Friday, May 1st, 2009...8:50 pm

Just give me “stition”

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In the life of religion, there are always ditches on both sides of the proverbial road of faithfulness and obedience.

On the right we have superstition.  This ditch is characterized by  adding to the word of God.  The superstitious are often seen as being more “religious” than the faithful, and are proud of it.  The superstitious bind the consciences of others with all kinds of scruples.  They judge others for not tithing from their spice racks while they devour widows’ houses.   Fundamentalism often  ends up in this ditch, and this ditch contains the devout adherents of false religions.  Your classic poster boys for superstition are the Pharisees, the Judaizers and some of the late medieval scholastics.  A lot of monasticism ends up in this ditch as well.  Superstition is legalistic.

On the left we have what I will call “substition”.  This ditch is characterized by an outright rejection of God’s standards.  It is also the home of the self-conscious unbelievers.  All of your self-conscious agnostics and atheists are deeply entrenched in this ditch.  The substitious person overtly rejects the Word of God.  “Higher criticism,” theological liberalism, and overt atheism are all examples of high-handed substition, but you also see substition within Christianity.  The Christian who is quick to respond “we’re not under law but under grace,” and “judge not lest ye be judged” whenever their sin is confronted by the Bible, is also substitious.  The Sadducees, Sodom and Gomorrah, transcendentalism, Epicureanism, and civil religions like the “social gospel” are examples of substition.  Substition is antinomian.

Our third option is simply “stition”, that is to obey the Word of the Lord cheerfully and thankfully.  God’s word is a lamp to our feet and a light for our path.  It is the only way to avoid falling into either ditch.  Those who do not follow this light grope about in darkness.  If they get out of their own ditch, they will always overreact and land in the other ditch.

There are degrees to this.  There is a difference between tripping on a divot at the edge of the path and being at the bottom of a ravine.  There is a sense in which the genuinely saved still fall into both of these ditches after they are regenerated, as we are not perfected on this side of the resurrection.  We can also be inconsistent.  There are some issues where my greater temptation is superstition and other issues where my greater temptation is substition.  Thanks be to God that he has made a covenant with us.  We have a Good Shepherd whose rod and staff are a comfort to us.  He keeps us from falling into the ditches we otherwise would and leaves the ninety-nine sheep to rescue the stray.  God uses ordinary means to strengthen and encourage us.  This is another reason why it is so important to go to church to hear the Word preached and partake of the Lord’s Supper every week.

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