We care neither for devout dunces nor intellectual icebergs.
~ Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Doctrine is a killer. Those who staunchly promulgate doctrine are often cold hearted, ice cold killers. In today's world they thrive in internet discussion groups. But that isn't enough, they stalk about Facebook pages seeking whom they may correct. They aren't content railing on their own pages but must scour the web looking for theological fallacies, which in most cases are just inside the mirror. They are theological bullies, blasting their shotguns often and everywhere, spraying bullets far and wide. They are the self appointed defenders of Almighty God, who needs their help.
Often they come under the guise of love as they insist on telling the truth. Like Theological Thors they come flying onto your computer screen or flashing upon your smartphone where they deal a crushing blow with their theological hammer. Why? Because the world is so messed up and Christianity has gone so awry. These theology hounds are desperately needed to straighten out the skewed beliefs of the masses.
Such men and women think it is their sworn duty before God to swoop upon the dolts of Christianity who are not willing to label every Arminian a hell bound heretic headed for eternal damnation. They love to pounce upon the guy who says as a baby believer he did not understand the Trinity. They annihilate the mature saint who is unsure if the bible teaches preterism or premillenial dispensationalism. Depending on what camp you are in (or worse yet, you don't have a position) they drop their hammer and tell you you're an idiot and how can you possibly be saved believing such things. They accuse people of not rightly understanding the gospel, as they have a firm grasp on it now, when they came to faith decades ago, insisting without a doubt that you weren't saved back then. Because after all, the thief on the cross could have given a clear gospel presentation that even Calvin would be proud of. The theology ogres are heavy on truth and bereft of love. As my wise pastor has said, "There is no truth in you if you are devoid of God's love." Check it out here http://thegracelifepulpit.com/Sermons.aspx?code=2013-07-14-PJ
So is doctrine in fact destructive? Should we just love Jesus and leave all this theological hair splitting behind? I mean after all didn't Jesus eat with tax collectors and sinners and hang out with winebibbers? Didn't He embrace everyone with an all-encompassing love? Gentle Jesus meek and mild? Or is the Thor approach more biblical? Do we need more theological superheroes? Maybe we ought to be thankful and listen to these theological Hulks. Since the error is portrayed as so deep and so crucial, maybe it's best to have these guys and gals thrashing about the internet, making Christianity stronger. They're doing us a service, bringing us closer to Christ. Or are they?
But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance. ~ 2 Timothy 3:10
Wait a second, as the Theological Superheroes start charging me! Are you saying doctrine isn't important? Get ready for a Hulksmash pal! No, not so fast. Doctrine matters. Greatly! As we see above it was not only commendable but crucial in the life of Timothy and Paul. The problem isn't with right doctrine but wrong actions. Pride. High-mindedness. Contempt. Basically an attitude of 'you're wrong, I'm right and I must show the internet world just how smart I am.' Trouble is while you flex your theological muscles your hard black heart is popping out of your chest. The mass of believers who watch such silly displays shake their heads at the pious antics of glaring immaturity. Worse, the unregenerate sinner who still shakes his fist at Holy God laughs and becomes more content in his rebellion, even plotting his excuse before his future Judge.
If you're a theological superhero, do you really want that on your resume when you meet your Judge?
We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death.
~ 1 John 3:14
Lest you mistake me, we must speak truth. We must rightly divide the word. (2 Timothy 2:15) We must stand for the inerrant, infallible truth of scripture. We ought to come alongside brethren when error is present. We must contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints. (Jude 3) We must present the rich truths of doctrine found within Holy Writ. But if it is from a harsh stance where all we do is bash and crash then we have serious, serious problems. We have forgotten the sins we were saved from. (Titus 3:3 2 Peter 1:9) So I point to the Spurgeon quote that heads this, we cannot be intellectual icebergs and far be it from us to be devout dunces. We must know our bible. We must remember ourselves. We must have compassion on the brethren.
Doctrine matters, immensely! The Apostle Paul would not have mentioned it more times in the pastoral epistles than you have fingers if it wasn't. So before the "I just wanna love Jesus" crowd gets too puffy chested, shake yourself and study doctrine because correct doctrine leads to correct practice which leads to greater doxology.
So in the end, doctrine is not destructive, unless it's in gross error (see TBN or just about any other "Christian" television station). What is destructive and divisive is the proud Thors and Hulks that stomp around the internet looking to promote their knowledge while claiming to promote Christ. What's destructive and divisive is the peacocks that strut their theology and trample their brother. Sadly, when you try to point this out you just get lined up and pile driven as if you were the opponent in an Ultimate Theological Cage match. You end up bloodied but somewhere behind the adoring Theological Superheroes is a loving Father ready to begin the school of understanding with a walk to the divine woodshed.
So if you find yourself, bashing the brethren take a step back and remember that Christ had mercy on you when you were deep in sin and destined for destruction. Think about the fact that trials and sufferings are part and parcel of the Christian life. Take heed that your lack of compassion may only be a prelude to some deep, dark trials that will soften you and temper you in order to make you look like Christ.
Friend, your theology ought bring you to the ground in humility not lift you up to some lofty position of authority. You see, you don't really know you're bible until that clanging cymbal and banging gong go silent. When you stop parading yourself and puffing yourself up, when you stop behaving rudely, you will not only gain some ears but you will prove your theology is pure and true. Unless you pour contempt on all your pride and humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, all your words will be nothing more than judgment building up for you to hang your head in shame later.
You, like me, were an enemy of Christ, held by the curse, totally depraved, unwilling and unable to come to Christ apart from the electing love of the Father, the quickening work of the Holy Spirit, and the redeeming love of Christ, our Good Shepherd. That being so are you and I in a position to tread upon our brethren and blaspheme our God by bashing through walls and dropping our hammers on every brother or sister who doesn't think just like us? Who may be undergoing some immense trial? Who is at a different point along the journey?
So then, would it not be better if we reasoned together and spoke the truth in love?
He must increase