Doctrine and Salvation

All Christians will tell you that salvation is by grace through faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

At the same time, start talking to these Christians and you’ll see that many of them will have divergent beliefs as to what salvation is, what faith is, what grace is, and maybe even in who Jesus Christ is.

And pretty much all of them will, at some point, say, “If you don’t believe what I believe about this doctrine then you aren’t saved.”

“This doctrine” can be Calvinism, substitutionary atonement, eternal security, the trinity, creationism, particular brand of End Times views, etc. I’ve heard all of these used at various times as eternity determining Shibboleths.

It appears to me that many believers think there’s this magic moment where all of a sudden, BOOM, I have right doctrine! Now that I’ve achieved right doctrine, I am saved! Yippee!

I can honestly say to you that I do not know when I was saved. There was a prayer said when I was a kid, I remember that. But faith didn’t really grow in me until college. Before that it was just kind of this thing that was there that people around me did.

When I began thinking about my faith, I went with various doctrines that sounded good, because I didn’t know any better. I believed substitutionary atonement and Calvinism, two things I now find problematic.

I believe I was saved at the time, which is why I made progress and why I put work in to figure out what I believed. I was pursuing Christ, which led me to question doctrines I had empty-headedly received simply because I didn’t know any better.

If I were to say “If you’re a Calvinist you can’t be saved” I would be saying that I wasn’t saved! If I said, “Anyone who believes in substitutionary atonement isn’t saved” I would be saying that I myself wasn’t saved when I believed these things.

But I can’t honestly say that. I didn’t know what I believed, it wasn’t personal, but those things were the best explanations at the time.

Sunday School Faith is going along with what you were taught as a kid and just accepting it and hanging on to it because that’s what I was given, that’s what I’ll take.

Sunday School Faith is fine if you’re a kid in Sunday School! If you’re 47 now and haven’t progressed beyond Sunday School Faith, that’s a problem!

You should have begun examining, testing, and thinking about what you believe. Unless you had a perfect Sunday School (you didn’t), you will find things you no longer agree with once you start learning the Bible.

And this is perfectly fine. This is not a rejection of Sunday School. Nor is it saying you weren’t saved until you had achieved Perfect Doctrine.

It’s called growth. It’s called sanctification. I worry more about people who still believe everything they were taught as kids then those who’ve turned on much of what they were taught.

At least they’re finally thinking about it!

Give each other some space to grow. Some freedom to think and question. Those who sit in some ivory tower and proclaim that “only people who believe everything I believe are saved” are stifling growth.

I’d rather have you disagree with me and grow into Christ than agree with me and not grow at all.

There were other elements of my upbringing I examined, rejected, and then later saw that they were actually right! I held a doctrine, rejected the doctrine, and later took that doctrine back. You don’t know everything. You should be learning every day. When you learn new things your beliefs should change.

There is no magic Right Doctrine Level you achieve.

Doctrine means “teachings.” If you’re learning, you’re being taught, and this teaching is what doctrine is! The idea is not to have this magic level of perfect doctrine; the idea is to grow into Christ.

That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death
–Philippians 3:10

%d bloggers like this: