Christian Living

Why I Don’t Do Doctrine

We Can’t Force the Beauty and Mystery of God into a Neat Little Box

Just as I bristle over the word theology, I also don’t like the word doctrine. Though the two words mean different things, in my mind they have the same effect:

They both turn the beauty of God into an intellectual construct, but the mystery of God avoids our structural confines. That’s why I don’t do doctrine—at least not in the traditional sense.

Doctrine Defines

As long as religion exists, we’ll have doctrines to explain it. In this respect, Christianity is no different. At a basic level, we need some minimal doctrine to understand the basis of faith. Arguably everything written about God is to some extent a doctrine of sorts.

One might argue that this post is a doctrine about doctrine.

Go online and do a search for “the doctrine of” followed by any letter in the alphabet. You’ll discover many doctrines. Some are common ones you’ve heard of, while others are esoteric.

Start with the letter a, and work your way through w. (There aren’t many Christian doctrinal results for the letters x, y, and z.) As you do, you’ll note that doctrine doesn’t just apply to Christianity. There are doctrines about other religions, philosophy, and about any other school of thought.

Yet this desire to define carries with it inherent problems. Read on to learn more.

Doctrine Isn’t Absolute

The modern era brought in the idea that through reason people could converge on a singular understanding. That didn’t happen. In fact, the opposite occurred, with our ideas diverging.

In addition, in today’s mindset that elevates individualism, anyone can develop their own doctrine on anything. This includes our understanding of God and how we relate to him.

As a result, there isn’t one doctrine about any one topic. Instead, there are multiple versions on everything. And they’re often in conflict with one another.

Doctrine Divides

As a result, our doctrine doesn’t unify us. Instead, it divides us. Even a local church body, with a stated doctrinal stance, will fail to get full acceptance from all their members, let alone all who attend.

Things get even more polarized when comparing one local church to another or two denominations with each other. And views diverge greatly when looking at the different streams of Christianity.

That’s why it’s critical for us to accept Christians who believe differently than we do.

Just as I wrote that our theology produces labels, judgment, and division, so too do our doctrines

Faith Essentials

To minimize the problems caused by doctrines, some enlightened Christian leaders have proposed that we focus on the essentials of faith that are non-negotiable. Then we should hold everything else loosely.

I’ve written about three essential aspects of Christianity. Then I even boiled it down to one essential: Jesus.

Nothing else matters—not really.

If we keep ourselves focused on Jesus, other things don’t so much matter. And that’s why I don’t do doctrine.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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