I was born into a pastor’s family and have spent my life, except for a few blessed years in college, going to church constantly. But even in my non-church going days in college, I attended a Christian college with Bible classes and chapel and various other Christiany things.
I’ve been surrounded by Christians my entire existence. This has been good in many ways, and utterly defeatingly, soul-suckingly, frustratingly, astonishingly miserable in other ways.
Christians can be nasty people and much of the nastiness has to do with our doctrines. Here is one huge deal I have noticed.
Christians have pet doctrines and these pet doctrines divide.
A “pet doctrine” is your favorite doctrine you think it the most vital doctrine of all. “If people reject this, they probably aren’t saved” kind of doctrine. Often these pet doctrines are pressed out of measure and dabble in heresy, but watch out if you point that out!
Here’s how pet doctrines create division.
One day at the park you run into a guy who starts talking to you and you both realize you are Christians! There is a happiness and joy, a commonality, maybe even a pat on the back from one member of the body to another.
All is good and you rejoice in all you hold in common and rejoice that you are better than the world. It’s great!
Then comes the question, “So, what are your views on ________.” Here comes the pet doctrine. You cautiously spell out your beliefs, knowing that this has to be a trick, you are talking to a Christian, remember.
Much relief comes when you both find out you believe the same thing on this doctrine: so far! Then they bust out their theory, which goes further than any theory they’ve ever heard anyone else share, but that’s how they know it’s right, “There’s only always been a remnant!”
“Hmm, I guess I can’t quite go there with you,” you eventually have to say.
“What? Why not? I just showed you all the verses. You don’t agree with what the Bible teaches?”
“I”m not convinced that’s what the Bible says.”
“What? You’re a moron! How can you not see this? Only those with the Spirit can truly see truth.” KABOOM!
Unity has been destroyed and your initial joy at having found another believer is replaced by the all too familiar dread of remembering this face to avoid in the future.
Be ware of the tendency to elevate doctrines or rank them. I know, I know, there are core doctrines and peripheral doctrines and all that. I know. Be ware anyway because more than likely your pet doctrine is a peripheral one in everyone elses book.
When Paul said, “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some,” I believe he was speaking to this point. Make sure the hill you choose to die on is the right one.
This reminds me of this post from years gone by: the funniest religious joke. It would be more funny if it weren’t true.