Doctrine isn’t a something that I’ve written about explicitly before on All4God. There will have been elements of Christian doctrine that have seeped through in some of the articles, but in general I’ve kept the focus on life application and living out your faith rather than getting bogged down in deep theological discussions over issues like predestination or free will.
But a while back a friend asked me some deep questions about All4God’s position on certain issues, which caused me to have to do some serious reflecting before I could answer them (luckily she asked through a Facebook message so I could take time to reply without looking clueless!) Which got me thinking that maybe I should do an article setting out All4God’s position on certain issues. And then the other day I was reading a chapter from Mark Driscoll’s book ‘Religion saves + nine other misconceptions’ about the Emergent church. In it he made some criticisms of Rob Bell for leaving out some of the more ‘offensive’ parts of Christian faith in his teaching, and not dealing with certain issues. (I’m not going to enter into that debate here, but feel free to read Mark’s book and see what you think). And as I read it I realised that maybe I was guilty of not putting enough emphasis on those topics myself, instead focusing on Christianity mainly as “a moral way of life patterned after Jesus’ example” (Driscoll, pg 230) while in actuality there is more to it than that.
So over the next few weeks I intend on looking at a few different, wider, slightly more theological issues and make sure that they are ignored. Because we can’t just hide from the difficult questions, we need to face up to them, seeking Biblically sound answers. Some of the topics I intend on covering include judgement, hell, sexuality and alcohol (If you have other issues you’d like to see covered please suggest them in the comments!). But first I’m going to take a quick look at the importance of doctrine.
Doctrine isn’t a word that comes up too often in contemporary circles. It tends to get left to the really thick, complicated books that remain on the bookshelves of Christian bookstores. But even though we may not give it too much thought, we all hold certain doctrines to be true, and most of the different denominations of the church today exist because of a difference in doctrine. A doctrine is essentially a belief that someone holds to be true. And as Christians there are certain doctrines that it is essential we believe in, and others that don’t matter so much one way or another.
I think of it as a bit like Jenga (the game where you build a tower of blocks, then proceed to try and remove blocks and stack them up higher without the tower tumbling down). There are some core doctrinal beliefs that have to be there in order for you to have a saving faith – if you remove these blocks the whole tower will tumble down. And other beliefs can be pulled out, repositioned or refined without causing any problems.
In terms of what is essential, I would say the following are all definitely required, but would not go so far as to say categorically that they are all you need (I would also add that being saved is not merely an issue of believing the right things, for the devil ‘believes’, but of letting those beliefs impact you):
- The sovereignty of God
- The ultimate authority of Scripture
- The sinfulness of man resulting in our separation from Him
- Nothing we could ever do could reconcile us to God
- God loves us and wants to be reconciled
- Jesus was born by a virgin birth, and is the Son of God
- We are saved by grace alone through faith alone thanks to Jesus’ death on the cross and subsequent resurrection
Pull out any of those beliefs and the tower tumbles. For example, if you can’t accept that Jesus was born of a virgin, then you are basically saying the Bible is inaccurate and fallible, and also if he had an earthly genetic father He would no longer be the Son of God and no longer qualified to die in our place.
While these beliefs are essential, and removing them would cause the tower to fall there are other doctrines that our salvation is not dependent on, and which can be safely taken out. Doctrine such as predestination for example, or beliefs about whether Christians should or shouldn’t drink alcohol. But the sad thing is, while these issues are less important, debates about them seem to cause such split and division within the church. So maybe it is time for us to realise that as long as the core beliefs are there and the ‘tower is standing’ we shouldn’t worry about removing or adding blocks from other people’s piles, and instead make sure we focus on keeping our own tower solid. And also we should learn to carefully examine all teaching and make sure it isn’t neglecting the core doctrines of Christian faith.
What do you think?