Well, Friday’s post was really productive…
And by “really productive,” I mean a lot of us didn’t agree on anything. But that’s what made it so much fun!
It’s often times the comments on one post that prompt me to write another post. Wednesday’s comments prompted Friday’s post. Friday’s comments led to this post.
Anyway, does anyone else remember that song “Blessed be the tie that binds?”
I wonder what the “tie” is that’s supposed to be binding us…whatever it is, it doesn’t always work. Christians figure out how to disagree on worship, prayer, music, evangelism, social justice, sanctuary carpeting, and the proper way to make potluck baked beans, just to name a few things. Obviously, none of those things can be the tie that binds.
I guess what the song is saying is that whatever we disagree on, we at least agree on what we believe about God. That’s what makes us Christians. We can identify our own kind because we believe the same things. Case closed…
…If only that were the case.
I think there’s a new Christian swear word. It’s very versatile, and can be thrown back and forth between oppnents like any good swear word.
The word is…doctrine…pardon my French.
Christians either live and die by doctrine, or accuse those that do of being narrow-minded, argumentative and judgmental.
So it got me wondering…is doctrine the tie that binds Christians together, or the new Christian “D” word.
Point: Doctrine is what unites Christians.
Okay, you and I know that this blog isn’t really the high water mark of debating the finer points of Christian doctrine. But there’s a lot of people who love doctrine. I actually really like listening to The Bible Answer Man with Hank Hanegraaff, and all he talks about is what I should belief. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s something about his voice that I find comforting.
No doubt, Paul doctrined like a sailor. He was always “God-doctrine” this and “Jesus-Christ-on-a-cross-doctrine” that. Pretty much everywhere he went, he offended people with his off-color and explicit doctrine talk. He even offended Peter, who actually was a sailor.
John Piper comes to mind. Man, that guy is really sure of what he believes. And he believes something about…well, everything. It seems everything is a point of doctrine for that guy! I’m not criticizing. I admire his assurance that he’s right about everything. Reminds me of someone I know…hmmm.
Mark Driscoll just wrote a book, simply called Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe. The title of that book says it all. It seems like it would be simple enough. Everyone who believes certain things about the Bible, God, and Jesus are Christians. Those who don’t are unsaved, and ripe for evangelism. And then there’s Brian McLaren, who just confuses everyone about what he believes.
Let’s face it. Christians don’t have a lot in common. Actually, we have practically nothing in common. Look at some of the people in your church? Would you hang out with them if it weren’t for Jesus? Have you ever had an epiphany at Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner about the thin bonds of DNA and marriage that link you to these people you have nothing else in common with? If you take away doctrine, what do you have left, besides a country club for a lot of people who disagree with each other, or Thanksgiving dinner?
Counter-Point: Doctrine is devisive.
Sure, doctrine identifies who is “in” and who is “out.” That came in really handy during the Spanish Inquisition. It was really easy to tell who a heretic was. They were the ones sitting in the “comfy chair.”
Okay, so that’s Monty Python. But still, when Christians get caught up in trying to define each other by our beliefs, that’s how Crusades, Inquisitions, Jihads, and John Calvins get started.
You can’t say that Jesus gave the crippled guy a quiz on doctrine before he healed him. Or that Roman soldier who Jesus helped? Probably needed to bone up on his Jewish doctrine a bit.
It feels a bit discouraging to see all the branches, traditions and ideas that have sprung out of Christianity. They pretty much all happened because Christians couldn’t agree on something, and rather than live with each other, they parted ways. As pointed out by my church history professor, this is pretty much the reason the Baptist church in America is so huge. A church splits over a disagreement, and now you have two churches. That is the secret to one of the most prolific American denominations. Great strategy.
I know I don’t like it when people tell me what I believe. I think I know what I believe, thank you. Doctrine seems to just give Christians something to argue about, rather than doing some good for people.
Seems fair to say that none of us can know what’s in another person’s heart, if they love Jesus or not. Besides that, how can we ever know if our doctrine is the best to judge others by? I’ve heard it said a lot. People aren’t afraid of God judging them. They’re afraid of Christians judging them. Everyone’s always wondering why the church in America is shrinking. Is is because we’ve set the bar too high for uniform belief?
As usual lately, I’m leaving this one open ended. Sure, Paul pronounced eternal condemnation on anyone who would not follow his doctrine. Sure, he gave all kinds of instructions on dealing with miscreants who were messing up the church with their crazy beliefs. But then there’s Jesus who said “whoever is not against us is for us.” So can I judge whether anyone else is a Christian, or is this a “live and let live” situation?
Is doctrine the problem? Or is it the only glue that’s holding this rickety ship together? Is doctrine the one thing Christians should be arguing about?