All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
-2 Timothy 3:16,17 (NIV)
Last week, Susie and I went to Cooperstown, NY. I guess you could say that it was a pilgrimage of sorts. Every true baseball fanatic needs to take the journey at least once in their lives to the Baseball Hall of Fame. I did mine. Last week. Of course, being that Cooperstown is little less than eight hours away from Uniontown makes it possible, if not downright likely, that another trip will happen in my lifetime.
Cooperstown was the home of Abner Doubleday, who, as it used to be taught back in the deep dark ages of my youth, invented baseball sometime in the mid-1800’s. Only, uh, he didn’t. The Hall of Fame fairly much discounts that anecdote about Doubleday. Researchers have unearthed records of game called “Base-Ball” being played in the late 1700’s in the states. Seems that bat and ball games were popular from the founding of the 13 original colonies and baseball probably originated from the British game of ‘rounders.’
As more and more people started playing a game called baseball in the early 1800’s each area and town created their own independent rules and playing fields. Each town would organize ‘intramural’ games between willing town folk; however teams traveling from one town to play players from another could not happen. Each town played by its own rules, each one had it’s own way. The game could not elevate itself outside specific neighborhoods and communities.
The real hero (if there needs to be one) is man by the name of Alexander Cartwright. Cartwright, the founder of the very first competitive baseball team in 1845, invented the modern baseball diamond, and consolidated and picked the best from all the various rules and organized them into a single rule book that same year. To this day almost every single rule Cartwright put into the book is still in effect. And while the outer dimension of baseball playing fields vary interestingly, the basic diamond, base, and pitching locations remain identical to what Cartwright proscribed in 1845. Any disputes in modern baseball playing are almost always settled by referring back to the ‘book’ which has changed precious little since Cartwright’s time.
We Christ followers also have been gifted with such a book to guide the way, although I would pray that we see it both more than, and different from, a straight forward ‘rule book.’ The Bible contains all that we need for faith and practice. Without it, we would be like all those local baseball players each playing according to the whims of their communities and never able to rise above it all. Each team, er, church could just make up its own conventions, its own independent ideas about Jesus Christ, who he was, and what he did. We could even then start assuming that there were many paths to be right with God. We could shape the baseball diamond and place the bases any ole way that suits our aspiration.
Please do not misunderstand me. I’m not advocating legalism. It’s not that we are not free in Christ, oh we are. But with that freedom comes responsibilities and relationships. And I do not believe we are free to ignore plain teaching from the gift that God has granted us, one that “is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” We ignore it to our very own peril.
As I write this I am want to apply this to the situation that the Presbyterian Church (USA) is in today. But it applies to me personally just as much, maybe more. Time to take the plank out of my eye and keep my eyes fixed on our Lord and Savior Jesus, “the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2) The real hero is not Alexander Cartwright. Far from it. It is Christ.