DOCTRINE WINS

By Richard Lints:

With all of the furor surrounding Rob Bell’s recent book, Love Wins (HaperOne 2011) it may seem counterintuitive to say that interest in the book (as evidenced by the Time Magazine cover article on it) owes more to the enduring interest in Christian doctrine rather than to the ambiguity of belief so characteristic of Bell’s thesis.  The fact that people still care about the doctrinal outlines of the Christian belief in heaven and hell is testimony that at the end of the day, doctrine wins.  It does matter what one believes.  It matters because doctrine shapes life and deep down most of us know this.

David Brooks, the New York Times OpEd columinist recently wrote, “Many Americans have always admired the style of belief that is spiritual but not doctrinal, pluralistic and not exclusive, which offers tools for serving the greater good but is not marred by intolerant theological judgments. The only problem is that [this view] is not quite true. Vague, uplifting, nondoctrinal religiosity doesn’t actually last. The religions that grow, succor and motivate people to perform heroic acts of service are usually theologically rigorous, arduous in practice and definite in their convictions about what is True and False” (New York Times, April 22, 2011).

When David Brooks, a nominal Jew, understands this, it seems all the more surprising that many evangelicals still seem predisposed to soften the edges of doctrinal conviction in order to be more acceptable to the wider culture.  Doctrine wins because Truth matters to life.  Would not the “living” nature of Biblical truth be a sufficient reminder of this?

Peter serves as a pastor-teacher, at home and abroad, resourcing gospel-centred communities.

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