THE DOCTRINE THAT MAKES CHRISTIANITY SO REMARKABLE

Saw this post on See, there’s this thing called biology… insanitybytes this morning, “Not what you know but WHO you know”. insanitybytes22 wrote a glowing review of “Not what you know, but WHO you know.” by Mel Wild. Why? Well, you can read ‘s post and find out. This post explains why I recommend ‘s post.

What is ‘s post about? explains what it means to be a Christian. He deals with an old issue.

Christianity is different because it is not a religion.

Christianity is a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Instead of being about what we must do to be saved, Christianity is about who we must love, trust and obey. ‘s post is the best explanation I have seen of what that relationship with Jesus Christ looks like.

Of course, nothing is perfect. Therefore, whenever I appraise even the most masterfully done work, I have this annoying habit. I look for defects.

Consider how begins.

Eternal life is not about a place, it’s about a Person. It’s not about what you know but Who you know. It’s not based on believing the right things, although believing them is important, it’s about experientially knowing God as our Father and Jesus Christ. It’s participating in God’s very own life 2 Pet.1:4). (continued here)

Curiously, reviews a bunch of doctrine, but he stresses experience, the experience of a relationship with Jesus Christ. Given ‘s own writing, do we really need to stress experience and relationship over doctrine? Don’t think so. So why is doing that? The reason is that we fight over doctrine.

Let’s think about what the Bible is. The Bible is a book that tells us about Jesus. It is from the Bible that we learn about Jesus. Do we see Jesus in other Christians? Yes. Do we experience the love of Jesus Christ through other Christians? Yes. Nevertheless, we know when we are experiencing the love of Jesus because of the teachings about Jesus we gain from the Bible. The Bible provides us doctrinal truths about Jesus, who is the Truth we seek.

Because the Bible is a complex work, we argue about its meaning. That is, we can be separated by doctrinal issues. Whenever possible, we should do what recommends, remember the Truth is Jesus, that we need to keep the focus on Him and His command that we love each other. However, because the Bible tells us about Jesus, we cannot set aside doctrinal issues for the sake of unity or a happy experience, and I don’t think is actually suggesting that.

Consider this passage.

Matthew 10:34-39 New King James Version (NKJV)
Christ Brings Division

34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 For I have come to ‘set[a] a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; 36 and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ 37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.

Jesus Christ divides us from non-Christians because Christians believe different truths about Jesus than non-Christians. What says about Jesus Christ being the Truth, that our focus must be on Him, is a doctrinal truth. In fact, to experientially know God as our Father and Jesus Christ, we must believe certain doctrinal truths. So read ‘s post carefully, and keep in mind that is actually teaching a doctrinal Truth. To receive salvation, we must know the Truth; we must know Jesus Christ. We must love and trust Jesus Christ as our Lord.

So then, what is the real problem with doctrinal truths? Why does make the point that we should not put our understanding of the Scripture and our doctrinal views higher than the person of Jesus? The answer is that we need to remember that the Bible is about Jesus, not us. We are not suppose to use the Bible for our own purposes. We are suppose to use the Bible so we understand better how to serve our Lord Jesus.

19 thoughts on “THE DOCTRINE THAT MAKES CHRISTIANITY SO REMARKABLE

    1. @marmoewp

      Thanks for letting me know. We do not get to know someone the same way online we do in person, but we do get to know them. He was decent man who missed his lady. Hope they are together again.

      Like

      1. @tsalmon

        — and heart.

        Keith had both great technical ability and the heart of a poet. He was an honorable man who cared about people.

        Keith struggled with the Bible the same way Thomas Jefferson did, the same way I once struggled with the Bible (and still struggle). Keith admired the philosophy and beauty he found in the Bible, but he could not believe in the miracles. So, he had trouble believing that the Bible is God’s Word to us.

        What will God do with Keith? How would I know? I think it is safe to say that lot of people will be in heaven the “experts” said would not be there, and a lot of people won’t be in heaven that the “expert” said would not be there. The only true expert in such matters is God. We are blessed because God is just and yet more merciful than any of us deserve.

        What do I know? Only this. God is love.

        If someone we loved loves God’s children, will God give them up? Doesn’t seem likely, does it.

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  1. I would be interested in Reverend Wild’s response to this. I see the paradox that IB is talking about, but is it really a paradox, and if it is a paradox, aren’t some of the greatest Christian truths found in faithful acceptance of the paradoxical?

    The reason why I think that this might not be a paradox is because the Reverend makes a clear definitional distinction between relationship and doctrine. Reverend Wild even goes so far as to say that, when we sacrifice relationship at the alter of doctrine, we have created an idol that we put before God. Put a different way, a Christian, through Jesus the eternal Christ, is required to have a loving relationship with everyone, even those who he or she is completely opposed to (even our enemies) on doctrinal grounds. How can we do that if doctrine is not a very different thing of infinitely less importance than our relationship to God and each other with, through and in the the eternal Christ Jesus? I don’t want to put words in the Reverend’s much more capable mouth than mine, but this is the message I got out of Mel’s post.

    The other thing that I got out of the Reverend’s post has to do with “paradoxes”, although he didn’t use that word. Jesus often spoke In paradoxes, and it seems to me that the Bible’s most profound truths are just such rationally confounding, revelatory mystical mysteries. And those higher mysteries can only be divined through faith and grace, not doctrinal rationalization. I think it is what Mel implies when he invokes our Deist Enlightenment history -doctrine often pridefully seeks to rationalize away these paradoxical mysteries by dissecting them to a death that kills their eternal, infinite and more wholistic revelatory truths, truths where reason has far less or even no purchase. In this way, rational epistemology seeks to substitute itself for the faith, grace and humble awe that actually leads to relationship with, but not ever a rational understanding of, the infinite mystery that is God.

