I continue my line of thinking from earlier by discussing the notion that ‘superior doctrine’ somehow equates to increased holiness. Now, to be fair, I do not believe I have heard too many pastors teach this idea outright. However, there is no argument that the majority (if not VAST majority) of Christian church teachings centers around nuanced theology. This provides an emphasis on doctrine over, say, holy living. Don’t believe me? Look at the average weight of American pastors. Remember, gluttony is a sin.
Ok… so that opening paragraph has a lot to unpack. First, when I discuss ‘doctrine’ in this article, I’m specifically referring to doctrines outside of the gospel message. I often refer to them as ‘minor doctrines’ or ‘petty doctrines’ even though, to be fair, many of them are not only worth of study, but have deep implications. However, as I have said multiple times in this blog, the heart of the matter in Christianity is the message of the Gospel. We are sinners who deserve Hell. Jesus died on the cross so that all who repent of those sins and believe on Him shall not suffer that fate, but have ever-lasting life. Those people become born again. Aside from this and the doctrine of love (A new commandment Jesus gave us directly), everything else is secondary.
I believe that ‘minor doctrines’ (i.e. the eternalness of hell, pre-destination, Calvinism, Trinitarianism, etc), while worthy of discussion, do not send someone to hell. Only one’s rejection of Jesus Christ does. If one repents of his sins, believes on Jesus, and becomes born again, he will be saved even if he is off on other things. The early believers had not even heard of ‘the Trinity’ back in they day, yet the many would say that if you do not, you are not saved.
I have seen pastors argue that while God can overlook ignorance, if they show you the proper doctrine, step by step, and you still reject it…well, that becomes a much higher offense! After all Paul kicked people out of the Church who taught differently than he did on these key matter. We could argue this particular point all day, but, ultimately, my take remains that if one becomes born again, following repentance and faith in Jesus, their other doctrines, while in error, will not send them to hell. Heaven does not have a multiple choice doctrine test to get in. Actually, it does. However, it has only one question. “Were you born again, yes or no?”
Now, this next point blows my mind. I have read the New Testament several times over. That does not make me an expert. So, please, read it yourself and have your own perspective. However, as I read it, while I see numerous passages dealing with ‘minor theological’ concerns here or there, I really do see an emphasis on 1) Faith in Jesus required, 2) a call to love one another and 3) a call to repent of sin and to live holy. What I do not see is a theme of becoming a master of minor doctrines for increased standing with God. Again, do not get me wrong… the Bible commands us to Study the Word of God! We are to do that, and discuss with one another. That means discussing our ideas on minor doctrines among other things. However, even this takes a back seat to the focus of the above.
We see a prime example of this in the qualifications given for an elder, or leader in the church.
“Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.” (1 Tim 3:1-7)
I have seen these qualifications etched in church’s bi-laws, but rarely discusses or looked into. Instead, in considering a new leader, the candidate must answer question after question about his theology, write papers along those lines, etc. But few, if any questions are asked about his character. Now, it could be extremely tough qualifying the above asking a few questions. Back in the old days, they did not have to! They chose elders and leaders from people in their ranks who they knew well. Today, especially with pastors, we tend to search from outside the body, making it exceedingly difficult to determine the above.
These qualification were clearly aimed at the points I made earlier… Is the person truly born again? Do they display the love of Christ? (For example, those who do earn the respect of their family) Do they walk in holiness instead of constant sin? What you do not see here, is a command to test if they believe in pre-restorationalism, post modernims, or any other -ism. Do they put their full faith in God and the Lord Jesus Christ? If so, they should clearly walk as He walked! Jesus said, “This is how they will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.” He did not say “This is how they will know you are disciples, if you have perfect theology.”
Again, to be clear, we can have neither perfect theology, perfect love, or perfect holiness in this life…far from it! But those who put their faith in God will certainly grow in the latter two. The Bible promises as much. And that’s why we should look to spend time with people who demonstrate Jesus’ love and holiness more than those who simply (think they) know it all.
Going to church, I often felt I was learning a new theology of the week. And, that has its place. However, if the messages of the church, or the opportunities interacting with others there do not lead you to grow in holy living (decrease in sinful living) and love… prayerfully ask God to guide your path. It may be to start a new movement within that church, or go somewhere else. Or, it may be to become unchurched, like me, and encourage and walk with other siblings of faith in a less traditional manner