Against Doctrinal Infantilism
Last week, the author of Hebrews introduced us to the topic that is going to take up much space here in the middle of the book—the nature and importance of Jesus’ cosmic high priesthood.
He’s just told us that Jesus is a high priest after an obscure order of priests—one with a single member in all of the Old Testament, but one also with a mysterious and obscure promise attached to his name in the Psalms.
The author of Hebrews is eager to unravel the seven-hundred year-old mystery of Psalm 110:4, but before he can, something forces him to take about a chapter-long excursion on a different topic.
What could be so important as to divert the author from a topic that is important enough to take up the whole middle of the book? If I could oversimplify it for us up front here before we get into the details in a moment, the issue is that the recipients of the book are babies, and he wants to have a grown-up conversation. The issue is what we could call doctrinal infantilism.
Look with me at Hebrews 5:11, if you would, and we will see it together. This is the Word of the Lord:
“About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits.”