It Is Written


There is one quote from the beginning of this book that I have been chewing on.  It has nothing to do with television, but rather with the power of the written word.

In the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, there appears a remarkable quotation attributed to Michael Welfare, one of the founders of a religious sect known as the Dunkers and a long-time acquaintance of Franklin.  The statement had its origins in Welfare’s complaint to Franklin that zealots of other religious persuasions were spreading lies about the Dunkers, accusing them of abominable principles to which, in fact, they were utter strangers.  Franklin suggested that such abuse might be diminished if the Dunkers published articles of their belief and the rules of their discipline.  Welfare replied that this course of action had been discussed among his co-religionists but had been rejected.  He then explained their reasoning in the following words: 

When we were first drawn together as a society, it had pleased God to enlighten our minds so far as to see that some doctrines, which we once esteemed truths, were errors, and that others, which we had esteemed errors, were real truths.  From time to time He has been pleased to afford us farther light, and our principles have been improving, and our errors diminishing.  Now we are not sure that we are arrived at the end of this progression, and at the perfection of spiritual or theological knowledge; and we fear that, if we should feel ourselves as if bound and confined by it, and perhaps be unwilling to receive further improvement, and our successors still more so, as conceiving what we their elders and founders had done, to be something sacred, never to be departed from.

Or in everyday English, “We’re not sure we’ve got everything right, so we’d better not write anything down, for fear we or those who follow us will treat it like scripture and be unable to further grow into the truth.”

What do you think about this?  Would it be wiser for a church to refrain from writing down their beliefs?  When we write down our beliefs, are we presuming that we have it all figured out? 

It’s easy to see how a church group can trip itself up with its own writings–just look at the Pharisees in Jesus’s time as well as many churches today.  So is not writing anything the answer? 

Having been in a church where their own precedents were consulted more regularly than the scriptures, I am tempted to say yes.  And yet, how does it work in real life?  Do you know of a church which has not written down its beliefs?

I’d love to hear opinions on this.



About dayuntoday

I'm a wonderer. I spend a lot of time mulling, pondering, and cogitating. This is just a place to park some of those thoughts.
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6 Responses to It Is Written

  1. Yes, yes and yes. I read that quote several years ago and shared it with as many people as I could. Thanks for reminding me!

  2. bafocus_2 says:

    Seems to me that the answer has to be that we need to continually search the Scriptures and pray to the Lord for improvement in our walk with Him. To me it doesn’t matter whether it is written down or not, it comes down to whether we are satisfied that we are “right”!  I think that once we become satisfied that we have it all down pat, we are in trouble. However, I would say yes to the above question, with this caveat ~ We need to be extremely careful that we don’t just “not write things down because of our past” but then we still think we have it all figured out and don’t search the Scriptures for more instruction in Truth. In other words I think that it is possible to not want to write any of our beliefs down, but still be so satisfied in the “rightness” of our beliefs, that we do not still search and pray for His Spirit to fill us with His truths!! And to guide us as we seek these things. I am afraid that too many people just jump from the frying pan into the fire in this area. It takes a committment to seek His will in our lives with every breath we draw. I am still learning this at 46!

  3. bafocus_2 says:

    The question that I would answer yes with caveat to is this one ~ Would it be wiser for a church to refrain from writing down their beliefs? 

  4. @bafocus_2 – “Would it be wiser for a church to refrain from writing down their beliefs?“That is a good question.  If you come up with an answer to that question, though, I would advise you to not write the answer down! 

  5.  “Would it be wiser for a church to refrain from writing down their beliefs?”I might be somewhat suspicious of a church that refused to write down it’s beliefs.  On the other hand, perhaps some loosely organized groups might have difficulty doing so?

  6. BooksForMe says:

    I haven’t seen churches such as the one you describe, so I only know of churches that do re-evaluate their beliefs as change happens. They go back to scripture. Pray, seek God. “Does everyone still agree that one says this?”  So, I think I am definitely in favor of writing doctrine down. I think the notion that writing it down makes it unchangeable is not true. Leaving it unwritten leaves it open to unwritten changes. How can there be consistent teaching of what that church holds to be true? And, how can you go to a church, or have a faith, that you aren’t sure is true? Yes, there is greater truth to be discovered, but shouldn’t that build on what is already known? My core beliefs are true. I’m dead certain. And, I’m glad my church, pastor, leaders, etc. are all in agreement.  Maybe, the Dunkers would still be around if they’d written what they believe down, too.

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