    Does any of that make sense? Through the help of Reverend Wild and writers like Father Richard Rohr and through the acts of Pope Francis, late in life it is only now starting to make sense to me. It is, however, a message of hope and joy that seems to be much closer to the uniting message of Paul’s letters and in the Gospels than what all the endlessly dividing religious doctrines have sadly devolved Christianity into since then.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting conversations here! I think what Tom is saying is that even putting knowing Jesus over doctrine is a doctrine, and that is true. Good doctrine is simply a way of putting our minds around a revealed truth from God. Bad doctrine is when we make stuff up or make it a pretext to try to fit theology into our personal biases or some other motive.

      My point is that eternal life is found in the Person of Jesus Christ (John 17:3). It’s not that doctrine is not necessary but that if it doesn’t point to a personal, experiential knowing of Christ, it’s divisive and even harmful. For instance, the Pharisees’s doctrines led to them condemning Christ to be crucified.

      Jesus said something interesting in John 7:14-17 (NKJV):
      “14 Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught. 15 And the Jews marveled, saying, “How does this Man know letters, having never studied?”
      16 Jesus answered them and said, “My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. 17 If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.”

      Jesus is essentially saying that how we know if a doctrine is from God is a heart issue. If our heart (motive) is purely open to do God’s will, we may get it wrong sometimes but God will steer us in the right direction. Conversely, you could say that if you have an agenda (whether perceived or not) that is other than knowing Christ, you will not know whether the doctrine is from God or not.

      Finally, the only true acid test on whether we truly know God is by how we love (1 John 4:19-21). There’s no getting around this. We’re just fooling ourselves if we say we love God but don’t love others. This is why our doctrine, as important as it is, must be subsumed within experientially knowing Christ. One does lead us to the other, and vise versa (paradox), but knowing Christ must take precedent before I undertake studying doctrine (the latter without the former just makes us religious). Another way to put it, I know the Scripture is true because I know Christ, not because I went to seminary. Hope that helps. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. @Mel

        Some Another way to put it, I know the Scripture is true because I know Christ, not because I went to seminary.

        It is kind of shocking, but some apostates are theologicians, and what they say about the Bible doesn’t make sense.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Very enlightening Reverend. Thanks for the clarification. It seems to me that doctrinal disputes are good, and that any hatred or animosity that flows from them means that one or both sides of that doctrinal debate are missing the more important underlying divine message of relationship with God through God’s love that you have explained so well. As Tom points out, there are many scripturally trained false prophets out there who obviously have less of an actual relationship with God than those illiterate slaves who converted out of love during Paul’s time.

        I found particularly profound what you said about the transactional quality that has come into religious doctrine, both in traditional orthodox religions and in some forms of modern day evangelism. It’s the concept that, if I do this (follow these rules or rituals or give this to the church), I will someday get Heaven in return, when, as you say, Heaven in some more real sense actually derives from a relationship NOW with Christ and it is that relationship which makes our (necessarily imperfect) efforts at the following of the rules possible and even natural. Perhaps you could elaborate on this further.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. @tsalmon. You said:
          “Heaven in some more real sense actually derives from a relationship NOW with Christ and it is that relationship which makes our (necessarily imperfect) efforts at the following of the rules possible and even natural.Perhaps you could elaborate on this further.”

          Well, that’s what Scripture actually says about the New Covenant. God promised that He would write the Law (which is based in other-centered, self-giving love) in our minds and hearts (Heb.8:10-12). Paul said that it’s it’s His love that compels us to do so (2 Cor.5:14-15). Paul also said that the Law is for those who don’t know Christ (1 Tim.1:8-9); the reason being, we don’t need rules in order to do the right thing. We are governed from within. Another way to say it, if there were no laws in the land we would still do the right thing because that’s what other-centered love does.

          So, it’s not as much about following rules

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Good post, Tom. Thanks for the ping back and thanks for reading Mel’s post. Interesting remarks you’ve made!

    I kind of have to just laugh at the paradox, because I often criticize “the law” or “doctrine.” Why? Because love is our doctrine, love is our theology, love is our law. How do I know this?? Because Matthew 22:40 in the Bible says, “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” That’s our doctrine, that’s our theology. We’re right back to doctrine, again. 🙂

    Sigh. So now we can proceed to try to worm our way away from that one by just arguing over the definition of “love.” I’m just kidding, but there’s some truth to that.

    As to Matthew 10:34, somebody smart once taught me, “it’s the Sword of Truth, it’s a powerful weapon, and so you have to use it responsibly. Always make sure you know the difference between your will and God’s will.” I’ve really treasured those words, that’s a truth that has pressed on me many times.

    Unfortunately the adversary, life struggles, and people who probably shouldn’t be playing with swords, have really worked hard to separate people from the love of Jesus. If you don’t know Him, these words just fall flat, they are two dimensional marks on a page or worse yet misunderstood, negative, false representations of who God is.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @IB

      Well, I am a natural born skeptic. The Apostle Thomas, my namesake, might not approve of me, but I suspect would sheepishly laugh and admit he understands me. Disbelief occurs when no amount of evidence will satisfy our pride and force us to believe.

      Men crave respect before the want love. We desire the power to win battle and demand tribute, not gifts. So I suspect God called His Book a sword in order to tempt us to read it.

      Liked by 2 people

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