Friday, September 26, 2008

Of course you do understand that everyone loves doctrine

When I worked with student Christian Unions it was not self evident to some that having a doctrinal basis, a statement of core non-negotiable beliefs, was a good idea.

In fact the very idea that we should set down what we believe in words, and use language that was as clear, concise and helpful as possible, went against the grain of what some understood being Christian or evangelical to be about.

Now when confronted by this response it is easy to take the objections at face value and to accommodate yourself to assumptions that need exposing and challenging.

One way that this happens is to bend over backwards to show that "doctrine" (that dry, dusty, archaic word), is in fact vibrant and vitally connected to life-giving Christian experience. I'm not disputing for a moment that it is. And you would think that people at university would have the smarts to know that doctrine is simply another word for teaching.

But everyone who begins to spit and hiss at the sound of the word doctrine, much as Dracula does when shown a crucifix, in reality loves doctrine. You just need to figure out what kind of doctrine they love and what kind they hate. One thing is for sure, they must be committed to doctrine. Whether that doctrine is really compatible with Biblical Christianity is the question.

As counter-intuitive as it may appear to be, people who find doctrine a switch-off are actually deeply committed to doctrine and couldn't live without it.

The Bible is simply instinctive with the impulse to confess the true identity of the Lord, his Triune identity, and to confess, believe, and proclaim his mighty works of creation, providence and salvation.

For example take Psalm 93:1-2:
The LORD reigns, he is robed in majesty;
the LORD is robed in majesty
and is armed with strength.
The world is firmly established;
it cannot be moved.

Your throne was established long ago;
you are from all eternity.
And Daniel 4:34-35:
I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.
His dominion is an eternal dominion;
his kingdom endures from generation to generation.

All the peoples of the earth
are regarded as nothing.
He does as he pleases
with the powers of heaven
and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand
or say to him: "What have you done?"
And 1 Corinthians 8:4-6 (once you have read it take a look at Deut. 6:4 and see what Paul has done with it):
We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many "gods" and many "lords"), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.
We might add Romans 10:9 and 1 Corinthians 12:1 into the equation too.

There are truths that have been revealed, and they are to be believed, confessed, taught, defended and proclaimed. Any aversion to this betrays a spirituality, as well as a theology, cut adrift from biblical norms. And that of course is the real issue here.

Aversion to the biblical doctrines of God, his sovereignty and Triune identity, the person and work of Christ, the Creator-creature distinction, and so on, any aversion to speaking clearly about these matters as publicly revealed truths to be confessed by all believers and articulated in words is the tell-tale hallmark of pseudo-Christianity.

We are all going to be doctrinal, it is merely a question as to whether we are committed to the kind of truths and their authoritative source that Paul spells out in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, or else to the doctrines of uncertainty, vagueness, theological plurality and experiential tyranny.

No comments: