Philosophy Lite: Doctrines shape our faith
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By Raymond Smith
Religious people need a solid doctrine to believe in and rules to live by.
Doctrine gives structure to our faith and guidelines for living.
Yet, because of man's inherent diversity, different folks accept different interpretations of scripture, and thus, we have many different beliefs.
What is the correct doctrine? And which is the right church to join in order to get our doctrine straight? Everybody seems to think their doctrine is the right one.
The calling of every church is to "earnestly contend for the faith, which was once delivered unto the saints." (Jude 3)
In the early days of Christianity, many false doctrines crept into the emerging church as people of different cultures, attempted to put their stamp on this new religion.
Among these, were the Judaizers, the Gnostics and the Nicolaitans.
From that day to this, Christians have been zealous to maintain the integrity of that faith as they understood it.
It's interesting that most people accept the doctrine that was taught them in Sunday school or at church. Others of an inquisitive mind decide to compare doctrines and square those with the Bible. Others go off the deep end and make their own doctrine.
The most important Christian doctrines address the authority of the Bible, the doctrine of sin and the fall of man, God's grace, which provides the way of salvation by faith, the security of the believer and the life eternal.
It is important to prioritize our doctrines - which ones are more important than the others. When a certain lawyer asked Jesus what was most important issue in life, Jesus answered: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." (Luke 10:27)
Julia Ward Howe said, "Beneath all differences of doctrine or discipline there exists a fundamental agreement as to the simple, absolute essentials in religion."
James 1:27 states: "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world."
Jesus, in his teaching with the people said, beware of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. Matthew 16:12, and Matthew 23:4 reads, "For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers." Jesus lifted the burden of Old Testament observances and made this new faith more practical and relational.
We often tend to major on the minors and minor on the majors. We love to argue doctrine; to put down others and justify our own.
Nathan Soderblom said, "Doctrine divides, but service unites." We do not mean that lesser doctrines are not important, but we do need to give the greatest emphasis to those which connect with our relationship with God, man's salvation and the issues of life and death.
Raymond F. Smith is a deacon at Fellowship Bible Church in Victoria and President of Strong Families of Victoria.