When I began this blog, the purpose was to shed light on the fact that in most cases, information IS NOT as it seems at first glance – and that has never been more true at any other time in my life than it is now. From the political world, to fake news, to church and eschatology, most everything today is not as it initially seems, and one must dig deeper for the truth.
Over the past year, I’ve asked this question of myself many times – “what has caused us as a people group to be so averse to thought that differs from the mainstream view?” I believe this to be a worthy question, as the lack of truth in mainstream thought is becoming a very real thing. “Fake News” is not a conspiracy theory, it’s the real, provable deal – but you have to search for information outside of the mainstream channels to discover that which exposes the fallacies – and that’s something that’s never been easier than now in our internet-connected world.
Folks have gotten to the dangerous point where when someone brings up an alternative thought, the answer is “La La La La – I’m not listening to you…” (remember Beverly Hills Cop?)
My first question at this point is, what are we afraid of? I mean, that type of response usually comes out of a fear of discovering that we may be thinking (or assuming) incorrectly on a given topic. But why do we respond with fear, and immediately seek to protect our way of understanding? I’ve come to realize that the more we challenge our own thinking, the more refined our thinking becomes. Every time we are given a new viewpoint is a great opportunity to test that viewpoint against our current knowledge – which either proves our current understanding, or sheds new light that we have to consider. But I think that’s the problem – this process takes time.
Our Enemy has done a great job of attracting us into a “busy-ness as normal” way of life. We rarely have time to study on our own, and prove or disprove what’s in front of us. I also think this is a result of “teaching” rather than “practical knowledge transfer” – one being informational and the other being experiential – but that’s another subject to address later.
I think our faith is affected by the same problem – with limited time, we look for thoughts and ideas from people that we know we can trust, that we know have done the research. I get that, but the problem is when we stop with the source that is right in front of us, and go no further – that leaves us locked into a limited view. I’ve been guilty of this for large portions of my life, so I’m not excluding myself here. Many of us have pastors in our lives, we trust them, and that’s good enough for us. Again, guilty here – I’ve lived the Word of God through other men’s interpretation, rather than dig deep myself, for a large portion of my life.
Except for this year – when I stumbled on the study of end times (eschatology.) I had to look beyond my normal mainstream sources for the real meat – up until that point everything was very general, things like “Oh we can’t know when,” or “That’s for a future time, etc.” Yet my curiosity drug me to information presented by others who have gone deep on their own, and made very interesting discoveries. When I went down some of these roads, I started to feel a challenge to my standard schools of thought on these subjects.
So my next question is, what’s the information delivery mechanism in the church that causes this? There’s got to be one, and I think in the church, there’s even a word for it that we all know, and it’s a “normal” thing to most of us:
Definition of doctrine
b : a principle or position or the body of principles in a branch of knowledge or system of belief : dogma
c law : a principle of law established through past decisions
d : a statement of fundamental government policy especially in international relations
the Truman Doctrine
e : a military principle or set of strategies
church doctrine – the written body of teachings of a religious group that are generallyaccepted by that group
Church Doctrine (Bryan’s version): principals and opinions on bible subject matter handed down from church fathers and leaders, and taught through institutions. Often times these are defining items for a particular denomination and they are rarely ever challenged. The originators of doctrine are usually a group of people with titles signifying educational level or licensing.
Or perhaps more clearly stated, “stuff that a bunch of really smart people figured out in previous times with info they had available, and in turn taught to their followers”. Its the “Status-Quo” of a given subject in that organization, given by people with a lot of letters after their names. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dogging education, however a title or letter suffix that comes after someones name (like Pastor) is no guarantee at all that of their information and knowledge is well researched and vetted by them. No, there’s no guarantee at all that they’ve been taught anything but doctrine. Again, please don’t hear me wrong – I’m not saying that everything our pastors tell us is wrong – but what I am saying is that we should never excuse ourselves from the requirement to apply critical thinking at all times to all information.
Consider the Book of Daniel, written by the prophet thousands of years ago. Take a look at the passage below:
Daniel 12:8-9 – Authorized (King James) Version (AKJV)
8 And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things? 9 And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.
Daniel shares openly that he does not understand what he has been told to write. He asks for clarification on the time of the end, and is told that that is “sealed till the time of the end.”
At some point in the future, Daniel’s words will make more sense to the reader, as in the times of the end they will be “unsealed.” But at the time of writing, and up until the time of the end, Daniel is told that it is not to be understood. So for thousands of years, the “doctrine” has been that “this information is only for the end times.”
So how will we know? We will know by context. Based on the conditions of our world, some of these passages will start to make sense, as they are right now. But here’s the challenge:
We have to continually test our assumptions (doctrine.) This is done by challenging that doctrine – if it passes the test, that doctrine is still sound. If we don’t continually test our understanding, we may miss the cue.
Consider this passage:
Daniel 12:4 – Authorized (King James) Version (AKJV)
4 But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.
If we read this passage through the filter of “the book is sealed until some point in the future” – how will we know when it becomes unsealed? When do we allow it to be “that point in the future” so that we re-enable our critical thinking cap? If we continue to look through the “future” filter (doctrine,) then when we read the second part of Daniel 12:4:
“many shall run to and fro” and “knowledge shall be increased”
We would have no reason to look more carefully, as we have convinced ourselves that it’s a future event.
Question: can you think of a time in world history where knowledge is growing faster and is more accessible than at this time? How about travel – are more people traveling “to and fro” than in Daniel’s time?
You decide for yourself, but don’t let the doctrine prevent you from asking the question. Don’t let the doctrine that the end times are some “future event” miss the queues that perhaps that time is approaching.
Theres’ something else that trips us up in this area – and also prevents us from digging deeper and challenging our assumptions – and that’s social status. Someone with a degree from a seminary carries more weight in biblical circles than someone with a degree from Cal Poly, or your neighbor, the electrical contractor. We give so much weight to titles and letters after our name. I’m not saying to discount people’s education in any way, but because they have the title does not make their doctrine “law.” Your neighbor, the electrical contractor, may have a more accurate view of end times than the Seminary graduate – because your neighbor formed an opinion likely from study guided by the holy spirit, without the power of doctrine. When you build a life of purely on doctrines without any critical thinking, it can become very difficult to see a different view.
Friends, I’m not a biblical scholar. In fact, I’m not very academic at all – so I’ve received much less doctrine over my years than most of you reading this. While I’ve had some catch-up to do, my lack of academic education has made it a bit easier for me to consider alternative thoughts – as those thoughts don’t have years of academics to compete with them. The more knowledge we have in a given area, often times means that we already have an understanding or opinion on a thing. Sometimes the less knowledge we carry, the more we can consider new thoughts.
Again, knowledge is amazing but this sword cuts both ways .I’m not saying that “lack of knowledge” is a better state – not at all; but what I am saying is that those that come to the table with prior knowledge may need to work extra hard to evaluate and challenge their own doctrines.
So when you read a passage of the bible, and it speaks of end times, instead of going just with what you have heard from the pulpit or in school, ask your Father in Heaven if those assumptions that you hold from doctrines taught to you in years past are still valid. Just don’t be afraid to hear a new view.
Oh, and also, brace yourself for a little conflict – not everyone will see what you see – challenge assumptions and you create fear in others – so do it gently. And when you get the “conspiracy theory” label placed on you, wear your tinfoil hat as a badge of honor!