Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Things to remember as you read what I'm going to say about boundaries in human relationships...

One...I believe the bible is the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God in its original manuscripts, and means what it means even when it gives statements whether recorded as from the devil, opinions of its writers, strange facts relating to early biblical cultures, or speaks on any issue which it addresses. All of it is accepted by me as God's Word given to me primarily for life and as the revelation about the One who is Himself, the Way, the Truth, and the life, and the final revelation of God.

Two...I'm theologically conservative and yet have found that I agree completely and totally with NO single theologian I've read or studied, living or dead. I fully expect this to be true for the rest of my journey. I'm also continuing to discover how I sometimes mistakenly interpreted the text concerning some of the non-salvific issues found in scripture. Which interpretation I accepted early on and had to adjust later in my bible study journey as I restudied those texts and this too will continue I'm sure.

Three...I'm convinced that most Southern Baptists are woefully ignorant of relational principles that are essential for building good human relationships and are, therefore, basically lacking in good healthy human relationships.

Four...I believe that relational principles are valid for life and are good for Christians to know even if they are not specifically stipulated or stated in scripture, as long as they do not violate scripture or are taught as if they are as sacred as scripture. In other words, any relational principle one might learn need not be viewed as an enemy just because it is not declared in the bible. But they are not to be viewed as sacred either.  Just helpful if we choose to pay attention to them.

You may be thinking, "Why the disclaimer?"

It is because sometimes people who talk or write about human relationship in terms of relational principles are thought of as being unbiblical in their approach, or worse, being anti-scriptural, talking in psychological mumbo-jumbo, heretical, and a host of other less than Christian labels that have been used. So, I've identified who I am and what I believe from the start. Now reread the four points previously written if you choose. They will make a little more sense perhaps.

All this because my next post is going to deal with the relational principle of boundaries which, when first heard by a Christian, may sound as if it is unchristian to the core. It did to me a few years ago. I couldn't reconcile it with my view of a Christian serving God and people. I certainly couldn't reconcile it with my view of a crucified self and the scriptures telling me to turn the other cheek and when compelled to go a mile...go the extra mile... by choice for crying out loud. Boundaries? I didn't think so.

But what brought about a different way of thinking was when I discovered that some of my ways of being a servant to others were not really loving THEM at all and were, in fact, doing great damage to them. I also discovered, much to my dismay, that some of the service I was doing as a Christian was actually for MYSELF and not for others as I tried to think or project. When I put that in my pipe and smoked it [not literally, just my metaphor for contemplation], I had to do some heavy evaluating about my life as a Christian and a follower of Jesus.

This last statement segues into my final thought.

It was when I discovered that Jesus had boundaries in His relationships with people that set me to thinking in a new way. Boy, was that an eye-opener. While the scriptures don't speak of boundaries specifically, I found that Jesus modeled such in His own life. He never seemed to make a choice that was because someone else had made a bad choice. His choices seemed to be genuinely independent of whatever someone else wanted or desired in the moment. He wasn't pressured into them. His motives for what He chose to do were higher than that and maybe even of a different kind than that.

So He was, it seemed to me, never a victim of circumstances even those that damaged Him or at the mercy of the actions of other people. He never seemed to act out of desperation or because if He didn't do SOMETHING others might be hurt, suffer pain, or suffer some kind of discomfort. Yet He never seemed to NOT love or NOT care for others or NOT have the actual best interest of others at heart.

His actions certainly seemed to me to be above the realm of having been done so He personally would not be the cause of others having an uncomfortable experience in life. His choices seemed to be determined by what, in fact, He saw as something the Father intended for Him. There was a greater something in view than being at the whim and mercy of others' plight. What was it about Him in human relationships?

It was almost as if Jesus always took a divine step of applying the proverbial oxygen mask [of life] to Himself BEFORE He ever attempted to get others to see and experience their need for an oxygen mask [of life]. Any frequent flyer will understand that, but few of us seem to understand it relationally.

Jesus did apparently understand it and what I saw and came to understanding about Him I will attempt to explain in this thing of boundaries. I will attempt to show how boundaries will help us in having REAL relationships in our marriage, family, with friends, and even in the Church, that are graceful, respectful and healthy. Which may just be another way of saying Christlike.

That post next time.

Paul B.


Anonymous said...

You do well in saying you agree with no single theologian.
That's because in a room with two Baptists there are usually three opinions.

Your article says it is Christian to have boundaries in relationships. And your first sentence has a very dictatorial boundary word (inerrant) that's been used as a password for acceptance by the SBC since the Conservative Resurgence.

