What is More Important: Doctrinal Rightness or Practical Fruit?

“And here we must resist and even resent the strong but quite unjustified tendency to treat on different principle our moral and our intellectual response to Christ, and to make a certain stage in especially the latter, to which a man who can be called a Christian must have advanced.

“There are those who will call a man Christian even though his practical response to the meanings of Christ for life be very meager, but will deny him the name if his intellectual response to the meanings of Christ for doctrinal belief be not very adequate. This is untenable.”
–Carnegie Simpson, The Fact of Christ

In other words:
We are more willing to overlook divorce than we are divergent ideas about sovereignty, for instance. There are divorced Arminians who think all Calvinists will go to hell and vice versa.

Christians tend to throw out people from the Christian label due to poor doctrine more than they are willing to do so for poor morals.

In fact, people should be thrown out from under the Christian label for both bad morals and bad doctrine!

Not sure Mr. Carnegie Simpson would go there with me, but I’m guessing he might.

People aren’t Christians because they say they are. You will know them by their fruit.

It is my contention that good fruit comes from good doctrine, but our definition of “good doctrine” is, no doubt, skewed in our favor.

Just because someone doesn’t agree with your doctrine doesn’t mean they aren’t Christian, nor does it mean they don’t have “good doctrine!” If both have good fruit, then lighten up.

There is also a tendency to assume “good doctrine” means textbook doctrine. We can quote the right guys with the right words.

But I’ve met a lot of folk who know very little about theologians who have Christian doctrine nailed down quite well. I also know many who can quote all the guys but make little sense doctrinally.

In the end, take care of your own growth in knowledge and your own spiritual fruit growth. Speak the truth in Love. Live the life of Christ and grow to understand the life of Christ. You really can’t do one without the other.

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