What Faith is Not: The Struggle Between Doctrine & Faith

Doctrine Is Precisely What Faith Is Not

If I were to talk to you about what faith is not, would you agree that “it is not doctrine”? I think that most would agree with that. Yet when I put forward the idea that doctrine is not as important to God as faith I am often confronted with Ephesians 4:14

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.

The implication being that that we have to know our doctrine so that we will not be swayed by false beliefs and have our salvation threaten.

I’d like to respond to that.
If our salvation depended on doctrine we would all be doomed:

Firstly

The idea that we can distill God down a set of concepts no matter how comprehensive they are is patently absurd. He is well beyond our attempt to define Him. If He weren’t He would not be God.

Secondly

Even our limited understanding of God is fractured. There are not just multiple denominations of the Christian faith surrounding us but even within those denominations there are significant doctrinal differences. This is the case just as much from within unified denominations such as the Catholic church.

Thirdly

Just how many of us even understand fully what is within those doctrines.
No our salvation is dependent on our faith in Jesus Christ, not anything else.

Ignore Doctrine

I’m not suggesting that we should ignore doctrine. In fact I encourage the study of it. What I am saying is that the verse above is not about having the perfect doctrine but rather about making sure that we have a mature grasp of what we believe.
Knowing what we believe and why we believe it, is vital to a stable Christian walk. Having a clear understanding and strong grasp of our own beliefs is what protects us from the “cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming”.

Understanding Makes us Secure

Image of a little church and steeple in the snow: This article is about What Faith is Not

Understanding Faith

Such an understanding makes us secure and not prone to bitter disputes with others about their beliefs. It means that we can look critically at what others believe and not fear losing our own. We can even change our minds about what we believe because it make sense and because you have used clear and critical thinking to reason it through, not because it is the in thing or going concern.

It’s not about being more right than anybody else but rather about being clear.

Think About Infant Baptism

One of my sons came to me one day and said ” as a baptist what do you think about infant baptism”. You know what I replied? I said “it’s not about what I think it is about what you think” and I handed him a list of my books on the subject.

What was his conclusion? He said ” I am baptist but I can accept the Lutheran understanding”. I was never more proud.

Orthodox & Arianism

I am Orthodox in my primary doctrine but because I am secure in my beliefs I can look at heresies and the merits of what they thought without being persuaded but them.
Take Arianism for example:
The doctrines of Arias was rejected by the majority of the church fathers. Yet it was this branch of Christianity that converted most of the known world outside of the Roman Empire.

Back To My First Point

And that brings me back to my first point.
We are saved by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ not by our doctrine. Even if they are something that helps our faith and our stability in that faith they are still what faith is not. And being precious about them only put us at odds with our brethren and maybe even with God.

Study then to show yourself approved (2 Timothy 2:15), don’t turn doctrine into idols.

Richard

 

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