August 9, 2016

Belief systems are like accents. All of us speak with an accent, though we often don’t realize it until we are in the presence of someone who speaks with an accent different from ours (and of course, we all tend to think it is the other person who has the accent). What most of us don’t realize is that we also see with an accent. This visual accent is a kind of processing prejudice — a lens — that shapes our view of the world, the Kingdom and the Bible by causing us to see things not as they are but as we believe they are. Thus, as we live out our faith and read the Bible, we look for and expect to see that which validates what we already believe. In other words, we tend to see only what we are prepared to see.

What Does it Really Say?

Dr. Lance Wallnau, a respected author and teacher, drove this point home for me at a conference recently. He brought a barrel of varicolored flags up on stage and gave us thirty seconds to count all the gold flags. Then he instructed us to close our eyes, and he asked us how many red flags were in the container. No one could answer the question, of course, because we had only counted the gold flags. This is such a great picture of our tendency to read our own core values, life experiences and doctrinal prejudices into what the Bible says. The danger is that by our selective seeing, we sometimes make the Bible say something it does not say.

Lens of Denominationalism

The lens of denominationalism is primarily defined by the priority of doctrinal agreement, which necessitates a negative view of disagreement in the Body of Christ. When people with a denominational lens approach Scripture, their selective seeing requires that biblical terms and concepts support the goal of eliminating disagreement, and ultimately, of discouraging individualism.

For example, we see this in the denominational approach to terms like loyalty and unity. In denominationalism, loyalty is often redefined as “agreeing with the leader.” Disagreement is called “disloyalty,” and often “disrespect.” But the truth is, loyalty is only tested when we don’t agree. For instance, David’s loyalty to King Saul was revealed not when he lived in the king’s house as his favored son-in-law, but when he lived in the wilderness as the king’s hated and hunted rival. Furthermore, if we agree with our leader over an issue, then we are going to do what our leader wants us to do anyway, because we agree. It is only when we disagree that the fabric of our relationship is put to the test.

For more on this subject, check out the Revised and Updated Edition of Heavy Rain: How to Flood Your World with God’s Transforming Power at HeavyRainBook.com.

Have you had a relationship that went through the test of disagreement? Tell me about it in the comments below.

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