Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Flag We Wave

I am strongly in favor of understanding God's truth and applying it to life. Fundamental to this is understanding doctrinal truth, what God tells us about who He is and what He has done and is doing in the world. But there is a tendency to change these truths into flags we wave to distinguish ourselves from those we disagree with. Far from promoting a deeper understanding of these truths, it can prevent us from really considering them. After all, if I am a part of a group that holds a certain view, if I look too closely at that view and what it means, I might be forced to reconsider it and be forced to leave that organization. This is no idle threat. There was a time I was worried that I might end up holding a position where no denomination would have me. Now it is important to have boundaries. Christianity must mean something if it is to have any relevance at all. If a person no longer believes in anything distinctively Christian, they should be honest and call themselves something else. There are many conflicting ideas about what Christianity is, and it is meaningful for those who have fundamentally different understandings of it to distinguish themselves. But this should be based on a clear understanding of the issues involved and why they are important. But often we can divide over more superficial issues, and these are far more likely to become merely banners and not something we have thought out. Now I seriously question whether many of these secondary things are things we should be dividing over (1 Corinthians 1:10-17; Ephesians 4:1-6; Philippians 2:1-11). But if we do divide over them, they need to be something we understand, not just a banner we wave.

One reaction to this is to throw out or minimize doctrine. But I am convinced this is not the solution. Doctrine tells the truth of God invading history to save His people from their sins. Without doctrine, all we have is a generalized morality. I also believe that even the secondary doctrines can make a difference in our life if they are genuine Biblical truth (2 Timothy 3:16,17; Acts 20:27; Matthew 28:18-20). What I would call for is not less doctrinal understanding but more. I believe we need to have beliefs that we understand and apply, not flags we wave. To do this, we must not throw out doctrine, but seek to really understand it and see how it applies to life. In this, while it is important to stand for basic truth (Galatians 1:8,9; 1 John 4:1-3; Romans 16:17), it would be helpful to allow more freedom on secondary issues. It is hard to really examine and think through truth when you are afraid that if you deviate from the accepted view in the least detail, you must leave the fellowship you are a part of. For none of us know all the answers (1 Corinthians 3:18; 13:9-12; 8:1-3).

No comments:

Post a Comment