Principles vs. Particulars
Particulars: specific rules governing every area of our life. These rules are to bless and guide us spiritually. Also, they are to make us more spiritual people.
Principles: guidelines given to us by the Word of God and administered in our life by the Holy Spirit. Once again they are to make us more spiritual people
I have always been a “particulars” sort of person. I enjoyed particulars. Even when I disagreed with particular particulars I still liked them because they gave me a point of reference; a measuring stick of my beliefs, if you will. I like the direct guidelines that have been laid out by me, and others, over my lifetime.
However, over the last several years I believe the Lord has revealed to me some insight concerning this issue. In the paragraphs to follow I will give you just one example that has influenced my beliefs concerning this subject.
Youth are very affected and very much subject to the “particulars” teaching. Music, TV, friends, etc are always cited in this type of teaching. I have served as a Youth Pastor for the past six years and have worked with youth for more than a decade of my life. I have found though that seemingly the more we seek to define exactly what is right and specifically what is wrong for youth the more they struggle at some point in their life with choosing between right and wrong. Let’s use music as an example. As churches teach youth there are several styles of teaching about music:
All secular music is wrong – ALL. If you listen to this music you are sinning. When youth take time to examine this premise they quickly determine that we are wrong – all secular music is not wrong, or evil, etc. When one is bold enough to speak out concerning this issue and bring evidence of their understanding; i.e. songs, artists, etc, that are wholesome and entertaining they are usually met with this response, “well, if it doesn’t glorify God then you shouldn’t be listening to it.” That sounds so spiritual but a 16yo with the least amount of common sense sees the fallacy of that argument. They look at their pastor, youth pastor, parent, or any other authority figure and see that they watch football, love reading about coffee, or spend hours playing WordFind on Facebook, all things which bring absolutely no glory to God.
Some secular music is OK, but certain artists, songs, or genres are wrong. This looks better on the surface and holds a better argument for a while but we have a tendency to approve of people who seemingly “change” down the road (Miley Cyrus). The danger here is that this gives us a platform to abuse a particular genre or artist as has been the case with rap music. Over the last two decades I have heard so many revile rock music and rap music but very few speak out concerning country music. Could it be that because they are preaching to middle-age white people that they find it easy too vilify those things their audience naturally dislikes? The next time you want to vilify the vulgarity of rap pull up the top ten country songs and read their lyrics. Sadly, many times there is not much of a difference. This argument is fallible because we make it more about who or what you don’t listen to with the focus being squarely on us.
Listen to whatever; just make sure you by the clean version. Frankly, it ills me out that I would even have to address this but it certainly is a teaching “style” when it comes to music. In other words; as long as you look ok you are ok.
I have watched these very scenarios transpire in the youth that I have ministered to as well as many that I have observed thru their teen years. To be completely transparent I began in category one above, moved to category two and now I exist hopefully outside of both categories. These scenarios are played out daily in the lives of believers in every imaginable setting; music, marriage, finances, honesty, etc. As I studied Scripture, watched others, and made honest observations about my own life I saw two major problems with the “particulars” teaching.
First of all, the particulars’ teaching leads many to dishonesty. A young man discovers a song like “Pickup Man” written and sung by Joe Diffie, when he turns 16. The most “offensive” line in this song is: “I met all my wives in traffic jams.” If he likes this song he is branded as sinner who needs to repent and yet he looks at the reasoning which was mentioned above and finds himself disagreeing. Unfortunately many choose at this point to hide their disagreement and instead begin a life of secrecy which can have no good end.
Secondly, the particulars’ teaching leads many to a belief that they are more “right” or holier than others. Certainly there is a holier lifestyle but for many the judgment comes from a belief that they are personally more holy. 1 Peter 2:5-6 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Every believer is holy because of Jesus Christ and not because of their own action.
As a caveat I must add that I certainly hold that believers are to live holy lives. Romans 12:1-3 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. The focus of the believer is that they present themselves to the Lord. This is a command to holiness and every believer is to spend their life in this reasonable service. Please understand that I am not advocating a complete lack of particulars; however, I believe those particulars should be governed by biblical principles alone. For example during the school year we send our children to bed at a certain time. There have been times when we have allowed them to stay up past that time and we use the results of the following morning to remind them of the principle that sets that particular. I have also let my kids change the radio station and then I ask them to tell me whether or not a believer should be listening to the song that is playing based on the song itself.
Principles teach a dependence upon the Holy Spirit.
This seems to be something that is lacking in many of our lives today. Depending on what your particular beliefs are some of you may be waiting on Rick Warren to weigh in concerning the newest question concerning belief. Others may be waiting on Piper, or O’Steen, or MacArthur, or whoever is your favorite blogger is at this time. This is dangerous.
Jesus told his disciples that he would send them a Comforter. Much of Jesus’ teaching on the Holy Spirit is recorded in chapters 14-16 of the Gospel of John. When people hear the Holy Spirit mentioned they become leery that some spell is cast over them, or they hear voices in their head. Look at just a few of the points that Jesus makes concerning the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is a gift from God given to each and every believer. John 14:26
The Holy Spirit is come to instruct the believer in the bodily absence of Christ. John 14:26 The instruction of the Holy Spirit is not based upon the feelings of individual believers but rather on the Word of God.
Principles teach the individual believers responsibility to God.
The believer’s responsibility is not to the denomination, the church, the pastor, or even other believers. While they do have a responsibility in each of those areas their primary responsibility is to Jesus Christ. Particulars’ teaching leaves us constantly checking ourselves against others while principles should point us to the Author of our Salvation, Jesus Christ. Hebrews 4:12-16 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
I’m not there. I pray that I am constantly learning. My struggle begins and ends with my pride, daily. I do find myself encouraged constantly through Scripture. It is my solace. I’ll leave you with just a few more verses:
Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? Micah 6:7-8