Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sound Doctrine: A Source of Unity

It is a common complaint that digging too deeply into doctrines, standing firmly on positions, and even formulating creedal and confessional statements to express our beliefs is divisive. It is an activity that always harms the unity of the Body of Christ.

I submit that this is not true. While unnecessary speculation and the development of previously unknown doctrines does cause schism and division in the church, seeking to formulate a solid confession of "the faith once for all delivered to the saints" is the exact opposite of division. In fact, it is unity.

The clear expression of the faith is the language of the Body of Christ. This common tongue unites us rather than divides us. It is a gift from the Holy Spirit that overcomes all of the confusion and babel. We gather together around common ideas rather than wandering aimlessly in the chaotic masses as we search to hear a single common voice out of the din of a myriad of human opinions.

And even in those places where confessions differ, the first step to resolving these issues is to identify where the sources of difference lie. How can people with two differing opinions ever learn from each other if neither knows the clear position of the other?

Clear doctrinal statements also remove the temptation to judge people's motives. When someone demonstrates a willingness to engage in full disclosure and works to remove doubts about his intentions and private opinions, the seeds of trust can finally grow. Clearly revealing someone's foundational ideas and presuppositions helps to provide a context for all further discussion so that no one need to wonder if he should "read inbetween the lines" or search for hidden meanings that reveal his brother's true purposes.

It is only in the hands of the tyrants, heterodox, schismatics, and rebellious that differing opinions cause division. This is not the fault of the proclamation of truth, but is a manifestation of the sinful deficiencies in all human beings.

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