One of the issues that pops up over and over again when people leave the UPC is the issue of trust. I was reminded of this again this evening as I was talking with my family about some of the reasons that I left the UPC. As we were talking, my sister-in-law stopped us to ask a question; she wanted to know why all of the study is necessary. She wanted to know why a person can’t just read the Bible and be saved. She and my mother even hinted that all of my Bible study might be getting me into trouble with God.
The first thing to understand when answering that question is that the Bible is designed so that anyone can pick it up, read it, and be saved. At the same time, the Bible is an incredibly deep book. If a person picks up three Bibles–let’s say the King James Bible, New American Standard Bible, and The Message–then one will rapidly see that all Bible translations are not the same. One does not have to read for very long before they realize that there are many differences, small and large, between Bible translations. The miraculous thing is that the average person could pick up any one of these Bibles, read it, and be saved. God has ensured that the salvation message is not lost.
So why do I do all of the Bible study that I do? The reason is that I think of Christianity like flying a plane or steering a boat. Very small course corrections lead to major problems over long distances. If I am flying a plane and I am even a part of a degree off then I am going to miss my destination. Unfortunately there are many denominations that are off course right now. There are many individuals within those denominations who are saved, but the denominations as a whole are heading in an unhealthy direction.
I am convinced that the UPC is one of those denominations. That’s why I left.
My concern is with the health of Christianity as a whole. I cannot stay in a denomination that I feel is heading in the wrong direction. Of course, none of us will ever agree 100% with every other believer or every other denomination. But I want to align myself with a church that is making every effort possible to stick to Biblical truth.
C.S. Lewis–my favorite Christian author–described Christianity as a table (or he may have been describing God, I forget, but the analogy is still good). He said that it’s like a table. You look at the table, and it’s really simple. It’s got a few legs, it’s made of wood, and you put stuff on it. But if you want to know what the table is really made of then you have to understand molecules, atoms, physics, and many other things. It soon becomes impossible for the average person (meaning me) to tell you what a table is made of, or why it stays standing up.
This is the way that Christianity is. It is designed so that a person can look at it and say, “Oh, I need to place my faith in Christ and believe that He is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, and follow Him.” But if a person really wants to understand the WHY of Christianity, then you have to go deep. You have to start dealing with the molecules and atoms of theology.
I want to know what makes Christianity tick. I want to go as deep as I can, because that’s what I feel that is what God is calling me to do. I understand that not everyone feels the same way, but I have a responsibility to “present [myself] approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15 NASB).
Is God upset with my studying? Is He going to deliberately deceive me because I am trying to understand His Word rather than following after men who speak in tongues? I don’t think so. John told people to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone into the world” (1 John 4:1 NASB). Now, I don’t know how John intended for people to “test the spirits,” but the only way that I know to do it is by comparing doctrines to the Word of God. Sure, no one’s going to see eye-to-eye on everything any more than every scientist is going to see eye-to-eye on the structure of sub-atomic particles. But I want to be as close to the source as I can get.
I guess if I miss it then I’ll have to fall back on the mercy of God, because that’s what this whole Christian thing is about anyway. I’m going to try my darndest to be in Truth, but I know that it’s not my studying or my knowledge that’s going to save me in the end; I will only be saved by “the grace of God” which brings “salvation to all men” (Tit. 2:11).