This word has not been accepted by the old conventions of Virginia and Texas. This boundary of not accepting inerrant, excludes anyone from being a missionary or an employee of the SBC.

If this word is so important, how did Christianity exist 1900 years without it? Why is it NOT in our Baptist Faith and Message? Why did it take 300 Bible scholars to find its definition? A definition that says what I would call a Bible error; an illusion. Have Baptists grown with this word or have they decreased?

In my opinion from all the confusion, heartache, and quarreling over 'inerrant' I wish the word would go back where it came from – the smiling lips of the devil.

Paul Burleson said...


I hear you. I don't know that I agree with your idea of where it came from, but I do know it's often mis-used today.

Words can lose their way on occasion. [The word "gay" comes to mind.] But I'm not sure the origin of a word is necessarily evil because it winds up ultimately communicating something that wasn't its intended purpose.

The word "inspiration" was used originally to speak about origin or being God-breathed. It is a good word when used that way.

The word "infallible" was used originally to speak about the fact that the scriptures won't lead in a wrong direction when understood. It is a good word when used that way.

The word "inerrant" was used originally to speak about the fact that the original text [manuscripts] was not capable of being incorrect and was intended to speak of the nature of that original text only. It is, too me, a good word when used that way. [Why this is important is another whole discussion.]

BUT...I agree that it has been sabotaged by many in Baptist life and has become a red-flag word that can, in fact, sabotage some otherwise excellent discussions.

It is with this in mind that I see the value of your comment and will certainly attempt to be careful that I don't misuse or even overuse that word in the future. I actually don't see much value in it anymore unless its original purpose were to be recaptured.

[I'd use 'was' if I thought it possible but choose to use 'were' to show it's impossibility. So that it WILL be recaptured is a pipe dream on my part I'm sure.]

Thanks for the comment.

Rodney Sprayberry said...

Full Disclosure:

I am "shooting from the hip" with a few ideas rattling around in my brain.

Reading Rex's comment to your post and then your subsequent response I think is a good illustration of the value of what you are talking about.

Every time a person interacts with another whether it be in a conversation or some other relational way everyone brings their "baggage" to the table.

These suitcases are full of assumptions,perspectives, preconceptions,interpretations of reality and expectations(some realistic some not so much).

Every person's suitcase is different than the others.

Couple that with the reality of the sin nature which left unchecked produces, among other things, self-protection,self-centerness, and self-promotion and it can be a recipe for a relational mess.

So inevitably stuff like misunderstanding, confusion, conflict will occur.

It is always helpful to have:

Clearly agreed upon definitions, expectations,and limitations...

Clearly acknowledged preconceptions, interpretations, and perspectives...

Such is the stuff that boundaries are made of.

A wise counselor once told me

Relational boundaries help bring people TOGETHER in healthy relationships. Relational baggage keeps them APART with dysfunctional ones!

Looking forward to your next post

Christiane said...

The concept of 'healthy' boundaries in relationships IS Christian, if it is rooted in respect for the dignity of the human person, as made in the image of God.

Where there is little or no respect for another, lines may be crossed that should not be crossed, possibly leading to contempt and abuse of the other person;
and conversely lines may be drawn that keep us apart, 'above', and separated from the 'others' in our minds and hearts, so that we no longer see that goodness in them that can come only from Our God.

Paul Burleson said...



Raised a warning about the use of the word "inerrant" that I think is valid BECAUSE of it having become a battleground within itself.


Presented precisely, in my opinion, what the purpose and make-up of boundaries are.


As usual said in very few words the precise BASIS for the validity of recognizing boundaries as legitimate, if not stated Christian doctrine.

I'd say this is a good start to looking at any topic. Way to go all.

Anonymous said...

Thanks. I was afraid my comment would get the Ax. :)

The link below is a four page article on eight definitions of inerrancy that was printed in the newsletter of Texas Baptist Committed by James C. Denison. He was was a former professor at SWBTS, and was the pastor of Second Ponce De Leon Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia in 1994.

I was a happy-go-lucky Baptists, but had my present view of Acts 15. I'd missed the smokescreen 'battle for the Bible' Baptist war. I liked one of Denison's definitions of inerrancy because it fit me to a Tee. To me, it meant I was no longer a Lone Ranger in my thinking.

I was passing out copies of his article at SWBTS until I was told I had to get permission. Being denied; I argued the school had no more freedom than my missionary son had with Muslims.

The man in charge said, “That's interesting. I'll take it up with the Board and let you know. We have a brand new Board and we can do anything we want.”

