The pendulum is swinging
You can get your doctrines all wrong -– but still be a great
Oh boy! That sent shivers down certain spines. Thank goodness
we've quit burning people at the stake for teaching apparent heresy. I like
the words of John Deane, ex principle of The Bible Training Institute of NZ.
Speaking about his father he said, "My father was a heretic -– but what a
Obviously, the ultimate goal for a follower of Jesus is to
have a healthy balance in both departments -– belief and actions. Chances are
however, that as we live through the ever changing seasons of life, one or the
other will hold particular significance at any given time. Periodically we may
very well lose sight of 'the way' and even doctrinally lose the plot! But -
we are not forsaken by God, and if we love the truth, we will continue to grow
in God because we are in the making! It makes me chuckle when I think
that even the most pure of puritans, holds no better position with God than
those who can acknowledge they are flawed. It is an irony to meet people who
would seek to sit on Jesus right hand -– because they have 'earned' the
Let's remember that heresy is simply 'truth pushed to
excess'. With this in mind it is a glorious thought that God has mercy on
those who allow their preferences to push beyond the boundaries of the pure
faith...it's a human thing -– and God knows it! I'm sure we can all
identify a number of heretics in our own neighbourhood. How about we name them
all in the next edition? (stay tuned!).
The bottom line remains 'that we please God'. In
Paul's words, "...we labour...that we may be accepted of Him...". 2 Corinthians 5:9.
Truly, we ought to fear God and not men. The best part is that
God really likes us! He's angry with the wicked everyday -– but loves those
who fear Him. The reason I continue to write in this vein (the pendulum series)
is that for so many, there is such confusion over God - leading to a noticeable
lack of joy! Regardless of the fact that life includes times of hardship and
periods of sorrow, 'The joy of the Lord' is God's promise to us -–
bringing us strength.
Now if we believe that God is more interested in His people
being doctrinally proficient, than living in a simple faith relationship with
Him, we had best get ourselves into well paid employment -– we have a lot of
supporting to do, getting all of these spiritually illiterate Christians through
Bible school. I have no problem with issues which arise over doctrine, but I
would love to see some of the puritan critics of others putting their money
where their mouth is, offering education to those who know no better.
God's word is a revelation of His love and acceptance of
mankind -– not '101 reasons God wants to reject you!' Yes there are
conditions -– but not nearly as many as institutionalised Christianity has
When one focuses on possessing doctrinal purity above getting
to know God (Father), it is very likely that pride and spiritual presumption
will follow. History repeats itself...God's Name has been attached to much
So let's have a look at the place of doctrine -– because
it is profitable for us! Doctrine is teaching! Fathers and mothers pass doctrine
on to their children everyday (Proverbs 2); churches teach doctrinally
acceptable (denominational) messages; employers present company doctrine to new
employee's....the Scriptures are given to profit us in the form of teaching
(doctrine). The issue then is what is the purpose of biblical doctrine?
Let's start with what it is not: it's not for manipulating people; it's
not for creating ones own culture; it's not for oppressing others; it's not
for making money...it is more than just preference. The Scriptures
are God's wisdom, and give us the language and culture of the Kingdom
I remember reading about the 1972 landmark case of Wisconsin
V. Yoder. The United States Supreme Court classified all religious beliefs as
either preferences or convictions. As a result of this case, under the
first amendment, only 'convictions' could be sited in order to gain legal
protection. The other type of belief can change over time according to
circumstances...thus they are 'just preferences'. No matter how strong or
intense a belief -– it can still be just a preference! (Sadly, a lot of dogma
fits into this category). If a belief is 'able to be changed' it is a
preference. It is believed that the five circumstances most likely to cause
a 'change in ones belief' system are: 1. peer pressure 2. family pressure 3.
litigation pressure 4. jail pressure 5. death pressure. Interestingly, financial
pressure is not listed.
A doctrinal focus alone can so quickly become a vain mindset.
Vain because it pushes truth to preferred excess. Vain, because God is
past finding out. Vain because God would have mercy and not sacrifice. Vain
because God wants to 'redeem' (buy back, start again...) his rebellious
creation. Vain because God doesn't share His glory with 'smart' men and
women. Vain because God actually likes people, and His Word is often twisted to
say the opposite.
The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. If we listen to
what He is speaking to us, and determine that His doctrine (teaching) represents
our very best self interest -– we will dare to turn the other cheek; we will
dare to give to those who cannot give anything in return; we will dare to
honour those who are not pleasant to look at; we will dare to speak words
of grace even when 'our position' gives us opportunity to speak in a
demeaning manner; we will dare to put aside our preferences,
and live by conviction.
I am convinced (convicted) that "...neither death nor life,
nor angels nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present nor things to
come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to
separate me from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord".