Why CMI doesn’t answer all your questions
Published: 11 January 2018 (GMT+10)
As CMI-USA’s Information Officer, one of the most enjoyable parts of my job is answering questions from individuals across the world. They make me think about many ideas in different ways, and I’m constantly challenged to improve my answers as I’m challenged on my weaker points. I’ve even had to admit that someone changed my mind on an issue.
But the most common answer I have to give is, “I can’t answer your question.” That’s not because I don’t have a well-considered position on the issue, or because I don’t think it’s important. It’s because at CMI, we don’t want to be your all-in-one repository for every sort of theological question. We have a very specific mandate, and that’s to equip Christians regarding the scientific and biblical evidence for creation. Along with that, we defend core Christian doctrines like the Trinity, the virginal conception of Christ, the Resurrection, and the Deity of Christ. But we don’t take corporate positions on issues like baptism or eschatology because those are issues where brothers and sisters in Christ disagree and have little to do with our mandate. This is because on these issues, the authority of Scripture is assumed, while in the origins debate, the authority of Scripture is directly challenged by evolution and billions of years.
Many times, people write in and ask us to take a position on something like the Sabbath that would alienate a large portion of our readers. Or they even write in and confess deep, dark sins that they haven’t told anyone else about, because they feel more comfortable unburdening to a random person on the Internet. It’s very hard to not give them the answer they’re looking for, but it’s far more loving to give them the answer they need. What is that answer?
CMI is not the church
Jesus has given us a place to take our theological questions and to get help if we’re struggling with sin or difficult circumstances in our lives. That’s the church. God never intended for us to live the Christian life alone, disconnected from a local group of believers to whom we’re accountable.
While each person at CMI is a member of a local church, CMI itself is not a church, so we don’t pretend to fill every need a believer has that the church would normally fill. And so sometimes the best thing I can do for someone with a question is to disappoint them by refusing to give them an answer.
CMI serves the church
CMI is a parachurch ministry. That means that we seek to come alongside churches and help to equip them in this vital area. Pastors and church members often comment after having a CMI speaker visit that it has been extremely helpful in encouraging them regarding the truth of Scripture, from the very first verse.
Part of serving the church is recognizing when someone should really be going to their pastor for an answer to a particular question. If someone is asking a question that requires more discipleship or care than I can give in a short email answer, I’m very quick to tell them that I’m not the right person to help them. But I always follow that up by encouraging them to talk with their pastor (and if they don’t have a pastor and a local church, to find one quickly!).
This approach produces fruit!
One man wrote in with questions that he said were shaking his faith. I responded to his (very simple) creation questions, but told him that because they were making him question his faith, he needed to talk to his pastor. Before too long, he wrote in with more easy questions, which I answered, but again told him he really needed to talk to his pastor. When he wrote in a third time, I could have answered his questions, but I refused, telling him that his problem wasn’t that he had questions, but that he was disconnected from the church, and that he shouldn’t be surprised that his faith was unstable since he was disregarding God’s own means for strengthening our faith.
I forgot about him for a time, but months later he wrote in and said that he had heeded my advice and found a church. In being under the preaching of the Gospel, he realized that he had, in fact, never trusted in Christ, and as a result, he came to genuine faith! His email was to tell me that he had been baptized as a public display of his new faith and no longer had any doubts about his faith. Pointing him to the local church revealed his need for salvation, something that I could have never ‘diagnosed’ from a distance.
A duty to disappoint
It may seem odd that ‘experts’ have the duty to disappoint people, but that’s often my job. CMI is a specialist ministry that focuses on biblical creation, and we want to help equip Christians to refute evolution, but we’re not your church or your pastor, and we don’t want you to view us that way.
By all means, come to creation.com with all your questions, and write your questions in if our over-10,000 article archive doesn’t have the answer you’re looking for. But if it’s a question that you should be asking your pastor instead, don’t be surprised if I tell you that you need to ask your pastor!
Thank you Lita. You have stated your position beautifully.
Very wise stance. Your explanation of CMI's stance is full of faithful sayings and worthy of acceptance by all. (I Timothy 4:9)
Lita, all great points, but there is one part that I might have to disagree with:
"But we don’t take corporate positions on issues like baptism or eschatology because those are issues where brothers and sisters in Christ disagree and have little to do with our mandate. This is because on these issues, the authority of Scripture is assumed, while in the origins debate, the authority of Scripture is directly challenged by evolution and billions of years."
I have seen atheists bring up Matthew 16:28 and especially Matthew 24:34 as direct challenges to the Bible's inspiration and they've used this to claim Jesus is a false-prophet according to Deuteronomy 18. But to answer this charge, one must delve into eschatology. I understand this might be an issue that CMI might have to "let go" and let other apologetics ministries deal with it. But this is an issue that isn't just an in-house debate among Bible-believing Christians.
That atheists might use their misinterpretation as Jesus' words to try to discredit Him does not mean that believers can't interpret those words in different ways.
Even Jesus did not answer all questions. Read Mk 8:11-13 where Jesus was asked to give a sign by the Pharisees but he rejected.
I thank God for the ministry of CMI and pray for its mission, its staff and its supporters as I use its materials for personal growth and outreach.
Lita, I enjoy your “big picture” articles, and understand the pastoral sensitivities of referring an individual to a local Bible-believing church for their own good.
Clearly CMI is not the church, though many today question what the church is, or should be. Many NT churches were small gatherings of believers in homes (Mt 18:20), not denominational meetings in consecrated buildings.
Today’s society has allowed technology to divide and separate us - especially those who have grown-up with it. Many individuals confuse “friends” with a Contact List: they spend more time relating via technology than face-to-face, even when they’re in the same room! Some, having read the Bible on-line, have been called by God to repentance and faith with little input from other people. True repentance - loving God above all else (Mt 22:37) - requires us to give our lives to him, but loving (all) our neighbours as ourselves (Mt 22: 39-40) cannot be done at arm’s length through technology: real personal relationships come “with skin on”.
Some believe they can be a Christian without joining a church, and whilst there is nothing wrong with podcasts, some believe that listening to sermons on-line is a valid alternative to attending church. Surely both of these views must be wrong: if Christ did not come to be served but to serve (Mt 20:27-28), then we cannot truly follow Christ without doing the same. Failing to regularly attend a church will curtail our spiritual growth, and impoverish the church by our absence (1 Cor 12: 12-31): we must not stop meeting together (Heb 10:25).
Thanks, Lita and CMI, for walking this needed but fine line. CMI and similar groups need to stay away from controversies that are "unnecessary" for such para-church ministries.
In this context, what is necessary controversy vs. unnecessary controversy? Two--hopefully helpful--diagnostic questions, re distinguishing between them:
#1 With "unnecessary controversies" there is (a) a healthy commitment (by all view-holders) to all details in the involved bible texts being reliably present and true, while also an acknowledgment (b) of Christians not having total success in reliably understanding all those details. In this context, other factors make us receive the text signal in less than a totally clear way. Here, we have to agree to disagree.
In contrast--if I may presume to speak for CMI and other such groups--when God's word does give clear text signal (clear enough that everyone should understand it the same way)--but external flawed human-wisdom pressure makes some Christians not see that signal clearly, CMI has to speak out. Some pressured Christians even say that the details in the bible text are not reliably present (e.g., come from mythology). This must grieve the Holy Spirit. CMI, towards faithful prophetic witness, has to speak out against that, no matter how controversial.
#2 In healthy inductive bible study, we (1) attempt to notice all bible-text details, and (2) ask all Wh- questions about those details. In necessary controversies, wrongly-affected Christians block themselves (my own previous personal failure included) from noticing some answers, or the details themselves--or they even shy away from that neighborhood of scripture. Again, CMI has to faithfully and lovingly speak out--no matter how controversial the results.
I am a long time Creation reader & born-again Christian & would like to hear your comment on an article written in the latest Beyond Today magazine about their opposition to the Trinity. This is a lengthy article that, as far as I can determine overlooks the deity of Jesus. What do you think?
Thanks for your great service for Jesus. Ian lee
I haven't seen the article you mention, but CMI has written many articles defending the doctrine of the Trinity, which you can find by searching creation.com for 'Trinity'. If you need help beyond what these articles provide, I trust you won't be surprised if I send you back to your own pastor.
Thank you Lita for your faithfulness to our Lord and the wisdom and grace you display.. continue in the Word to be a blessing. ever grateful Winston