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.