Saturday, 25 May 2013

Principle v. Method

There's a difference between a principle and a vehicle of expressing that principle.

There are a variety of ways in which an ethic can be displayed.

Love can be shown in different ways.

A responsibility can be fulfilled in a number of different ways.

Christians walk in love and fulfil the underlying principles, ethics and responsibilities of the Law. But we don't use the same vehicles of expression that Israel used under the Law.

Moses' Law gave Israel a method of expressing eternal ethics. We as Christians live all of those ethics, but we don't express all of those ethics through exactly the same model.

Churches in a war-zone or in persecuting countries may not be able to express some Christian practices in exactly the same way that we in peace-time or in a free country can. But the same principles will always be enacted no matter where or what.

Therefore the way a principle can be expressed in one church at one time can't become the requirement for another church in different circumstances. But the principle can remain the standard.

How to know whether we're pushing a method instead of the principle? If it can't be done exactly the same way in a war zone and in peacetime alike - in a persecuting country and in a free country alike - then it's a method not the principle. But if it can be done in all places at all times in all circumstances - though in a variety of ways - then we've identified the principle.

This might apply to models of church government and models of financial responsibilities towards church and mission. Don't narrowly demand a particular method instead of the ethic itself. Don't confuse a method for the principle. Otherwise you might condemn the guiltless.

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