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Sunday, July 23, 2006

"Doctrine Monster?" I've Been Called Worse

I loved and could totally relate to this post by Pastor Chryst.

Since the word "doctrine" simply means "teaching" and since in the context of Christianity, the word "doctrine" means "the teachings of God's Word," I don't see how any believer can not be passionate about pure doctrine.

Of course, there are Church Bullies in every denomination. And the LCMS is no different. Pure Doctrine is not a club to beat up our opponents with or a badge of superiority. The chief aim here is not simply to "be right" or to win debates or to intimidate those who disagree. The kingdom will not come by sword or force or arrogantly bullying our opponents. Smugness is not a virtue. Nastiness in the name of orthodoxy is repugnant.

But on the other hand, it seems to me that in our day and age an equally pernicious difficulty facing American Christianity is theological laziness and doctrinal indifference. The temptation is to reduce Christianity to a shared experience or raw moralism.

People will say the word "doctrine" like it's a profanity or as if it literally puts a foul taste in the mouth. How can this be? Some will say something along the lines of, "as long as we love Jesus, why make a big deal of doctrine?" The answer is because our doctrine is nothing other than God's Word. It is not possible to love Jesus AND be indifferent to the His Word. It is not possible to proclaim Jesus rightly without maintaining doctrinal integrity. Doctrine matters because God matters and what God says matters. It matters more than human opinion, more than misty religious experience; it matters even more than moral reform.

Confidence does not have to equal arrogance. Boldness does not require a sharp tongue. But neither does love mean wishy-washiness or humility equate with uncertainty.

God's Word is the lamp to our feet and the light for our path. God's Word is the powerful message of salvation. God's Word creates, destroys, kills and gives birth. Mixing human philosophy with God's Word or mixing contemporary opinions with God's Word do not sttrenthen the Church, do not make Jesus more relevant. It only pollutes us all. I am not embarrassed by my passion about speaking God's Word correctly.

Nor am I above correction. Being passionate about pure doctrine does not mean that I never err. When I say that your doctrine is wrong, I don't mean that I hate you or that I am better than you. And if you find it necessary to correct me, then do so on the basis of Holy Scripture and sound reasoning and I will listen. Ad Hominem attacks - though not unheard of in Church history - are not the way to go. I believe that thoughtful and careful argument is good for us. As someone wise once said, the only reason we fight is because we don't know how to argue.

If by "Doctrine Monster" you mean arrogant smart-alek who nit-picks everyone to death, then may I never be one. If, however, you mean a bold confessor of the faith (creed) handed down to us, then I'll take the title gladly.

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Carl said...

Would you agree with a statement
on a sign I once saw stating the following:
"Truth without love is soft, while love without truth is hard" That seems to sum up what you've just said.

Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer said...

Carl, yes (or possibly it is the other way around).

Carl said...

Yes, you are correct. It was early when I wrote it, so I guess I was not thinking too clearly. Thanks for the correction!

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