Disarming the Doctrinal Minefields

Have you ever read  the book entitled God Work by ACU professor and popular speaker, Randy Harris?  It is an easy read, very informational and practical. His first chapter is  “Doctrinal Disagreement. Must It Be War?” Below is an article I wrote based on this chapter.

Most of us are familiar with doctrinal minefields- churches loaded with bombs right under the surface ready to explode if pressured enough. They are located in the foyer, classroom and sanctuary. We work to identify them and learn to walk gingerly around them lest they discharge in heated disagreement. But there is an easier way.

Most everyone agrees that doctrine matters. It is “the rudder that steers the ship.” The challenge is to approach it in a healthy manner. If we can, the threat posed by doctrinal minefields can be disarmed.

We begin by simply talking to one another and not past one another. Listen and ask the kind of questions designed to encourage mutual dialogue. 

Next, we conduct this dialogue with mutual respect. Just because someone disagrees with my biblical conclusion does not mean they are dishonest or not committed to the integrity of Scripture.

To accomplish this takes humility. Humility means we remain teachable. If we come to the table convinced we have nothing to learn it will likely result in an arms race- not disarmament! Humility just gives God room to work.

Key to relieving pressures is an understanding that some doctrines are more important than others. Jesus recognized this (‘The Greatest Command”) and so must we. It is possible that we have planted mines in fields for no reason.

Because of this prayer has to be central to our discussions. Theology must grow out of spirituality. Unless it does it becomes cold, harsh and explosive. This is the very thing we should avoid. Prayer makes a huge difference here.

It does so because prayer helps to create a healthy atmosphere for discussion. If disarmament is to be accomplished questions must be allowed to be asked and thoughts allowed to be processed. This is the way spiritual growth is nurtured. 

This approach frees us from the urge to just defend doctrinal positions and to focus faithfully on the context of scripture. By letting the word speak in its own context we might discover our bombs are totally unnecessary. Especially we when engage the text with our own life. It is not just about what a doctrine says, it is also about how it gets worked out in our life. When we keep this connection, doctrine becomes less formal and more personal. At that level things tend to look differently and our disagreements seem less acute.

Because in the end- it will be God who works it all out. The final judgment on the matter is his. It is not up to me to judge the other person’s motive. I can relax and trust God. After all, he does know a little about peace. 

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4 Responses to Disarming the Doctrinal Minefields

  1. Royce Ogle says:

    Someone said, “Loving theology is good but it will never love you back”. The same is true of doctrine.

    I readily admit to being a lover of theology and doctrine, I thrive on it. But I also am keenly aware that in back of all of this is a Suffering Servant whose essence is love and whom I am to imitate in daily living.

    Any so called doctrine that makes me love anyone less is from the father of lies, period.

    Royce

  2. Otis says:

    I just finished a devo about love out of I John. It discusses how John came to some of his conclusion about love in I John. He expereinced through Jesus the love of an Samaritan woman in multiple marraiges, love of an adulteress, the healing of a blind man and on and on. My last point was the mother / son relationship Jesus inferred onto John while on the cross.
    If we ever approach our doctrianl differences with humility and love the way Jesus did, it would help to disarm some of those self set mindfields.
    I would like to read that book, it sounds insightful about the differences we face and how we face them.

  3. dannydodd says:

    Otis I would suggest you get the book. It is written in a conversational style that is very engaging. Randy writes like he preaches.

    Good stuff in it.

  4. brakelite says:

    Royce said :Any so called doctrine that makes me love anyone less is from the father of lies, period.
    I like that. The converse is also true. Any doctrine that empowers us to love Jesus more, and our fellow man, is worth cleaving to.
    What I find personally difficult is sharing such a doctrine with those who differ, and proclaiming such a doctrine as absolute truth without appearing arrogant.
    To do that with the written word such as in here, takes careful thought and contemplation. Such virtues as these are in short supply when ‘preaching’ rather than dialogging.
    Funny thing though, we admire someone who dedicates themselves in search of ‘truth’, but when they find it and tell us about their experience, we think they are arrogant for suggesting that they are ‘right’ and we ‘wrong’.
    I guess the trick is in realising that it isn’t our wonderful superlative writing skills that will convince anyone of truth. It is the Holy Spirit who may or may not use our writing according to His will. Oh, and the willingness of our hearers to ‘listen’.

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