The Great Preventive/Preventative
Every -ism there is starts with a set of core beliefs; by definition, -isms are a distinctive practice, system, or philosophy founded upon some belief or another. The best way to remedy the proliferation of negative religious -isms, and to prevent them in the first place, is to stay in the word of God. Legalism exists because people leave off from the word. Antin…omianism exists because people leave off from the word. Amyraldianism, Armininiasm, Romanism, Calminianism, Adventism, Dispensationalism, every one of them is a departure from the word of God.
The problem lies in that every one of the …-ism-holders believes that they are in the word of God when they hold to such things; they truly believe that God is on their side. So what is the remedy? There is none, not for the world at large; that is why these errors persist to this day. But for the Christian, the best way to remedy these matters (and to prevent new errors from arising) is to have a mindset of (1) I think that I am right, (2) so does the other person, (3) let me really hear what they have to say (as objectively as possible), (4) as much as is in me by God’s grace, let me ponder it, pray about it, research it (in the ENTIRETY of the word), discuss it with the brethren, and (5) exhaust every reasonable effort to come to an agreement.
The opposite of this mindset is to state beliefs as something to be accepted as fact simply because it is stated. If we expect to be believed simply because we believe it; if we insist upon conformity simply because “we have always done it this way;” if we think “I’ve considered this matter multiple times already, what more can possibly be heard or said,” we close off our mind to understanding and our hearts to unity (and yes, I’m as guilty of this as anyone). I do not want to just declare and be heard, I want to be heard, considered, fact-checked via Scripture and either exhorted or rebuked depending upon where my words stand in light of God’s declaration. When dealing with biblical interpretation, our words must be backed by Scripture alone, and we must really “let” the Word speak (I dislike that “let” language… but I hope you know what I mean…). Will we do it perfectly? No — but if we come with this attitude and disposition, we may have better results… I hold to this mindset mightily in theory, practice is where I fall short. But to strive everyday to be taught of God as a child — that’s what I want. To truly come to the word as a little child saying “Father, please teach me” — what a blessing. It’s a blessing because the absolute truth is that I think that I know far more than I truly know and I do not want to walk all of my life in such a state. My prayer is that His word rules my life and doctrine, by the Spirit of God, and not my natural understanding of matters (no matter how careful or accurate I strive to be). The Bible must be the judge, not the opinions of men, their creeds, their councils, etc. We must be Spirit-led in these matters and we must encourage and exhort one another unto these things. Why? because God’s doctrine; his teaching and instruction, is divine and we must strive to feed spiritually from every morsel He gives to us for meat.
May the truth of His word be powerful in our hearts unto greater love, repentance, humility, and thanksgiving (things we can never have too much of).