It was probably the same Board that fired Russell Dilday. Someone at the school must have called Denison because his secretary called and said he would appreciate if I did not pass out his article as he was dropping the issue.

Paul Burleson said...


No profanity!! ;)

Seriously, I have no problem discussing and even disagreeing over the nature of the scriptures which we believe tell us of Jesus.

And since I believe the center of all theology is Christ himself, and not the bible, I will go on disagreeing with people I love and will do it in a respectful way. My theology grows out of Christ, is based on Christ, and focuses on Christ and that means a lot to me.

I don't remember who said this about the differences between Evangelicals and Fundamentalists but I sure agree...

"One of the hallmark differences between a fundamentalist and an evangelical is a willingness to dialog over the issues. A fundamentalist condemns; an evangelical thinks."

I'm not a "Fundamentalist" and I don't think you are either. So we can dialog with differences.

Aussie John said...


Computer problems are limiting me from writing what I want to. Using someone else's 'puter.

Sufficient to say,"Bravo! I like!" I'm grinning broadly, as I remember that the road is rough to where you have come.

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J,

When we miss your "voice from down under," which we have done for a while now, I get concerned. I'm glad to find it's computer problems and not health. Your comment is a "sight for sore eyes." [A Yankee expression for a delightful thing.]

Anonymous said...

“A fundamentalist condemns; an evangelical thinks.” I like that!

I believe a lot of fundamentalist disguised themselves with the stolen name 'Conservative' and with their 'battle for the Bible', removed from the 1963 BFM:
“The criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ” and “The sole authority for faith and practice among Baptists is Jesus Christ whose will is revealed in the Holy Scriptures.”

(To me, that is interpreting the Bible through the eyes of Jesus.)

I believe those statements were the backbone of Baptists, but fundamentalists replaced them in the 2000 BFM with a statement that in my opinion puts more emphasis on the Bible than Jesus. They wrote:
“All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.”

I believe fundamentalists are zealous for the Bible about like Christians were zealous for the laws of Moses in Acts 21:20.

In the early 1900's, atheists started using the crazy reasoning that God did not exist because the Bible was not perfect.

Fundamentalists rebuked them with the SAME crazy reasoning that God existed because the Bible was perfect.

God exists because: “I AM” and another million reasons, but NOT because the Bible is perfect.

“You shall have no other gods before me” includes the Bible.

I'm afraid fundamentalists get the cart before the horse in their zeal for the 'messenger'.

Anonymous said...

On a project in Japan, I worked with a man who had a master's degree in religion.

A year later at a SBC in Dallas, I helped him pass out a paper he had written against inerrancy. We were demoted to the sidewalk by a 'bouncer'.

He reminded me of those yelling, “Long live our god Diana!” by his screaming, “We have our inerrancy, and nobody is going to take it away!”

Well, Rodney – that's my “baggage”. In Paul's great preaching to us, he condemned the blood disappearing from Baptist church services. (I guess the first place would be the song service.)

Likewise you can see from what I've written my concern for the 1963 BFM not being in our BGCT church constitution as a paper said we would be led to accept the 2000 BFM.

Paul Burleson said...


I've appreciated your thoughtful last couple of comments. I agree with MUCH of what you've said and maybe have my own questions about some of what you've said. But that's only to be expected isn't it!!

I, too, appreciated Rodney's reminding us of our baggage we tend to bring to a conversation. His reference to baggage was what caught me up short and reminded me that my baggage is, having come from a family of origin that was angry and argumentative, I tend to react to ANYONE who seems angry or seems to be arguing for the sake of an argument. [Sometimes they don't know what hit them. ;)]

With that in mind, I am able to respond differently to whomever I'm reacting against because of taking personal responsibility for myself rather than trying to get someone else to think or act differently.

It's funny how a simple little word "baggage" can help set me straight in human relationships. Thanks Rodney for a timely word.

Rodney Sprayberry said...

And thank u for reminding me that there is a difference between a reaction and response. The stuff in my suitcase makes it difficult to make the distinction! As of late, I have had to work hard at separating the two! ;)

Debbie Kaufman said...

I believe the Bible is inerrant, not my interpretation of the Bible, nor any other human being. So many have been hurt by that word which to some means their interpretation is infallible. I am glad to see those who disagree able to freely comment here and dialog. But I would expect nothing less from you.

A hard lesson I am learning, boundaries in relationships is Biblical. Is Christian. It's also freeing. Thank you for this.

Paul Burleson said...


Thanks for stopping by. It reminds me how much I miss your voice on the internet.

I've posted the next segment on relationships. Let me know what you think and speak to it if you would.