I grew up so much in an religious environment where orthodoxy – not “O” like the church, but literally “saying the right thing” – was so important. Knowledge of doctrine was pressed on us as much as knowlege of scripture. Calvin may as well have been the 5th apostle. And even when it came to scripture, we looked at it through the lens of doctrine.
I’m seeing now that I’m not nearly as focused or as interested in doctrine as I have been in the past. That’s not to say that I’m not interested in doctrine, or that I think doctrine doesn’t matter. But I do think that doctrine, arguments over doctrine, and pragmataic orthodoxy have had too much weight in the conservative churches.
Full disclosure for a minute: I grew up Presbyterian, first within the PCUSA but mostly within the Presbyterian Church in America, it’s stricter fundamentalist stepchild. My pastor for most of that time would mention pornography and “filthy lucre” every sermon regardless of topic or scripture passage. The youth group had a running bet on this. The pastor read from King James only, even though the pew bibles were NIV. The lecture we got on the evils of rock music included Dio and Iron Maiden but Neil Diamond.
Anyway my church focused so much on doctrine – on knowing what was right doctrine (i.e. Calvinism) and why other doctrines (i.e. Arminianism) were wrong – that I think the gospel got lost. It started to become about comparing ourselves to other Christians and not being in error.
As I’ve become familiar with the breadth of experience in other Christian traditions, and come to understand some of the doctrines behind them, I’ve started to not really care so much about being right. There’s a lot of “right” in my tradition, but there is also a lot of “right” in other traditions that can inform my own faith and walk. In the same way, there are “wrongs” in some traditions, but I also need to look critically at my own beliefs as well and be willing to change.
Also, I’ve seen that focusing so much on being right can really stunt your walk. After all, if you’re right, you only have to worry about maintaining the status quo, where you are. But you don’t grow! And if you’re not growing…
2 thoughts on “Doctrine”
Hi Sam. Found this refreshing and consistent with my own thinking, except that I was raised in an extreme Arminian church culture. John