Tuesday, July 14, 2015

7 Areas of Unbiblical Conscience Binding

In what is one of the most beloved statements penned in all of church history, the Westminster Divines explained that “God alone is Lord of the conscience, and has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in anything, contrary to his Word; or beside it, if matters of faith, or worship” (WCF 20.2). Few things can be so damaging to the church as when one believer seeks to bind the conscience of another believer with a personal application of a biblical principle of holiness. To be sure, we should all be zealous to teach and exemplify every principle of holiness taught in Scripture; but more often than not, individuals who are most zealous for holiness fall into the trap of teaching their personal applications of a biblical–or a supposedly biblical–principle of holiness rather than simply teaching the principle. After all, very refined personal applications of a principle tend to feel more potent–they make us feel more effective in our attempts to help people grow spiritually. However, the more refined the application the more we are in danger of crossing the fault line of legalistic conscience binding. To be sure, the line between pious advice and unbiblical conscience binding is a razor’s edge.

Many times such unbiblical conscience binding occurs in less than explicit ways. The personal applications are subtly presented as the principle. Sometimes they come in the form of an individual setting himself or herself up as the example of piety in application specific ways. You’ve witnessed this sort of thing. One believer tells another believer how often he or she prays every day, or how long he or she spends in the Scriptures each morning. Then, the conversation slides into exhortation without differentiation: “I’ll be glad to hold you accountable to doing this too,” or “I don’t know why more people don’t spend as much time praying…” Such attempts at unbiblical conscience binding occur in every sphere of life and ministry–often resulting in creating undue guilt in the minds and hearts of God’s people. Consider the 7 following areas in which you have most likely witnessed such unbiblical conscience binding.... Keep reading

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