Beneath the Surface

September 21, 2006

I think there is another current running below the surface in the ICOC Unity Proposal debate.

On one side there are people who fear that, without structure and regulation, people will not do the right thing, and entire groups will wander off into apostasy. To prevent that, they seek a way to exert influence, causing people to make correct choices. Those on the extreme edge of this mindset seem to be trying to make the decision for the others, to ensure they don’t make the wrong decision. Those who have this mindset try to spell out what everyone should do, and use all means necessary to cause them to do those things.

On the other side are people who believe God wants followers who serve out of a cheerful and willing spirit, and not under compulsion. They reason that God certainly could compel us to be a certain way, but he has not. Since He has not done so, they conclude that it would be wrong for us to supply the missing compulsion. Instead they endeavor to set forth the truth plainly and let the Word do the work in individual people’s consciences.

Those practicing the former approach presume that they know what is best, but that others do not. They trust their own motives and wisdom, but not those of others. In that model, the leader becomes the benevolent (hopefully) monarch. The monarch exercises authority for the good (hopefully) of all. The good of the people hangs on the leader being right, and having the right heart. As the history of Israel illustrates, (see 1 and 2 Kings), human leaders in this model eventually go bad and lead their followers to destruction.

In the latter approach, there is a risk of chaos, as each individual follows his own conscience. But eyes of faith can see the Word of God creating order out of the chaos. Even while some people “go bad,” others are moved by the Word to seek and to obey God.

These two philosophies lead to two very different concepts of unity. The former seeks unity by aligning everyone with the orthodox beliefs and practices, using direct control and manipulation if needed. In this philosophy, the goal is compliance. The latter seeks unity by advocating patience and tolerance while each person works out his own salvation. The former puts the responsibility on a man or a group of men to make it happen. The latter relies on the Word of God to draw people toward unity.

Jesus allowed the rich young ruler to walk away. He presented the truth, and then let him make a decision. I believe that is the example we should be following. We should extend the freedom to choose and to learn, rather than demanding compliance. And we should acknowledge our own need to learn as well.


  1. Well, I am part of a ‘benevolent monarchy’ these days. And I’d really rather have the latter. But, if we took a vote tomorrow, the vast majority here would say they prefer the monarchy. I guess it’s really just a matter of human nature; you take the path of least resistance. Most of the people I talk to say everything seems so much better than the turmoil of 3 years ago; there is direction, etc. so why change?

  2. Good post. If I may add something, I have seen that those that wish for the monarchy can be for or against the UP. In other words, there are reformers that wish to change by having a benevelont dictatorship. I know that I have felt that way, at times.As far as why folks want the ‘nice’ monarchy, well, that is another post in itself.

  3. Hey TTK,Some people talk about how bad it was after the HKL, and others talk about how bad it was before. Control smells just a bit too much like the pre-HKL era to some people.PK,That’s interesting. Maybe control brings some security in the short run. My concern is where will it ultimately lead.

  4. Whatever happened to”work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”?This statement is one of the “therefore’s” after the church is told to be of one mind having the same love, and of one mind.

  5. Alan, excellent couple of posts. You’ve managed to say much of what I feel without the attitude I bring to the table. :-PThanks.

  6. Oh, and TTK, I’m among the benevolent leadership as well. I think our role is to teach the flock how to think, even though they want us to think for them. Just like my kids, who at times just want me to tell them what they should do. If I do so every time, I do them a diservice. Instead, I want to teach them to figure out what to do. Then, when I am not around, they will be ready.

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