There are 2 parts to this: First, I think the doctrine's question is extremely misleading. It is a red herring
, if you will:
churchmouse wrote:I'm greatly disturbed because of a new doctrine being taught in the congregation I attend. ... It contends that we all sin all of the time without knowing it.
I emphasized the misleading part. What can we do in response to what we do not know? Nothing! So, what is the real thrust and agenda of the question? I think people are really trying to justify at least one of two different propositions:
- We are not responsible for what we do not know, also known as "sins of ignorance". Conclusion: Let all the preachers argue the finer points. If it's all too technical for you, don't sweat it. God doesn't really care about those details anyway. As long as you judge yourself or even someone else to be sincere, it does not matter if there are any contradictions between their teaching and Scripture. Confidence in salvation and fellowship should be enjoyed regardless of differences.
- We are not responsible for repeatedly committed sins, even those we know. This concept is also known as "sins of weakness". Conclusion: If you are struggling with some sin, don't sweat it. God knows we are not perfect, and He does not really expect us to be. Everybody has their struggles and vices. God will save you, even if you can't ever muster the conviction to overcome.
These two ideas form the backbone of a doctrine known in some circles as "continual cleansing" or "walking in the light'. Its primary proof-texts are I John 1
and Romans 7
, although there are many more. I don't think this is the format to offer a detailed rebuttal. (I'm planning to write a few articles on this in the future.) But, I'll offer a few "ungetoverable" passages, IMHO:
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, wrote:Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one's praise will come from God. (I Corinthians 4:2-5 NKJ)
The fundamental problem with this "continual cleansing" or "walking in the light" doctrine is that it is presumptuous. As Robert Turner used to say, it's "whittling on God's end of the stick":
Obviously, there is some judgment Christians must make against other Christians (I Corinthians 5
, one chapter later in the same book). In the above verse, Paul is clearly talking about final judgment dealing with heaven, hell, and eternal salvation. And, he tells us to stay out of that arena! Continual cleansing wants to settle first whether an given thing will cost you or someone else their soul, and then second, it backs into the conclusion that you don't have to correct such a sin, worry about, or draw lines of fellowship over it. It's fundamentally broken, because it operates in the arena of the Eternal Judge, which is strictly forbidden (James 4:11-12
). We are to leave all such judgment in the Lord's hands. "Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes."
Any doctrine that operates upon the platform of knowing God's judgment before that time is not only broken - it's forbidden!
Paul was unwilling to justify himself based on his own conscience. (His past history makes it obvious why that is broken, Acts 22:3-5; 23:1
.) If an inspired Paul was unwilling to justify himself based on his own examination of his sincerity, integrity, sacrifices, etc., then how can anyone else claim that same standard will somehow justify us today? Furthermore, if we cannot use that as a standard to judge our own hearts, which we see and know intimately, how can we use it as a standard to judge other's hearts, who we see even less clearly (I Corinthians 2:11
)? It is no wonder such judgments are considered as a "very small thing"
! They have very little credibility and accuracy.
In regards to overlooking "sins of weakness" and not condemning those sins in ourselves or others, please consider this NT example:
Paul, an inspired apostle, wrote:Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, "If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews? (Galatians 2:11-14)
If ever there was a sin committed by a godly man that was uncharacteristic of his life, would it not be this sin of Peter? He caved to peer pressure. Can we not all sympathize with that? Is that not a struggle for all of us? Yet, Paul openly condemned him, "because he was to be blamed"
! If sins of weakness are automatically forgiven, then why did Paul judge Peter?
Examining all of John's first epistle reveals some helpful, clarifying words:
John, an apostle of Jesus Christ, wrote:... And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God ... (I John 3:3-10 ESV)
This not only refutes the ongoing sins of weakness, but at last, it answers your original question. Christians do not just keep on sinning, whether they are aware of it or otherwise. If they do, then something is broken in them or God's Word ("for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God"
), because God here implies that His Word is sufficient to correct us.
This is the blasphemous fallacy of these doctrines. In essence, the doctrine ultimately accuses God and His Word of not being sufficient to do what He promised it could and would do:
... by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets ... (Ephesians 3:3-5 NKJ)
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (II Timothy 3:16-17 NKJ)
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer (II Timothy 2:15-17 NKJ)
God has promised that we can read His Word, understand it, obey it, and have confidence in our own salvation based in some measure thereby. Do we believe His promise or not? This is a matter of faith.
Yes, self-judgment is one
part of our standard for confidence, but it is not the only
part. Again, if one knows he is continuing in sin, then his condemnation is already known to him (I John 3:3-10
). However, there is more to having a Scriptural basis for confidence and fellowship than affirmation of one's character or sincerity. We must compare the actions and words of ourselves and others to the final standard, God's Word. For more info, please see the following article:
http://www.insearchoftruth.org/articles ... saved.html
Are there difficult questions and hypothetical scenarios to be explained, even by both sides? Maybe so. I think every hypothetical situation can be matched with another one of equal and opposite persuasiveness. Why? It's hard to be the Judge! And, none of us want to draw a line that will exclude any of our family, friends, loved ones, or other "good" people in our eyes. Let us not "whittle on God's end of the stick" by lowering the standard, when God may have a completely different solution in mind and practice. We are out of our league here, folks! Otherwise, we will surely make the same mistake as the Sadducees, who "greatly erred"
, "not knowing the Scriptures or the power of God"
(Mark 12:27; Matthew 22:23-33; Luke 20:27-40
)! Let us not doubt God's power or ability to keep His promises (Jude 1:24; I Thessalonians 5:23-24; II Peter 3:14-18; I Corinthians 15:57-58
). Neither let us feel compelled to invent a way for Him keep His promise, just because we cannot conceive of any other way.
Lastly, no doctrine can be established just because its advocate is able to take a few potshots at his opponent. A doctrine must also be able to sustain itself in addition to
answering the opposing doctrine's questions. I know you said the advocates of this doctrine have their passages, and I mentioned a couple at the beginning, but they must also stand up to scrutiny before they should ever be considered for acceptance.
I pray you find this helpful. If you disagree or if you have other questions, I would love to hear them. Much more could be said on the topic, and certainly I could stand to do some more studying, praying, and meditating upon the subject. So, I look forward to hearing your thoughts from Scripture and your experiences with its opponents.