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Pointers along the way #718

Living in a doctrinal bubble?

- Jacob Ninan

Doctrines are biblical teachings meant to lead us to a godly life, and a godly life is the goal of God's salvation. If our doctrines don't have any use for us in this direction or if they have no connection with practical life, should we waste our precious, limited time arguing about them? It is unfortunate that many Bible colleges and many individual pastors and teachers spend a lot of time discussing non-essential issues when critical issues that affect practical life are left untouched?

Theology forms the basis of Christian living; wrong theology can't be expected to support right living. But isn't applied theology more helpful to people than cold theological facts without life?

For example, there are doctrines that apparently describe a victorious life. They quote different verses to show that we have victory. But this actually amounts to implying we have no sin (1Jn.1:8)! But we only have look closely at ourselves to see that we don't always have victory. We fall sometimes and need to confess that to God to get forgiveness (v.9). But if we hold a doctrine that says we have victory, we need to twist meanings of words (play with semantics) to show that our failure is really not a failure (our sin is not a sin), our sins are already covered by the blood of Jesus and don't count as sins(!), it wasn't a sin but a mistake, etc. Then we are trying to live inside a doctrinal bubble and are quite disconnected from real life! What we need is to find doctrines that address practical situations that we face in real life and show us what to do with them.

When we make doctrines that don't work in practice we are being intellectually dishonest. We can't get away by saying, "Let God be true and every man a liar" (Ro.3:4) because this verse doesn't mean that in order to make God's word appear to be true we should hold on to doctrines that we know are false! When doctrines don't work, it means we haven't understood them rightly, or that we haven't connected them with other parts of truth that balance them. It is better to say we don't know, and start looking for right doctrines.

In the above example about a victorious life, there are verses that tell us what God has done to provide us with what we need for that life. These are available to us 'in Christ'. But there are other verses that tell us what we need to do in order to appropriate God's provisions and actually experience victory. These are not verses that tell us how to earn our salvation (which we cannot ever earn), but how to avoid things that will keep us away from salvation or how we can receive salvation. If we preach only what God has given us 'in Christ' without telling people how they can really experience it, we end up blowing doctrinal bubbles. We are either ignorant about the full part of the truth, or we are being dishonest by talking only about parts of the truth that appeal to people's emotions and make the preacher acceptable to them.


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