Vol.VII No.VII Pg.2
September 1970

Ruts For Rules

Robert F. Turner

Out west, near Kingman, Ariz., time has preserved a segment of the old Santa Fe trail — ruts from wagon wheels, and pits where horses placed their hoofs, as they made a path over a rocky saddle. These ruts are cut in solid rock, evidence that this particular path was used over and over. We suppose there came a time when drivers followed the route because others had done so, with little thought that a better way might be found.

And the same is true with reference to our methods for doing things in the worship and work of the church. (1 refer to true expedients — things having generic authority, but for which there is no single means specified.) There is authority to sing, to teach and admonish in song, (Col. 3:16; 1 Cor. 14:15). There is authority to invite (Rev. 22:17). But there is no specific demand that we have preaching, then stand and sing an invitation song so people can walk down the aisle, confess their faith in the Lord, and be baptized.

But is it wrong to do it this way? As already stated, such comes within divine authority — it is NOT wrong — it is right. Nor is it too surprising that the other circumstances of a public preaching service should lead someone to adopt such a plan, and that others should follow the rut.

It is not wrong to follow a rut. Sometimes we become so averse to ruts that we would send each wagon helter-skelter over the terrain, each to cut its own way, rather than allow a path to be followed which would give the driver something to contemplate other than inventing new arrangements. But our story is not finished.

If the early Santa Fe drivers had allowed the ruts to become rules — so that future drivers were forbidden to seek new paths — the more direct and better grade of todays Santa Fe trail would never have been found. And in worship a far more vital aspect must be considered. When we follow ruts in worship, we tend to slog along, content with the form, and forgetting the real reason for coming this way in the first place. Soon, our rut becomes a rule that we regard as though it were divine.

It is not the rut that is wrong; it is our party spirit and love for our own traditions that blinds us to the human source of the rules we impose. It is our unwillingness to prove all things by Gods word and refuse to bind anything but that which God has bound — to loose anything but that which God has loosed.

Ruts For Rules Make Sectarians!