23 September, 2006

That Dirty Christian Word

When one uses the word ‘Doctrine’ around certain parties one can almost see them conjuring up images of ancient dour old men in white wigs and black robes. To pomo ears it is such a harsh and unyielding word. So obdurate…so chauvinistic! You can almost hear the gasps: You think Doctrine is most important? How unloving and harsh!

Doctrine is taking a beating these days from many quarters. Some love it yet slander it with their ortho-praxy. Many think it is not that important and others will ask: What IS Doctrine? One can attend church for 50 years and never once hear the word spoken from the pulpit.

In a nutshell: Christian Doctrine is what Jesus taught as truth. Period. I know there are some fancy explanations out there in theology land with ten dollar words but this is my elementary layman’s definition. Doctrine is what we, as Christians, believe and teach as truth.

Recently, I read these words from a young associate pastor of a mega church promoting acts of service to the community, “Jesus said Christians should be known for their love. And that’s why the vision for _________ is that all of its members demonstrate love by regularly serving others”. Preaching Associate,______ __,said that Jesus showed His great love for us through sacrifice and acts of service. “And that’s how we’re going to love one another,” he said. “As a church, the challenge is to be known primarily by our love—more than politics, more than our doctrine, more than our building.”

Ok, that sounds great and no one is against showing love as Christians to others but why did he have to include doctrine? Are doctrine and love incompatible?

The title of this article is curiously enough: Servant Evangelism--- Reaching the world for Christ through acts of kindness.

This young pastor goes on to give this advice: “There are all kinds of ways for you to serve. It does not have to be officially sanctioned by _______. You can do this stuff on your own”. What kinds of things is he talking about? He included a list of 12 things but I will only quote a few here:

1. Leave a large tip for the waiter or waitress who saw
you pray before the meal
2. Pay for a stranger’s gas at the gas pump.
3. Hand out bottles of water at the park
4. Feed someone’s parking meter

Ok, you get the picture. Random acts of kindness. There is little here to which an atheist would not agree. They call this 'servant evangelism' but I could find nothing in the article about actual evangelism except perhaps the premise which may be this: If Christians perform acts of kindness by serving others, then maybe, those they serve will want to come to church. If they come to church they may become followers of Christ. I am not sure, but I think that is the evangelism part.

So what is missing? Doctrine: What they believe and teach as truth. I got to thinking about this and wondered if we can actually separate Doctrine from Love? I don’t think so. To test this as a Berean, I did a Biblegateway.com search on the word 'doctrine' in the New Testament using the ESV. (You get a fewer results using the NIV)

Here are the results:
Romans 16:16
I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.
Ephesians 4:14
so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
1 Timothy 1:3
[ Warning Against False Teachers ] As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine,
1 Timothy 1:10
the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine,
1 Timothy 4:6[ A Good Servant of Christ Jesus ] If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed.
1 Timothy 6:3
If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness,
Titus 1:9
He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
Titus 2:1
[ Teach Sound Doctrine ] But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.
Titus 2:10
...not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.
Hebrews 6:1
Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,

I strongly urge you to go and read each one in context. But, I think we get the idea: Doctrine is pretty important. The question is: Can we separate it from love or showing love as our young pastor suggests?

I hate to try and interpret men’s written words but when they do not give you much to go on, sometimes it is necessary. Based on his proclamation that love is more important than doctrine one has to conclude that doctrine is, at the very least, #2 on his theology hit parade. If love is first, how does he show love? Well, judging by his exact words, he tells us it is through works. (He calls it servant evangelism)

He is saying that people will see the works and know that people who love Jesus love them. No where in his words did he tell people to proclaim the full counsel of God as they performed the works. He simply said, 'show them you love them'. And he goes on to ask, “What would happen if instead of dozens and dozens it was thousands and thousands of people serving?” That is a good question to ask: What would happen? Would they be saved?

Now, some may be thinking I am gagging at gnats and swallowing camels here. Am I? This is pretty important stuff. And points to how far we have drifted from what Jesus taught. I understand that because I drifted quite a bit myself only to find that the most important thing is that all faith in action must be God centered. How can we know it is if we have not taken the time to know Jesus Christ through His Word? No where in any of this young pastor’s words did he even mention the eternal life of those with whom they may be serving. That is a big clue to this being works theology.

Now, you may be thinking that I am being mean spirited. After all, this young pastor just wants to do loving things to people in need to show Christ’s love. Yes, that is right and there is nothing wrong with that if he tells them the full counsel of God first so that their blood will not be on his (and his congregations) heads. ( See Acts)

Let’s say they are mowing the grass for an elderly man. They are there as representatives of Christ from this large church showing love to this man. While they are mowing the grass, the man has a heart attack and dies. He was never told the full gospel. His lawn looks nice and everyone feels warm and fuzzy inside about how nice the people from this church are but if this man was not saved, his nice lawn has just turned into the Lake of Fire. In the end, did they really show love for this man? To put a sharp point on it, they showed contempt for his eternal well being. Ouch.

