I Cor 13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Rom 14 As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master[a] that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
For the last year, or so, I have listened to over a few dozen debates. From atheists versus Christians, to Protestants vs. Catholics, and plenty of in house Christian vs. Christian (over doctrinal issues), I have carefully pondered the positions of many. The vast majority of these well spoken men make their points clearly, with supporting arguments and evidences. As a Christian, I have admired the love and care demonstrated by some of the debaters representing my faith, and shook my head when others, with the same label, treat others with rudeness.
A while ago, I found myself in a debate of my own. I wrote about it in a separate blog post. Ultimately, I felt ostracized. matters most to this article. While this gentleman stated he acted out of a motivation of love, I found it difficult to accept his approach as anything but dogmatic. The logical end of his approach essentially forces the other to submit to his (or his church’s/denomination’s) viewpoint, or effectively find himself labeled as a heretic and unbeliever. Amazing.
Yet, this is hardly my only example. I do not have enough space to give an exhaustive list. Suffice to say, I have seen preachers, teachers, brothers and sisters take various steps to divide and attack others over doctrinal issues. I have seen multiple examples of passive aggressive behavior, comments such as “Well, if you do not believe in my version of God, I’m not sure what God you believe!”, blatant attacks, defamation of character, and even outright expulsion or ostracism.
As I pondered this experience in conjunction with my studies of God’s word and the many viewpoints I have heard from these debates, I cannot help but come to a number of conclusions. Hopefully, in writing and posting these bullet points, I not only solidify a lesson hard learned in my own life, but also help others struggling with these issues.
- First, and foremost, (most) doctrines are not essential to salvation. I pointed out in an earlier blog post that the gospel message plays a key role in the leading a person to salvation. If one misses any of those points (We are all sinners, we deserve death from a Holy God, He died on the cross so that those who repent and put their faith in Him shall be saved), he will likely face the full judgment for His sin. However, he can miss other points (such as understanding the trinity, eternal salvation, etc) and be granted into heaven. The Bible never demonstrates that we must have perfect doctrine in order to be saved, no more than we must live perfect lives or do perfect works.
- Second, we must stop condemning others who hold onto different doctrines. As long as someone confesses Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we should allow a wide berth. Now, I do not imply that you allow every wind of doctrine to be taught in your family and church. However, we should be careful who we separate from and/or call a ‘reprobate’ over doctrinal differences.
- Third, we should spend a lot less time arguing, debating and talking about doctrine, and spend more time doing the work of God. Jesus said in John 13.34, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
- Lastly, I do not suggest that we throw out the baby with the bath water. Theology, Bible Study, and the like, does play an important role in the life of the believer. Those who worship God must do so in Spirit and in truth (John 4.23). And, in fact, I push another theology by posting this blog entry. However, let us insure that we do not overstress nor underestimate the importance of theology. While it deserves our attention and focus, it should never become paramount over carrying out the direct command of Jesus to love God and to love one another.
I do not doubt some might take issue with that last point, replying that they show their love for God by learning, teaching, and defending deeper theologies, such as Calvinism. Ultimately, I can only share what I have learned and trust my brother allows God to lead him in the right direction. Of course, I will not divide with a brother who does not see eye to eye with me on this point. What a hypocrite I would be if I did!
Instead, I simply plan to lead by example, and in love. I feel I have reached the end of my own theological studies, at least for a time, into these deeper matters. With what little free time I have, I intend to love God, and my brothers, by serving those in need, sharing experiences with them, and praising His name in the process. I sincerely hope and pray that you will consider joining me.