Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Unified Nature of Doctrine

The scope of this post is to demonstrate the necessity of every doctrine’s correspondence with every other found in Scripture.  I want to prove that when we think wrongly about God or truth at one point, then that wrong thinking or belief, if taken back to it’s source, will ultimately prove itself to be false because of the necessary consequences it has on other doctrines. 
I want to prove this by putting forth two pieces of evidence; 1) The nature of truth itself;  2) Examples of consequences that follow from wrong doctrinal thinking.
1) The Nature of Truth
Unfortunately there are different definitions of truth in contemporary culture.  For this post I’m going to use the definition I believe to be correct which claims that truth is “fidelity or correspondence to reality”  So if something is a true thing, then it comports or agrees with the way things actually are.  Now when it comes to doctrines that people believe, many hold mutually exclusive doctrines at the same time and in the same relationship.  Often times this is done unbeknownst to the beholder.  When the nature of truth is examined we find that something cannot be said to be truthful if it doesn’t accurately reflect the nature of God, or man, or scripture or whatever it is you are looking at in particular.  When a doctrine is held up to be true, it must be taken back to the source to see if it is actually true.   Below is an illustration to help make my point.
What we see here is that doctrine is like a branch that comes out of the ultimate source which is truth.  Any particular doctrine is meant to describe a facet or an aspect of that source.  When you take a doctrine back to it’s source, it must have cohesion with every other doctrine otherwise it is not true. If when “it” is stripped down to it’s basic presuppositions about other things it contradicts those other things, then we can discard it as false even if we don’t know what the real doctrine is. This doesn’t mean that this is always an easy process.  Often it is very difficult to see how one doctrine relates to another, especially on secondary issues.  Nevertheless, they all have the same source so they must ultimately make the same claims about the most basic things if they are to be deemed true.   If a doctrine at it’s core says something different about God then another doctrine, then there is a violation of the law of noncontradiction.  One of them is false. This is the way in which every doctrine in Scripture is connected to every other doctrine. 

2) Consequences that follow from wrong thinking.  

I want to examine two examples of this idea that are almost solely directed at the professing Christian. 

A)  The doctrine of salvation by grace alone  
All Christians should believe that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.  However what we find is that many professing Christians smuggle in a works based system.  So let’s test it out. Can a person be saved by works, even if it’s just a “partial” saving?   Let’s take that idea back to the source and see if it coheres to truth.  “...If righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” Gal. 2:21.  So here Paul is claiming that if we add even one speck of righteousness through obedience to the law, then Christ died in vain.  The reasoning here is that if one speck of righteousness can be attained by the law, then we should be able to attain all righteousness through attainment to the law.(contrast James 2:10) That should be enough for Christians, but let’s draw it out more to see how ridiculous it actually gets.  If Christ died for no purpose, then God killed his only son for no purpose--Isaiah 53:10.  But if God killed his own son for no purpose, then God is both unwise and unjust.  If God is unwise, then he is not omniscient which is a necessary attribute of God.  Furthermore if God is unjust, then by definition God is evil.  So to summarize, if righteousness (salvation) comes from the law (works) then God is evil.  This doctrine of salvation by grace alone is inextricably linked to the doctrine of the goodness and justice and omniscience of God.
B)  The doctrine of inerrancy
Many professing Christians today affirm their belief in the Christian God but deny Biblical inerrancy.  The question is, can those two doctrines co-exist?  Let’s take it for a test drive, albeit a very simplistic one. If the Scriptures(the originals) have error, then God was not capable of transmitting truth to us.  If that’s true, that either renders him impotent or not all-knowing.  If the first how can we be assured that God is able to save us in the future?  If the second how can we trust that God’s plan for salvation is ‘good enough’ against Satan’s ploys?   Probably bigger than those two questions is, why should we trust any of the Bible if it has errors?  Which statements are true and which ones are false?  How do you determine that?  Doesn’t that make you the ultimate authority?  Doesn’t that make you God?   If God said that His word is true, doesn’t that make him a liar?  If that’s the case then we’re back to saying that God is not good which would make him evil.  “This poses an insurmountable problem to the Christian.  If the Bible is God’s Word, it cannot err, because God cannot err.  If the Bible errs, then it cannot be the Word of God.  God and error...God and falsehood..can never be reconciled to each other.”  This doctrine of inerrancy is united inseparably to the God-ness of God. 
Because of nature of truth and the reality that God has created, every doctrine is connected to every other doctrine by necessity.  This is helpful in our pursuit of God because if we are unsure about the accuracy of a doctrine, we just need to take it back to it’s source to see if it affirms or violates other doctrines that we know to be true. Thinking about how we think about God is demanded of us from Jesus. He told us that we are to love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength.  How we think about doctrine can be the fuel for those right affections or the retardant that puts out the flame.  

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