I have continued to think about the topic of convictions and opinions which I wrote about in my last post. I think Christians should be informed and knowledgeable, and should make decisions based on this knowledge, but should never become legalistic. Convictions are necessary, and people will hold opinions. Convictions, as differentiated from an opinion, must be built upon an absolute truth.
I looked up the passages of Scripture which deal with this very topic. There are a few, but one in particular jumped to mind, dealing with food sacrificed to idols.
In 1 Corinthians, Paul is writing to the Corinthian church, which I believe was made up of both Jews and Gentiles. He does a lot of 'correcting' in an attempt to get and keep the church on track with the original call of Christ. He tells them to continue on in the wisdom of the Spirit in which they began and goes on to address specific issues they are dealing with such as immorality and the eating of food offered to idols.
The topic of immorality presents an interesting contrast to the topic of food offered to idols. In 1 Cor 7, Paul bases his argument against immorality on an absolute truth:
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. 13 You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.”
He is saying, I think, that "freedom" taken so far that it tramples on God's absolutes is no freedom at all, but sin. This kind of false "freedom" is what I believe liberal religious people use to excuse all manner of sins such as fornication and homosexuality.
On the other hand, Paul deals with the topic of food offered to idols. In that day and age, as I understand it, idols were a very real and present part of the lives of much of society. Literally, animals were killed and offered (or dedicated) as sacrifices to these "gods". Many Jews would not eat this meat. In chapter 8, Paul says an interesting thing regarding the knowledge that the more mature of them possess about the fact that these gods are actually non-existent:
1Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. 2 Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. 3 But whoever loves God is known by God.[a] 4 So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.” 5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”)...7 But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. 8 But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do. 9 Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12 When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.
Key here, I believe, is that "knowledge puffs up, while love builds up" and "be careful that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak". It seems to me that even though Paul is saying that, yes, it is true (in the absolute sense) that these gods don't exist, and, yes, you do have a right to eat this food, that LOVE should be the driving motivation for the decision whether or not to eat it, and NOT the exercise of your freedom.
If it is going to cause someone to violate his conscience (what I would call a conviction, in this case), then don't just do it for the sake of exercising your superior knowledge!
It is not all completely clear to me yet, but it seems that convictions can indeed be based on falsities. In addition, those with 'more' knowledge, true though it may be, need to be careful to perhaps discuss and explain their knowledge to those with less, but to certainly not offend them willingly for the sake of 'freedom'. Love must be the primary motivator.
Like I said, this doesn't entirely clear up the topic of how we attain to the correct convictions that are based on the absolute truths. Which people have the 'more knowledge'? Those who home-school or those who public school? Those who stay home with their babies or those who don't? Those who wear skirts or those who wear jeans? Or doesn't it matter? If it doesn't matter, I get back to my usual problem of how a conviction differs from an opinion. If a conviction is based on a truth, and truth isn't a matter of opinion, the conviction should apply to everyone (perhaps parallel to holding the 'conviction' that meat offered to idols is wrong to eat, while the truth, acquired by 'more knowledge' is that it really is fine to eat it').
I'm just thinking out loud. Nevertheless these verses do indeed help us to keep our motivations correct when exercising our freedoms from what we consider to be 'uninformed' and 'inaccurate' convictions!