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Doctrine in dialogue format
THE BIG GAME
12And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. (Mat 24:)
"I'm honored to be here Mr Shibboleth."
"The topic of discussion tonight is the ecumenical church and how it is viewed by the world and the churches. Dr Providential, as I understand it, you are quite educated in both the field of sociology and theology. This being so, the question at hand should be right up your alley. Am I correct in this sir?"
"Yes you are Mr Shibboleth. Of course I am particularly interested in the churches and the way they function. But I'm equally interested, and concerned I might add, in how the world is influencing the churches as a body."
"You say you're concerned Dr Providential. What is the cause of your concern?"
"The reason for my concern Mr Shibboleth is the game that's being played. Life, as we know, is a game, but there are some aspects of the game that should be played with more skill and attention to detail than others. And I'm afraid the weaker side is the one who is playing the game the hardest, and with the most fervor. Oddly enough, although the weaker side is far in the lead, it is the side that has by far the least to gain from winning."
"I'm afraid Dr Providential you've run off and left me in the bleachers. I haven't the foggiest idea what you're talking about. What is the game you're referring to, and who are the players in this supposed game of yours?"
"I can see how you could easily be off track with my reasoning Mr Shibboleth, so for your sake, and for the sake of your listeners, I will start from the beginning of the game and work toward our present situation. When we, that is you, me, and just about everyone, was a child we played games similar to what we perceived the grownups to be playing. We chose up sides, drew our lines in the sand box, and we fought to defend our turf. As we grew older our game began to be taken a little more seriously, and the teams became larger in that they incorporated the school we happened to attend. Our school colors and our school spirit, that meaning school loyalty, became paramount to us. We were loyal to our school, and considered it right and best even if it was dead last in the standings. Our school could do no wrong, and even the school that lead the field could do no right. Are you following me Mr Shibboleth?"
"I think so Dr Providential, but I must tell you that you're putting me to sleep with all this trivia. I'm afraid we'll lose our listeners if you don't bring your bromide to a close very soon. Please be trenchant Dr Providential."
"I'll try Mr Shibboleth. My point is that we all, as we play the game of life, afford much authority and credibility to whatever station we happen to find ourself in. Even though we have likely given little consideration to that station in life, that is, the role we happen to be playing and the team with which we play, we defend every aspect of that station and its team members as if our life depended on it. We are this way with our family, with our job, with our school as just mentioned, and even with our favorite sports team or rock star. We, that is our side, whatever that might be, can do no wrong, and whatever other team there might be can do no right."
"All right Dr Providential, you've convinced me. We're gullible, is that what you're saying? We, that is humans accept whatever is handed to them and they run with it, and this from birth. So now, let's move on. What does all this have to do with the church and with ecumenicalism?"
"Understanding that we have this nature Mr Shibboleth should cause us to realize that we are likely to be merely playing a game in whatever endeavor we have taken on. If we were at war and our life depended on our every decision we would give each move we make very serious and studied consideration. If we were trying to decide the best course to take in order to deal with a serious illness we had contracted we would devote all our attention and energy to that endeavor. We would do these things because we believe, that is we have faith, that if we do any less than our utmost our life could well hang in the balance. Is this not so Mr Shibboleth?"
"Again I concede Dr Providential. But what has any of this to do with the subject at hand?"
"It's the game Mr Shibboleth. It's the game we play. Some of us play the game as participants and we devote every fiber of our being to the game. Those on the field have the most to win or lose by the game. Most of us however are not players but we are spectators playing the game from the sidelines. Some spectators play the game more seriously than do the majority of spectators. We have examples of this at some football or soccer games where the spectators are likely to cause great damage to those spectators not supporting their team. We also see this in the church were those who have nothing to do but attend a meeting once a week will castigate and verbally attack anyone of another church they deem unsupportive of their own view of Christianity, even though the one they are putting down is on the field playing for all they're worth."
"Again Dr. Providential, what you are telling me is common knowledge. Some people take their church more seriously than others. I know this. What has it to do with the subject which, if you have forgotten, is how the churches and the world view ecumenicalism. Please tie your comments to this subject if you can and move on from there."
"If we understand that the view we have on any subject, and this especially includes God and our view of the Bible, is not likely to be something that comes from serious study but rather the circumstances in which we happen to find ourselves, we should then realize that the chances of our being right is very slim. If we again understand that if we are just trying to lend support to the team we happen to be on, even though our team is obviously at the bottom of the list, we again are very unlikely to ever be on the winning side. Those on any team are locked in to their view and to their loyalty. They must support what the team believes in, regardless of how absurd that belief might be. I used athletic teams as an example. Those on the field, unless they are looking to better their own advantage at the expense of the team, must invest their every effort into the support of that team. Those in the bleachers will do the same, paying little heed to the strengths of the other teams except perhaps as a means to find their weaknesses or to gather statistics. But there are some people involved with sports who are dedicating much effort to find the truth of the sport, regardless of what team that truth might happen to be a part of. These searchers of truth are referred to as speculators. Speculators might be information gatherers or sports commentators, or they might be gamblers. But regardless of their profession, they are interested in facts, and they have no loyalty to any particular team or participant. Because of this outside view, they can see the entire field of endeavor rather than the distorted ant hill view of the participants and their supporters."
"All right Dr Providential. We're running our of time. Please wind up your soliloquy before we're cut off the air. As much as you've said, and that I must confess is a great deal, I have yet to hear one word that has anything to do with the subject at hand. I hope you intend to bring us back to reality before you conclude."
"I intend to do just that Mr Shibboleth. My point is that if we get too involved in the game of life, or in this case, the church, we can't see it for what it really is. We must try and detach ourselves from the concentrated aspect of the individual church we happen to belong to, and see the Word of God, not through the eyes of doctrine, but for what it is trying to tell us. God is not in the doctrine or the beliefs of any church. If we try to force Him into our beliefs we won't see Him any more than anyone can truly see us for what we are if they try to view us through their prejudices or their casual impressions, or if they judge us according to what others have to say about us. We accept this as fact when it comes to ourselves, but we don't give it a second thought when it comes to judging God and His Word. We are game players. We like to be on a team. And we want to believe that team, or that denomination, or that church, is the best one and the right one to be on. But if we don't break from such a view, we will very likely find ourselves with the world as it struggles hard to drag the churches into its Humanistic and ungodly views. However if a person was to step back and take a serious look, they will see that the world is winning the battle for the souls of men and women. We see this in the church as a whole, but very few people will take an honest look at their own church and see that it is happening to them as well. And that. Mr Shibboleth, is why the world is winning the ecumenical battle, even though, by its philosophy, it has nothing to win. The church, if it truly believes that there is a Heaven to gain, and a hell to avoid, would devote every effort toward winning the ecumenical battle, just as does a soldier or a soccer player on the field. But because we don't play the game of church with even as much seriousness as that child in a sand box, I suspect our belief in God and eternity has gone the way of Balaam, and of Israel just before the dispersion."
"Thank you Dr Providential for your views on the church and ecumenicalism. And with that I will close this session of Ask the Theologian. This is Paynim Shibboleth bidding you all a happy and productive day."
14By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: 15For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. (Mat 13:)
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