Wednesday, July 30, 2014

New Doesn't Always Improve

Proverbs 22:28 lays out an interesting principle:

Do not move the ancient landmark
    that your fathers have set. (ESV)

When I read it this morning, I wondered if it could apply to the current practice of updating doctrine that characterizes the Emergent Church, the Gay Christian Movement, the Church Growth Movement and other groups that adjust Scripture so that it complies with 21st Century culture. So, not wanting to interpret this  verse through the grid of my experience with the parties I've just mentioned, I turned to some of my commentaries.

The Believer's Bible Commentary addressed the verse  by explaining its original (and literal) meaning, followed by its spiritual application for Christians:
22:28   The ancient landmark was a series of stones which indicated the boundaries of a person's property. Dishonest people often moved them during the night to increase the size of their farm at their neighbor's expense.
Spiritually, the ancient landmarks would be "the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). The fundamental doctrines of Christianity should not be tampered with.

John Gill's Commentary agreed, though with the wordiness and flourishes that I've come to expect from Gill.
Remove not the ancient landmark which thy fathers have set. Or, "the ancient border" or "boundary" (n); by which lands, estates, and inheritances, were marked, bounded, and distinguished; set by ancestors in agreement with their neighbours; which to remove was contrary to a law, and a curse is denounced upon those that did it, Deu_19:14; and was always reckoned a very heinous crime in early times; See Gill on Job_24:2. This was so sacred a thing among the Romans, that they had a deity which presided over those bounds, and had its name from them. Some apply this, in a political sense, to laws of long standing, and customs of long prescription; and others interpret it, in a theological sense, of doctrines and practices settled by the fathers of the church; which, if understood of Christ and his apostles only, will be allowed; but if of the ancient fathers of the church that followed them, it should not be received; since they were but fallible men, and guilty of many errors and mistakes, both in doctrine and practice.
 Adam  Clarke, however, offered the strongest support for applying this verse to the preservation of tried-and-true doctrine.  His entry provided me with assurance that I had indeed made an appropriate connection.
Remove not the ancient landmark - Do not take the advantage, in ploughing or breaking up a field contiguous to that of thy neighbor, to set the dividing stones farther into his field that thou mayest enlarge thy own. Take not what is not thy own in any case. Let all ancient divisions, and the usages connected with them, be held sacred. Bring in no new dogmas, nor rites, nor ceremonies, into religion, or the worship of God, that are not clearly laid down in the sacred writings. “Stand in the way; and see, and ask for the old paths, which is the good way, and walk therein; and ye shall find rest for your souls;” Jer_6:16. But if any Church have lost sight of the genuine doctrines of the Gospel, calling them back to these is not removing the ancient landmarks, as some have falsely asserted. God gave a law against removing the ancient landmarks, by which the inheritances of tribes and families were distinguished. See Deu_19:14, from which these words of Solomon appear to be taken.
Progressive evangelical churches almost boast in  their rejection of old ways, thinking that keeping pace with current cultural norms opens the door to effective evangelism. Admittedly, many of these churches manage to fill their auditoriums with young double-income families, but do they produce regenerate believers who understand sound doctrine that affects their every day lives? Only by respecting ancient doctrinal landmarks can we  give the next generation the true  Gospel.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting! I love this, and how you dug down and confirmed and then took the time to show us. I enjoyed the education :)


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