I got an early start on reading the June Tabletalk.  June’s issue is on the 4 views of the Sabbath; the Seventh-day Sabbath, the puritan Sabbath, the Lutheran Sabbath, & the fulfilled Sabbath.  As I was finishing the seventh-day Sabbath article by Skip MacCarty (which was not convincing in the least), I was troubled by the very last sentence.

 “I invite you to experience the seventh-day Sabbath for yourself and see whether the attendant portfolio of meanings God assigned to it, and the blessings of the communion with Him that He offers in its observance, do not enrich your life and deepen your walk with Jesus – your Creator, Redeemer, and Lord.” (Tabletalk, June 2011, p.13)

 What troubled me about this sentence was the writer’s emphasis on experience.  Here was his closing argument for the seventh-day Sabbath and he concludes by saying, “Try it!”

I found this approach very troubling.  And, it caused me to begin thinking about the relationship of practice to theology.  Is there a relationship between doctrine and practice?  Of course the answer is yes.  But what is that relationship?  This is where things get difficult in our society.

As I look across the Christian landscape in America, the prevailing view is that if it works, it must be from God.  I see this approach most clearly in the worship debates.  Churches choose particular worship styles because it works to build a big church.  The end result of such pragmatic worship is that churches are giving away cars on Easter Sunday because it gets people into church.

I believe this is contrary to the Word.  I believe that truth is truth regardless of experience.  I believe the correct relationship between doctrine and practice is one way.  Doctrine determines practice, not vice-versa.  What we do is governed by what we truly believe (at the moment we do it.)

One of the great downfalls of American theology was that people began to build doctrine on experience instead of interpreting experience in light of doctrine.  The latest example of this I believe can be seen in Harold Camping.

Back in 1988 (I believe I have the date right)Harold Camping was asked to stop teaching things that contradicted the position of his church.  He refused to submit was removed from his position.  Camping’s response was to say that the church was now apostate.  Thus his experience of being thrown out, became the driving force behind his doctrine that the church had lost its way.

As I thought about the place of experience, I had to ask myself, “Am I guilty of this too?”  I believe the answer is yes, and not just for me, but for the whole human race.  It is a part of our human depravity to use our reason and logic as foundational for truth.  This is not to say that there is no place for reason.  We should use the very things that God has given us to learn about our world and our Creator.  The error is when use logic and reason to argue from experience to doctrine in order to make sense of this world. 

There is only one way true way to make sense of this world and it starts not with our experience, but with the Word of God.  The Westminster Confession of Faith states precisely this.  “Under the name of the Holy Scripture, or the Word of God,  . . . are given by inspiration of God, to be the rule of faith and life(practice).”  WCF 1.2

Here is where the beauty and the strength of the Reformed tradition is clearly seen.  Let us strive to obey the Bible (and it’s teaching on the Sabbath) not because it makes life work, but because the Bible is the very Word of God and it reveals who God is and what God requires of man, namely that we glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

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