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Editorial: Does doctrine matter?

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Dr. Gerald Harris J. Gerald Harris

On the evening of September 11, 2012 Islamic militants attacked the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, killing U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. The following January, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to answer questions about the Benghazi attack.

Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson was questioning Secretary Clinton in an attempt to ascertain whether the attack was the result of a public demonstration gone awry or an act of terrorism.

Clinton’s emotional response was, “What difference at this point does it make?”

To carry this concept even further, there are those who are asking, “What difference does gender make?” For example, marriage is all about the complementarity of men and women. The etymology of the word “complementary” suggests the completion, or fulfillment, of something or someone. For example, God affords a measure of completion and fulfillment though a life-long, faithful sexual relationship. This is found in and through the particularity of the other person, in the unique and concrete interweaving of many similarities and differences.

Complementarity is central to any marriage. For centuries cultures around the world have believed that sexual difference is the foundation of that complementarity.

However, now there are those who are saying that sexual difference is not enough for us to know that two people complement each other and that in some cases same-sex couples complement each other better than heterosexual couples. So, they ask, “Does gender really matter?” or “What difference does it make?”

The World Health Organization speaks of gender fluidity and reports, “We do not accept the prevalence of two rigidly defined genders ‘Female and Male’: and believes in freedom to choose any kind of gender with no rules, no defined boundaries and no fulfilling of expectations associated with any particular gender.” In other words, they say, “Gender is not determined by one’s anatomy” or “What difference does it make?”

Recently, I was talking to a man not quite my age who is a member of one of our Baptist churches. He informed me that he would soon have his name taken off the church membership roll. I asked him, “Why would you do that?”

He said, “I am getting married in two weeks and my wife is a Catholic and I promised her I would become a Catholic.”

I inquired, “How long have you been a Baptist?”

He replied, “I have been a Baptist all my life, but I have been visiting the Catholic church with her for several months and although it is a bit more formal, there is really not that much difference. Basically, we all believe the same thing.”

I wanted to say, “Are you kidding me?”

… there are some pastors who carefully avoid addressing doctrinal issues for fear that would be too negative,

confrontational, and divisive.

Although he was probably in his late 60s, there is a growing population of church going folks who regard doctrinal issues as a bore and a bother. Pragmatism and rationalism seem to be surreptitiously creeping into many churches and diluting the doctrine.

Noted pastor and author John MacArthur stated, “Sound, biblical doctrine is a necessary aspect of true wisdom and authentic faith. The attitude that scorns doctrine while elevating feeling or blind trust cannot legitimately be called faith at all, even if it masquerades as Christianity. It is actually an irrational form of unbelief.”

Many seem to be insensitive to the historic differences within the church: election and free will, infant vs. believers’ baptism, the validity of charismatic gifts, the form of church government, Reformed vs. Dispensational theology, and the varying views of Scriptural authority. They don’t really care about these differences, and they demonstrate their attitudes by easily moving from church to church with differing ideologies.

Any experienced pastor could certainly confirm the fact that many modern believers seem to have no penchant for doctrinal differences. And there are some pastors who carefully avoid addressing doctrinal issues for fear that would be too negative, confrontational, and divisive.

The Apostle Paul said, “For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?” (I Cor. 14:8). There are far too many “uncertain sounds” in the pulpits of the land. Pastors must remember that the writer of Hebrews has a word for pastors when he writes, “… for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief; for that is unprofitable for you” (Heb. 13:17).

And the laity must remember that a nonchalant, lackadaisical, “what difference does it make” attitude about truth/doctrine may help one blend in with our pluralistic society, but it may not meet with God’s approval nor correspond with His uncompromising precepts. God’s Word is absolute truth. Some things are non-negotiable and there are some things that make a difference.

Yet, today’s political correctness demands that those with uncompromising beliefs are urged to be more open-minded. Those with convictions are asked to be less dogmatic. Those with intestinal fortitude are advised to be less confrontational. Those with backbone are counseled to be less rigid or abrasive. Those with firm doctrinal positions are informed that cultural diversity and religious pluralism now rule the day and should be regarded with favor.

In every generation there is the temptation to homogenize our doctrine down to the lowest common denominator, jettison those doctrinal issues that appear to be controversial, and adjust our belief system to accommodate the culture. Some even contend that it doesn’t matter what a person’s “doctrine” is.

In every generation there is the temptation to homogenize our doctrine …

The Apostle Paul said, “Holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict” (Titus 1:9).

Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, told Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:3-7 to “… charge some that they teach no other doctrine ….” He also told Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:3 that “… the time will come when will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers.”

John said when a person abandons the doctrine of Jesus the Christ, in reality he/she abandons God: “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds” (2 John 1:9-11).

What difference does it make? Does doctrine

matter? Absolutely! The Southern Baptist Conservative Resurgence won the battle for inerrancy, but we must be forever vigilant in contending for the faith once and for all delivered to the saints.

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