Dear Guests of IDOTG:
A pastor from Wisconsin directed me to this article Doctrine is Dead, which was written by Pastor J. B. Hixson, Ph.D. The article appears at the website of Dr. Hixson’s church, Brenham Bible Church. I trust you will find this a compelling read.
“Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.” (1 Timothy 4:16).
This just in from the Associated Press…Doctrine died today. The news of Doctrine’s demise, while tragic, was not entirely unanticipated. It had been battling a terminal illness for many years. Doctrine’s storied history is well known…from its powerful birth in the Apostolic Age; to its rapid rise to a firm place of centrality in the Christian life during the early days of the Church; to its serious injuries and repression throughout the Medieval Period; and finally its terminal diagnosis during the Enlightenment.
For a brief time, hope of Doctrine’s recovery re-emerged during the early 20th Century, as Inerrantists and Fundamentalists put forth aggressive treatment programs that appeared to cause Doctrine’s disease to enter remission. But such hopes were premature. With the onset of postmodern thinking, Doctrine suffered a rapid decline and finally breathed its last breath just this morning.
Reaction to this news has been swift and fairly consistent. One leading evangelical leader wrote,
“While we are saddened by this news, we are glad to know that Doctrine’s suffering is finally over. Now we can get on with more important matters like relationship building, loving our brothers, and changing lives for Christ.”Another pastor commented,
“Our hearts go out to all of those who loved Doctrine, and stood by it until the bitter end. We pray that they will gain closure and move forward quickly. We invite them to stop living in the past. Come join the rest of us in mainstream evangelical Christianity as we seek to change the world through love, peace and goodwill, rather than the divisiveness of credalism.”Not all Christian leaders have been as diplomatic in their comments. One highly influential Christian personality quipped,
“It’s about time! Doctrine has had a stranglehold on the thoughts and minds of Christians for far too long. Good riddance!”The general sentiment across Christendom seems to be one of relief. The climate within Christianity has been characterized by a disdain for doctrinal standards for quite some time. Those who draw lines of doctrinal distinction are perceived as unloving, even hateful or mean, while those who draw circles of inclusion are viewed as more progressive, loving and open-minded. Anyone who claims his view is “right” based upon Biblical Doctrine is charged with trying to control the thoughts of others or force his view on someone else. Indeed, the labels “right” and “wrong” have been replaced in favor of less dogmatic phrases like “opinion” and “bias.”
Some, evidently not wanting to appear as though they have entirely shunned Doctrine, have attempted to mask their disinterest in Doctrine by referring to “essentials” versus “non-essentials.” There are “essential” beliefs that are always right and on which we must always agree, they say, but on “non-essentials” that are a matter of opinion and not a matter of right or wrong, we must give others liberty to believe whatever they want. It’s an attractive concept, really, but supporters of Doctrine are quick to point out that the term Doctrine (from the Greek root word didaskalia) means “instruction in Truth,” and since “Truth” by its very nature is always right and never a matter of opinion (a point vehemently denied by opponents of Doctrine within postmodern evangelical Christianity—truth is never capitalized in their worldview), it is therefore always essential.
Furthermore, within this postmodern essential/non-essential paradigm, it seems as though the list of essential beliefs has grown smaller and smaller to the point that no one can identify what is on it anymore. Most churches have stripped their Doctrinal Statements of all but the most basic tenets, such as “We believe in God,” leaving everything else open to personal opinion. (For those who may not be familiar with the term “Doctrinal Statement,” this is what all churches had during the glory days of Doctrine. It identified a church’s belief system.)
In any event, it is likely that with Doctrine’s passing today, the “essential/non-essential” terminology will soon disappear entirely, as it will no longer be needed to placate Doctrine’s supporters. Those from the “Can’t-We-All-Just-Get-Along” political action committee within evangelicalism already have issued a statement celebrating the dawning of a new day:
“Finally, once and for all, we can put an end to the judgmentalism, hatred, and arrogance of Doctrine’s disciples who insist that right belief is important. Such an archaic philosophy has been on life support for many years and we are heartened that we can now move definitively beyond it to happier days of fellowship, joy, affirmation and acceptance of all Christians regardless of their particular beliefs.”
One final addendum to this story…An obscure and little-known Christian leader, who goes only by his first name “Paul,” has cautioned that such celebratory response to the death of Doctrine is typical of those whose “consciences have been seared with a hot iron” and whose “itching ears” desire to hear only what makes them feel good. He goes on to point out that Doctrine is necessary for proper behavior and that Christians would do well to “hold fast to sound Doctrine,” for in so doing it will protect and preserve all who follow it.
It remains to be seen what effect the laying to rest of Doctrine will have on evangelical Christianity, but if this “Paul” is correct, it can only lead to great unpleasantness.