reformation) that is central to so much of what T4G and other groups focus on. I was able to watch one speaker via live-stream, John Piper, and his was the best talk so far. He also said something, sort of an aside that I don't think was part of his prepared comments but when he said it early in the talk I got perked up pretty quickly and I have been waiting for the videos to come out so I can share it. Here is the video:

"The Bondage of the Will, the Sovereignty of Grace, and the Glory of God" — John Piper (T4G 2016) from Together for the Gospel (T4G) on Vimeo.

Watch from about the five minute mark to around the 5:30 mark. Really you should watch the whole thing but for purposes of this post watch those 30 seconds because what Piper says is a clarion call that the whole church needs to understand and to heed. I want to highlight a couple of things he says, parsing them down for emphasis.

Every word counts.

Oh yes. This is an age of the disposable. Nothing has value. We toss words out without a thought and with no concern for how they are received. Many of us don't care much for what we say because we assume (rightly) that no one is paying much attention because they are focused on their phone.

My policy has always been simple: Say what you mean and mean what you say. The words we use and how we use them matter and again this is true nowhere more so than in the church. Some might say "Just love Jesus and love people and it will all work out!" but we see in the New Testament, especially in Galatians, how quickly people seeking another Gospel and attempt to add to or take away from the saving truth of Jesus Christ.

I love precision.

Me too! People who are alleged theologians or elders who are sloppy in their study are a huge liability for the church thanks to our subcontracting system of ministry and teaching. I am not talking about locking yourself away in your study to wrangle out how many angels can dance on the head of a pin but Christians should know what they believe and those who teach doubly so and those called to lead as elders triply so. The source material of the Bible is absolutely the most critical information and revelation one will ever encounter, if you are sloppy in handling it what does that say about your concern for the oracles of God?

The abandonment of precision and definition is the gateway to liberalism.

Yes and again I say YES. It seems to me that a lot of people read through the Bible and just sort of skim it until they find something that they like, or worse yet thanks to our myriad methods of directly searching for what you want they just skip reading the Bible as a whole and use it to pick and choose. Errors like universalism, rejecting substituionary atonement, women elders which often leads to embracing homosexual behavior, adopting a modified evolutionary worldview, etc.

Let me reiterate and restate what Piper said. Imprecision in handling the Word of God is the gateway, and not only the gateway but I would say the expressway, to liberalism which to put it simply and succinctly has meant grievous error in every manifestation past and present. 

It takes a long time to be precise, it is hard work.

Exactly, and if there is anything people hate today it is taking their time and working hard. Our world is a world of emojis and memes and twitter and abbreviations because spelling stuff out is so,,, you know? We like our religion in convenient, easy to hear and promptly ignore, sound-bytes. No one wants to read hard books or study the deep questions of the faith or wrestle with the tough parts of Scripture, especially when the Scriptures seem inconvenient to daily life. There is an old saying, anything worth doing is worth doing right.

We are talking about the eternal destiny of the souls of billions of people. We have been given a comprehensive and sufficient Word from God. At the very least we should take the time to know what we are talking about and drink deeply from the well God has provided.

Give Piper's talk a listen. As usual he doesn't fail to deliver. Especially ponder what he says about precision in handling the Word of God, a task for every Christian, because it is the very voice of God preserved for us.

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