Thursday, June 12, 2008

Doctrine, Denominations, and Deceptive Devotion

Summer time is here. It's a time when denominational meetings occur (including my own, as well as the former name brand). Denominations are still important today - though more as missional networks and accountability groups, rather than bureaucracies. Denominations allow Christians of similar conviction and habit to work together with less friction than we would otherwise. They allow for some measure of distinctive theological and ecclesiological habitus to shape a people into God's multi-faceted family. However, we can all come back to the table as the Christian family so long as there is a strong family resemblance. In the church, we call that family resemblance orthodoxy (in early times called the rule of faith).

Some people who have rejected that ancient family resemblance will try to play the Pharisee card on people who question their place at the decision making table. They say "Doctrine divides" (even within denominations, where it's supposed to serve as a unifying principle). Most of the time, they hit the evangelical achilles heel of pietistic devotion by saying that we're all about the same Jesus. (See false-teacher Joel Osteen fall for that one on the Mormon question.) All of this posturing falls apart if you press the case with this Jesus approving something they don't like - which shows that he's just a figment of their imagination.

In light of the foregoing habits of some, I'd like to provide a timely quote from one of the greatest expositors of the 20th century.

You cannot separate what a man believes from what he is. For this reason doctrine is vitally important. Certain people say ignorantly, "I do not believe in doctrine; I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ; I am saved, I am a Christian, and nothing else matters". To speak in that way is to court disaster, and for this reason, the New Testament itself warns us against this very danger.

We are to guard ourselves against being "tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine", for if your doctrine goes astray your life will soon suffer as well.

So it behoves us to study the doctrines in order that we may safeguard ourselves against certain erroneous and heretical teachings that are as rife and as common in the world today as they were in the days of the early Church.

--Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Exposition of Ephesians


Anonymous said...

Amen Sir.

As usual your wisdom is right on. My denomination is also meeting currently.

Chris said...

I have an educational advantage. LPTS is all about lifting up SOPHIA.

Jim Jordan said...

I guess like the old saying, "There's no dogma like no dogma" one could equally say, "There's no doctrine as bad as the doctrine of no doctrine."

Reformed Catholic said...

Chris said...

I have an educational advantage. LPTS is all about lifting up SOPHIA.

Oh good grief! I can imagine what they think of the Trinity paper.

And we wonder why people are fleeing !!

Chris said...

Thanks, RC. (no...not that RC). While they rejoiced at the paper's use of feminine imagery, many of the LPTSers were still upset at its insistence on F/S/HS in the baptismal formula. Worse, still, the state of theological education in the mainline churches is so run down that the real issue of the paper escaped notice in the hot-flash of sexist/sexism rhetoric.

I'll admit that I was close to two of the authors of the paper, both of whom I respect. However, as I wrote to Dr. Small, I have serious issues with the Trinity paper in its methodology. I believe that's why it failed so miserably in its (overall good) reflection on what it means to use Trinitarian language. It opens us up to lampoons (like this one).