Now, I have no idea if he would have been saved or not had they given him the full gospel which is: Law, sin, can’t do it by yourself, need a Savior, Jesus took our sin and if you do not repent and have faith alone in Christ you will burn in the lake of fire. That Gospel.

Not the, 'Jesus loves you and wants you to have eternal life', half way faux gospel.

I have to conclude that Doctrine IS love. You just cannot separate them. What would really be showing love is to share the Doctrine (teaching) of the full gospel of Christ with the old man and mow his grass whether he believes it or not.

You know, you can invite him to church without giving him the full gospel truth first but he may never make it there and if he does, will he actually hear doctrine when he gets there? Or will he be told to go and show love for someone else by works?

This whole Doctrine thing is uncomfortable for me, too. Sharing the full cousel of God with people is hard and it is much easier to do works and hope they will come to church and eventually be saved.

What really bothers me the most is that this skewed and incomplete teaching is coming from a pastor. Someone who has dedicated his life to preaching the Word and shepherding the sheep.

Scary stuff, indeed. I pray that his eyes will be opened to the need for sound Doctrine.


Jodi said...

Why is it an either or? Doctrine OR love? If the quote is that the church is to be 'known more by love than by doctrine', how do you get that it is either or? The words 'more and than' indicate that the church is known both ways.

Why would the old man invite you in his house to get his head thumped by the Bible unless you've done something nice for him? What credibility do you have with him?

One of the bad things about living in this day and age, especially in the Western culture that we live in, is that people in general are cynical - showing love for someone else through acts of service tend to break down those cynical barriers.

If done properly, and not to speak for someone else, but I think that's what the young pastor was getting at, the doctrine is supposed to be presented when they come to the church. When the old man is sitting in the pew next to the young guy that mowed his grass.

If you are going to quote someone, and rake them over the coals, and question whether they are heretical, at least include who you are talking about, so that people can download sermons, listen for themselves to see if this guy is credible or not.

Lin said...

The quote from the pastor is this as I wrote in the article:

As a church, the challenge is to be known primarily by our love—more than politics, more than our doctrine, more than our building.”

He is saying it is either or. He is saying that love and doctrine are not the same. Not me. He is separating doctrine from love. However, Scripture teaches that doctrine is love.

Sharing the truth of gospel is, unfortuantly, seen as Bible thumping. As a matter of fact, since we are all sinners, none of us has 'credibility' to share the gospel, yet we are commanded to.

The truth of gospel in scripture stands alone. The Bible says they believe by hearing the Word. But somehow we think people will believe it if we soften them up first.

Scipture teaches that God is the one Who opens hearts. Not us. We are simply commanded to share the FULL gospel with everyone. The scripture we are sharing is doctrine and it is the most loving thing we can do. More so than any kindness or works.

Unfortuantly, scripture also teaches us that the 'Word' is like a sword. Matthew 10

But Hebrews 4 tells us:

12For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Why is it that we think 'we' can soften people up to be saved? That is putting ourselves in God's role. It becomes man centered with us thinking God needs our help.

If doctrine is only to be presented when they come to church, then the purpose of doing something nice for them was to bring unbelievers into the Body of Christ. That is seeker orientation. The Body of Christ is for believers...both mature and those on milk. But not for unbelievers hoping they will be saved.

If we are honest with ourselves we need to ask: How many times have we invited an unbeliever to church and told them they are going to hear what sinners they are and they are destined for hell unless they repent and believe on Jesus Christ. (Chances are they will not hear that at all in most churches but you get my point?)

We don't do this. We invite them hoping that somehow they will like what they see and join the church and hopefully someday be saved.

This is not keeping them from Hell or helping them to know what they are being saved from. That is not how Jesus or the disciples operated at all. Jesus' first sermon in Matthew was : Repent! For the Kingdom of God is at hand. Most witnessing to unbelivers in the NT started with: Repent.

Bringing unbelievers into the church to worship is one reason we have dumbed down the full gospel with things like servant evangelism and seem to only speak of love and not repentence of sins to unbelievers. See Ray Comfort: Hell's Best Kept Secret

The bottom line is that doctrine is love but may not sound like love to unbelievers unless God has opened their hearts. Our young pastor made the distinction himself: We should be known for our love...more than our doctrine.

But the truth is we should be known for believing and sharing the total truth of scripture. Even the hard stuff that no one likes. Evangelism is preaching the full gospel. Doing nice works without preaching the full gospel is just nice. That is all. But it will not save anyone.

BTW: I saw no reason to use the name. The subject was doctrine and love. It is an example to be discussed. Who the person is--is of no consequence to the premise of the article.

There are tons of young pastors this could relate to, unfortuantly.