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Pointers along the way #432

Doctrine must match experience
- Jacob Ninan

We have to be careful not to make doctrines out of experiences. Every experience must be checked with the Bible to see if it is consistent with the teachings of the Bible. There are many deceptive experiences and even demon-originated doctrines (1Ti.4:1).

At the same time, we must also check our doctrines which we form from studying the Bible to see if they agree with general experience of people. Some people form doctrines from their understanding of certain verses and never check if they relate to real life experiences! If discrepancies with practical experience are pointed out to them they even justify themselves saying that they would believe God's word no matter what people or experiences say (cf. Ro.3:4)! They point out that God's truth can be beyond human understanding and assume that their stance shows their devotion and respect for God's word.

Take the doctrine about the eternal security of a believer, a.k.a., 'once saved, always saved'. This is based on verses such as Jn.5:24, 10:28,29, etc. However this does not match with practical experiences of many people who have come to faith in Jesus, demonstrated a life consistent with that faith, and then fallen away. These are explained by saying either that they were never really born again in the first place, or that even if they seem to have fallen away they are still secure with God! It is easy to talk like that in the comfort and security of a Bible study but it simply bypasses looking at real life.

Once we notice such an inconsistency of the doctrine what we need to do is to reexamine our interpretation of the verses which have made us come to such a doctrine. Then we see that these and other similar verses are all talking about how God keeps us from His side and how no one else can take us away from Him. But what about the possibility of our falling away from God by our choice? It is obvious that this has not been addressed by these verses.

When we look further in the Bible we see that there are other verses which address our part in falling away from God (He.3:12;6:4-6;10:26, etc.). There are ever so many warnings given to believers in the New Testament which would all become meaningless if there was no possibility that believers could fall and lose out finally (e.g., 1Co.10:5,6,12). Instead of twisting their simple meaning or saying that they apply to some other group, wouldn't it be much more natural and straightforward to understand them as they are written?

King Solomon who started off with God on a high note fell away by going after other gods. Judas who was one of the twelve disciples turned out to be a betrayer. Demas who was one of Paul's co-workers fell away because he was drawn away by the world. Don't we have real life examples? Even with examples, people would still argue that they were not really godly or they didn't really get lost. But wouldn't a better doctrine be to say that God would never leave us, but we might leave Him?


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