Don’t assume anything.
Journalists preparing news for publication are given the warning to verify their sources: “Check it out! If your mother says she loves you, check it out!”. While hopefully “mother’s story” checks out, the adage has its merits.
The Society for Professional Journalists espouses a Code of Ethics including the requirement that journalists: “Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error.” They’re warned to double-check sources, use more than one for the same article, and verify facts, all in order to make a strong case on evidence for what they’re about to publish. Readers rely on publications that insist on this level of accuracy, and lose faith quickly in those that don’t, and rightly so.
How important is that?
Should I apply those standards to important decisions I make? How common is that? The steady increase in the dissolution of marriages makes it questionable as to how much preparation is put into that decision, though the presence of many strong, godly marriages based on biblical principles stand out as being among those who do the appropriate work before making a life-changing “forever” decisions.
What about our priorities with regard to our walk with God, our connection to the eternal? Most people have a concept that we’re not on earth for ever, that something happens after we die, and that we have options now as to how we can affect that. How much planning is it worth?
What’s the risk?
In recent memory, a major news organization ran a story claiming documentation that proved the president in office at that time had falsely reported his military service. The “proof” was challenged and found to have been less than verifiable, at least in part because the written type more closely matched computer-based word processing (not available until many years after the document’s date) than the typewriters that were available at the time it would have been composed. The responsible staff resigned over the controversy, not because they were thought to have created a false report, but because of having failed to verify their sources for what they chose to report, and its resulting embarrassment and loss of credibility for the news organization.
The risk of failing to fully check out claims of Biblical doctrine in which one places their hopes of eternity with God are much greater than those of failing to check out an article before printing or broadcasting, don’t you agree? Yet, the prevailing wisdom on that matter often seems only as deep as looking around to see how many people are on the same doctrinal “boat” one is on, and feeling secure if there’s a crowd. “There must be safety in numbers” is the profoundly popular approach, even in the face of questions about the facts supporting one’s belief or for rejecting another belief system.
Many teachings of various churches today are based on assumptions that the experience and teachings of the early church were intended by God to only be valid through the writing of the New Testament, and were then to be replaced by other teachings. That’s an enormous assumption to make. Is it valid? Is it sufficient to disregard the fact that the early church experience, when people came to God, these believers received the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in other tongues, which occurred repeatedly in the Book of Acts? Is it not significant that this is still alive and well among believers today who obey the original gospel message, and therefore it has not been “replaced” at all?
How good are you?
When I finished John Grisham’s novel, The Confession, I noticed after the close of the book a note from Mr. Grisham, acknowledging that there could be technical errors, but advising there was no need to write him and point them out. The reason for the potential errors, Mr. Grisham stated was that he simply dislikes doing research to verify certain technical information relevant to the book he’s writing. With this approach, he will from time to time be able to expect an error or two. With his readership and quality in other aspects of his writing, he doesn’t have much to worry about — fans are going to read him anyway, because he’s that good. The rest of us, better do our homework.
The Word of God is our source for research when it comes to spiritual things. Is there just one source in the Bible to consider when talking about biblical salvation including speaking in tongues? Consider these references: 1) Isaiah 28:11, 2) Mark 16:17, 3) Acts 2: 4, Acts 10:44-46, 4) 1 Corinthians 14:18, 14:39. Though there are others, these fall into four categories: Old Testament (Isaiah) , Life and works of Jesus (Mark), Acts of the apostles (Acts), and writings of one of the founders of church, Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians). That’s a good source of references to confirm the reality of this part of salvation.
I’ve found the simplest approach of doing due diligence in research is to focus on what the apostles said to do, and what they were recorded as actually doing, in the Bible in the Book of Acts. This is the most straightforward method of checking my sources to be sure I’m living, speaking and writing what is trustworthy.
The apostle Paul told a young man he trained for the ministry in his letter to him, “Take heed to thyself, and to thy doctrine…” 1 Timothy 4:15 (KJV). It matters what we believe.
What do you think? Have you had an experience with untrustworthy claims of truth? Are you wary of claims of religious doctrine being verifiable vs. all-inclusive (“it’s all the same so why dig too deeply”)? Are you wondering how anyone can “know the truth”, as Jesus said we would do? Feel free to share your comments.