Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Woodrow Kroll coined a word which he used on Back to the Bible, oughtness. He used it in relationship to prayer, in that we ought to pray. He defined oughtness as "that inner sense of obligation to obedience that many Christians find annoying and therefore unheeded." In the context of prayer, we sometimes find it difficult to pray because we pray and it seems like nothing is happening or we feel like we don’t have time. But we ought to do it.

One of the things that stood out from what Woodrow Kroll said is that he made a distinction between oughtness and legalism. It would be easy enough for us to make this into a legal requirement for religious practice. We might tell people, pray three times a day or God won’t bless you. But it isn’t a legal requirement. It is just something we ought to do.

But oughtness applies to more than prayer. There are a number of things that I see church people doing or not doing that bother me. Some of it is things clearly defined in the Bible and other things are just practices that have proven to be helpful over the years. I find myself wanting to say something about what is going on, but I question whether I’m just making a stink about something that doesn’t really matter. I wonder if I’m being legalistic by saying things should be done a certain way. Oughtness seems to be a very fitting word for this. There isn’t a law that says things must be done this way no matter what, but there is an oughtness. We ought to do things this way because it will help things run better and potentially avoid problems in the future.

Some people don’t want to be bothered with learning how things should be done, but they ought to. The world won’t come to an end if we violate some of these things. It isn’t written in stone and we might not be able to call some of these things a sin, but we ought to do things a certain way. There is a way that is better than other ways, and we ought to look for it.