It’s hard to avoid talking in circles when discussing doctrines with
members of the church, simply because words don’t mean what we would
expect them to mean. Thus, the conversation goes in circles, because the
meaning of words keeps shifting.
A case in point
was a recent conversation about rules. It was denied emphatically that
the church had extra-Biblical rules. I asked if church members were
allowed to have Facebook accounts. There was a long pause. “There is no
rule against it, but it’s taught against.”
So how exactly
does that work? Does the word “rule” mean something different to them
than to me? If I, as a person of authority in my household, instruct my
kids not to have a Facebook account, that’s a rule for all intents and
purposes. Even if I give my kids a pretense of choice about having a
Facebook account, but rebuke them at the dinner table if they choose to
have one, it is still obviously a rule of the house, whether I call it
that or not.
The subject turned to movie theaters. I
got the same answer: “We don’t have a rule you can’t go into a movie
theater, but we do teach against it.” I got even more of a pause when I
asked if this person would be rebuked if they entered a movie theater
and a teacher found out about it. “I don’t know because I wouldn’t do
it” was the only answer I could get. I think we all know the real
That is the textbook definition of “teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” Teachings of men are routinely called out when
it’s the Catholics, Baptists, or Mormons. When Ellen G. White came up
with her dietary rules for Seventh Day Adventists, do you think Merie
gave her a pass because her rules weren’t really rules or doctrines, they were just “judgments?’ Of course not. And rightly so.
I have to assume the church is well-meaning by its many extra-Biblical teachings. No doubt, they are only intended to help and guide. But for the sake
of an honest conversation, let’s simply agree to call them what they
are. They are rules, or teachings that go beyond what inspired Scripture actually
says. Here’s my judgment: It’s far better to remain silent where the Bible is silent than to speak where God didn’t choose to speak.