Doctrine is divisive. Christian unity is often predicated on the notion of “finding commonality.”
Loosely interpreted, “finding commonality” means, “let’s ignore 98% of doctrinal subjects.”
Over the years, many people have disagreed with my doctrine. There are two main reasons why this happens:
1) I not always communicate goodly. Putting doctrine into words that make sense to other people is tough at times. It is impossible to talk about the Trinity and not offend someone. There are times I know what I’m trying to say and also know I’m not quite saying it. Emotions also creep in and make me overstate things or use sarcasm or other such devices that don’t help.
2) People don’t hear well. This is an amazing one. I have had more people leave my church for having heard things I never said, than for hearing stuff I actually said. It’s an astounding phenomena. I had a person leave my church once because they said I was a Calvinist! If you’ve been around me for any length of time, you should pick up better on that one.
I used to take it very personally when someone disagreed with me. It took me a long time to realize there are other things at work in doctrinal disagreements besides doctrinal disagreements.
Never underestimate the force of personality clashes. Most church divisions are over personalities than over doctrine. I’ll stick to that statement. You can quote me on it.
One of the reasons people have a hard time hearing is because they’ve already determined to have a problem with you. Now to take something you said out of context to create said problem. Once I have that, then I can leave because of a “spiritual” issue rather than the petty fact I don’t like your leadership style because it reminds me of my dad.
Been there, done that.
About nine times now.
Another aspect of doctrinal division is that everyone is a sinner. Sin affects doctrine. Your pet sin, the one you have a particular penchant for committing, will cloud your reason and ability to apply God’s Word. Your guilty conscience, if nothing else, will keep you from talking on certain subjects.
Listen to a preacher for a couple years. Identify the sin he never seems to bring up. DINGDINGDING! That’s his favorite sin.
You can try that on me, but I’m the one who just said this, so I have, for years, attempted to address every sin so you’ll never know mine!
It’s also true that sinners are the ones disagreeing with your doctrine. What do they know anyway?!
No, you should always consider carefully people’s disagreements with you. Think over their arguments. Most importantly, consider carefully any verses they might use.
Remember this essential fact from the life of Christ–people disagreed with Christ all the time and HE WAS SINLESS!
Now, don’t go thinking you are sinless and have perfect doctrine like Jesus. You don’t. What you should remember is that the world is filled with morons.
Jesus told people how to know sound doctrine. Ready for it? Are ya sure? Cuz He told us how it worked. Lots of people say they want sound doctrine, but count the cost before reading ahead.
You sure you want to know this? You become accountable after reading it. Proceed with caution. Here it is:
“Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”
The way to know sound doctrine is to desire to do the will of God. In case you don’t think that’s what it says because you don’t like my tone of voice, or the way I comb my hair, or whatever, here are some authorities on this verse:
Jamison Faucet and Brown—“singleness of desire to please God is the grand inlet to light on all questions vitally affecting one’s eternal interests”
Vine’s—“Sympathy with the will of God is a condition of understanding it.”
John Wesley—“This is a universal rule, with regard to all persons and doctrines. He that is thoroughly willing to do it, shall certainly know what the will of God is.”
Here’s what you do when people disagree with you on doctrine:
1) Examine yourself–are they right? Have you considered their verses in the forming of your beliefs? Is your sin blocking your growth or understanding here?
2) Consider the source–are these people who are concerned with doing God’s will? Are they desiring righteousness, or just picking fights? Is their life showing growth into Christ, or a testimony of sin and pride?
This is one of my greatest frustrations with internet communication. I have no idea who people are who disagree with me. I sort of have a “faceless mass of internet trolls” that I immediately assume disagree-rs are in. I generally dismiss all internet disagreements.
I think that’s why Church, being with other believers physically, is so vital to spiritual growth. A quote from Thomas Oden speaks volumes here
“The truth is harder to find when undebated than debated.”
In the end, doctrinal disagreement aint the worst thing that can happen to you. Especially if it comes from people you know, trust and live with. Internet debate? Yeah, that’s pointless. Here’s the Apostle Paul, who knows more than Thomas Oden, you, or me:
“For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.“
If people disagree with you. Lighten up. Don’t take you and your rightness so seriously. Instead, use it as an opportunity to grow into Christ and become approved unto God.