Christians, Pet Doctrines, and Unity

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.

6 thoughts on “Christians, Pet Doctrines, and Unity”

  1. “The longer I live, the more faith I have in providence, and the less faith in my interpretation of providence.” —Jeremiah Day

    Providence is clearly taught through-out the bible, and yet if one holds this doctrine to be true we are usually looked down upon. I don’t see how folks can read Romans 9 and come away with another understanding other than providence, even Peter admitted it is a hard teaching to grasp, but by faith it is what he taught as well as Paul. I could fill this posts with dozens of verses that support providence, but folks believe what they want to believe. I don’t hold any hard feelings against those who are in the free-will camp, but I can’t say that is what I have encountered from the other camp.

  2. Doctrine is good and useful, only as it gives us a right conception of God, His Law and Gospel, and abases our pride and foolishness, and keeps us from sin.

    But it is so much easier to hold a mental theory, and think thereby that we are justified because of our knowledge…as if knowledge could cover our hidden sins and weaknesses.

    Rom. 2:17 Behold, you are called a Jew, and rest in the law, and make your boast of God,
    18 And know his will, and approve the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law;
    19 And are confident that you are a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness,
    20 An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which have the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law.

    These verses could easily apply to us as Christians also, only perhaps adding in “gospel and law” instead of just “law.” But then comes the important verses:

    21 You therefore which teach another, do you not teach yourself? you that preach a man should not steal, do you steal?
    22 You that say a man should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? you that abhor idols, do you commit sacrilege?
    23 You that make your boast of the law, through breaking the law do you dishonour God?
    24 For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.

    Doctrine is only useful if it keeps us from sin. But the more doctrine we know, the greater our guilt if we continue in sin.

  3. Well said. The practical sanctifying results of doctrine often get ignored as we go about to intellectually pummel one another. Being right without fruit is the same as being wrong.

  4. The lack of doctrine is the problem. Most church’s look at it as a curse word and because of this people follow everything that tickles their ear. They don’t know what they believe and why they believe it! I talk to people all the time that say they are Christians and come to find out they know nothing of Christ. My aunt went to church a “few” times a year and claimed to be a Christian but she just married a Mormon! I tried to tell her that it is a cult and they are not Christians and many more things but she would not listen. She said they were no different than than all the other different denominations, sad!
    My point is we must dig deeper into others beliefs because the surface is not what it always seems. We are to do this in love, and never attack one another! We are to see if that person is truly believing in the true Christ or something else.
    This is why we have so many Joel Osteens out there because people don’t know doctrine and they don’t study theology. They pick the parts of the Bible they like and ignore the rest of God’s Word.
    Paul, I do feel your pain! I hold to the doctrine of grace and am persecuted for it greatly. I had to leave my church of twelve years because of it. I have to drive 30 minutes to the only reformed church in the area. I tried for the last three years to stay and get along with the other members but I have slowly been shunned from the rest of the church. When I tried to talk to my pastor he wold not talk about it. He asked another friend of mine to leave the church in so many words. The pastor even said he would eat lunch with him but would not talk about the Bible. It is as if they are scared of the Bible. As Martin Luther said, “My conscience is held captive by the Word of God.”

  5. Our doctrinal training certainly does lack a little something. I think one of the issues that keeps us down is our fixation on pet doctrines, though. I’ve known many people who have ignored straight up, in your face statements from Scripture because they focus so much on their issue they can’t hardly see the words. They’re so busy looking at a knot on a tree they miss out on the forest of doctrinal beauty that surrounds the knot on the tree. Only one of many factors, but still a big factor, in my mind.

    I would also, however, hesitate to say that the reason people disagree with me is because they don’t know doctrine or ignore the Bible as a categorical judgment. Many I have disagreed with in the past I have learned to see they were actually right and I was the wrong one. Humbling, indeed.

  6. God offers salvation to all (John 3:16) but for His elect, He does even more, He draws them (John 6:44).

    “There is none that does good, no not one, and in the perfect light of Calvary, we have seen that even the perfections of Jesus will not be seen by a blind world, nor will they attract a corrupt world. ‘Crucify Him! Crucify Him!’ will be the verdict of humanity even upon the perfections of the Incarnate God.”

    C.H. Spurgeon

    So now man has grown more Spiritual over the years and he is able in his own ability to see the wonder of Christ, and die to self of his own volition? So for the sake of unity I should agree with this verdict, that God has not sovereign providence in all manners.

    I can’t in good conscience. I agree with Jeremiah Day, I may not be able to explain providence completely, but I agree with God’s word about it, more each day.

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