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The Worthlessness and Worldliness of Human Regulations

June 23, 2006

from a 1997 sermon on Colossians 2:20-23

“If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations- 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)- according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion [KJV: will worship] and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

An austere disciplined denial of all earthly pleasure is not the way to live the Christian life. It is the way to live the gnostic life and it looks impressive for a while, but it is not the Christian life. Lightfoot describes in this way the ascetic discipline of the gnostics that fails to touch the springs of action. “By their fatal transference of the abode of sin from the human heart within to the material world without, they had incapacitated themselves from finding the true antidote.”

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One Comment leave one →
  1. June 24, 2006 11:03 pm

    I have been musing on the application of this understanding of rules not producing righteousness into my parenting. What would this look like? How might I reduce the amount of “look good on the outside” rules that in truth stir up their little hearts (like little hornet’s nests stirred with a stick) to desire even more disobedience.

    The very rule I make as an attempt to curtial their mean and hurtful behaviors, seems to spur them on to hate and evil deeds instead of hem them in within the boundaries of love.

    So, I will open it up to your devoted readership: how would you apply these truths toward raising, loving, teaching, and guiding the children in our families?

  2. June 26, 2006 10:23 am

    Good question, It’s one I’ve been circumnavigating.

    I’ve also been pondering the wisdom of “doing the right thing”. I’ve caught myself explaining to Elizabeth that she needs to do something because it’s the right thing to do. And then I cringe, because I would never find that reason acceptable (but she’s a different person, maybe for her it’s not only acceptable, but preferable).

    At the root, I expect my child to obey because I’m her father and I’m in authority over her. End of story. And despite the fact that I never accepted it from my parents, that *is* why she needs to do what I tell her. Ideally, I’ll also explain to her the “why” behind the command she’s been given (which my parents never did), but circumstances don’t always allow for that.

    In most situations, the reason why something is “the right thing do do” comes down to polite behavior in Midwestern American culture. And the reason we follow those societal norms are variable by situation and personality. It feels like a cop out to tell her that she needs to do it because it’s polite, but at least I’ve shifted the reason from an amorphous indefinable “right thing” to something more concrete and based on relationships.

    I have to wonder if somehow this would be easier if I were an F? And if what I have now if fine for where she is, and better explanations will come naturally when her mind is capable of understanding them.

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