there have been occasions in my life when i’ve felt extremely limited in my doctrinal knowledge. i’ve played if off as an attempt to be moderate in the past, but in all honesty – it’s usually because i don’t know what i’m talking about. so i tend to feel like i blindly affirm all perspectives of doctrine because i never feel intelligent enough to adequately disprove a certain viewpoint.
i was inadvertantly accused of being a univeralist the other day because of this. i was shocked that i felt that i needed to defend the fact that i don’t believe that everyone is going to heaven no matter what they do, but it got me considering whether i am too “open-minded” in terms of doctrine.
i concluded i was not. and these are some of my reasons:
1. i do not have the authority to condemn alternative interpretations. i’m convinced that none of us has a perfect understanding of who Jesus is – nor will we ever. if we fully understood Christ then why would we need to continue following him? so informing an individual that their personal viewpoint is wrong and that they must realign their perspective with my own is something i’m unable to do because who is to say that my understanding isn’t false? i can disagree, but i can’t show complete disapproval and force them to adopt my perspective. i don’t have that authority.
2. doctrine is divisive. differing perspectives on scripture and in theology has been divisive since the first century church couldn’t decide whether the gospel was for Jews or Gentiles. however, what the first century church was seemingly capable of doing was moving forward in Christ’s name regardless. they were still on the same team – just preaching to different people. this mindset has been lost through 2000 years of revolution and reform. it seems like everyone who has a great idea ultimately splits people into “great idea followers” and “great idea haters”. there is a greater reality that we can all serve. we ought to focus on the multitude of agreements. we need to remember that we serve christ – not luther, piper, bell, calvin, etc.
3. these disagreements are not of eternal significance. i do not know have the slightest idea how i stand in regards to predestination, double predestination, free will, etc. that whole arminian/calvinist argument is such a waste of time. why must we continue to try and explain the things that we simply do cannot know? we Christ-followers are trying to put God in a box. we try our best to know everything. and in doing so, i feel that we’ve strayed from our true callings: to love God, love others, and spread the gospel to the ends of the earth. but instead we feel compelled to explain God first, and then once we’ve got it figured out for ourselves then we’ll move along and love others and tell the world about Jesus. the unfortunate thing is that since God is an inexhaustible expanse of knowledge steps two and three are never addressed.
4. truth through love. not love through truth. the gospel of Jesus is about love. it is our duty to go forth in love and proclaim the truth that we know in Christ. what i see happening in so many doctrinal disputes is the necessity to define what “truth” is first. this is the major flaw not only in doctrinal disputes, but also in the mindset of bullhorn evangelists and pamphlet distributors. there is truth, and they are fulfilling the great commission. but this truth tends to exclude the greatest commandment: love. without love we cannot successfully progress the truth we Christians are called to share. love comes first.
5. with understanding comes pride, and love is not proud. i have a history of pride. it is one thing that individuals as incredibly awesome as myself tend to struggle with. seeking for understanding and doctrinal wisdom is rarely in love, but typically self-seeking and boastful. this is the chief reason i feel bad about not having great doctrinal knowledge – because i’m jealous of the people who are smarter than i am, and in desiring to understand more i always find myself feeling more and more proud. love does not boast. it is not proud. i believe much doctrinal knowledge is the result of selfish motives. maybe someday i will have that maturity to discern from all sides of the argument, but if not – no sweat. i’m not certain it’s an ability i could possess well.
there are probably more reasons, but my point is this: doctrinal knowledge is not something i find spiritually edifying. it is divisive, hateful, proud, and tries its best to put our Creator in a box. i can’t help but scowl when we ignore the countless passages about serving the poor and focus on details in romans or revelation or acts or leviticus. who can say they’re correct, and if they believe they can – who can tell the other that they’re wrong strictly out of love? not me. that is for sure.
and as far as the “denomination tree” goes: i find the word “schism” fantastic, and i must notify the U.R.C. that trees do not grow in that fashion. however, at least they’re bringing separations together. but most imporantly – i find this whole thing entirely unbiblical. i don’t understand how so many people decided to start imitating the Pharisees instead of Jesus.
but it sure is a pretty color for an otherwise not-so-visually stimulating blog.