There are two elements of the Bible that makes it useful for people in living by faith: explicit statements about what is good and acceptable and what is wrong and undesirable; and principles that cover items that may not be explicitly addressed in the text of Scripture.

Explicit statements are not legal regulations, as some rigid people demand. They are first and foremost the thermometer of faith that is lived in humility.

For example, “Pure, unstained religion, according to God our Father, is to take care of orphans and widows when they suffer and to remain uncorrupted by this world” (James 1:27 God’s Word ©). So if someone lives by the norm of the American dream and hoarding wealth, or a cultural norm of racial supremacy, or chasing awards or other public recognition, such corruption “by this world” gives evidence that such a person does not follow a “pure, unstained religion”.

Or if a person who claims to follow Jesus does not live by the Ten Words [Commandments], loving country more than God, coveting the possessions of others or living a loose sexual lifestyle then such a person lives in rebellion against the God Who gave us those helpful words.

But then the second element consists of principles to guide right behaviour.

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An example here is the Great Principle [Commandment]: “He answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind.’ And ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ ” (Luke 10:27 God’s Word ©). So if a denomination, or congregation, demands standards for membership other than a discerned love for God, then that group has replaced the Great for the merely human.

There is great danger, however, when the principle is used to pervert the explicit and to correct God by discounting some explicit statement of acceptable spiritual behaviour. There are those who claim that the great principle of God is one of love, and then deny that the more distasteful-to-human explicit statements do not apply to this age or our cultural context. (Observe what was said above about cultural standards.)

One example is that many religious institutions have trivialized God’s expectations for marriage commitment, and not only allow divorce for causes other than adultery, but even rejoice when those divorced re-marry, contrary to the explicit teaching of Jesus. (“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman is committing adultery. If a wife divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery” (Mark 10:11-12 God’s Word ©).

So from all this I conclude this, that we cannot choose explicit or principle on a whim. Explicit is specific. Principle acts like a road sign where no explicit statement appears in Scripture. And since God is smarter than us do not tread the dangerous path of replacing absolute humility under the Hand of God with some version of human understanding to turn the life of faith into an amusement park version of obedience to our Saviour, Jesus Christ.