Christianity.. what is it good for

I am a Christian. What does that mean? When some people hear the word, they immediately think of high-toned, Catholic Mass said in Latin by some guy in a big hat. For a good number of people, the word conjures visions of Pat Robertson’s 700 Club or Jerry Falwell or James Dobson’s “Focus on the Family” (as the bumper sticker says, “Jim, focus on your own damn family”). Many people think just because they live in America, don’t murder people and are “basically good” that makes them a Christian by default. There are many different doctrinal positions people take, claiming their point of view as the Christian point of view. Are any of these visions or assumptions valid? Are all of them?

When I say I am a Christian, I mean I have an intimate, authentic, personal relationship with the God of the Universe made possible ONLY by the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. That’s it. No doctrinal statement, no list of rules, no Latin… If you believe that and if you have that in your life, you are a Christian… Period… Nothing else matters…

So what of doctrine? I said once to a friend and new Christian that doctrines were man’s attempt to put God in a box. I said, “This is not a bad thing, as long as we realize and accept that our boxes are in God, more than God is in our boxes.”

Thanks so much for reading. I look forward to your comments.

Matty the Stranger

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16 Responses

  1. Amen! Keep with the good words. I like the saying…religion is how you choose to worship not who you worship.

  2. hmmmm I think I’ve said this before to others too! Again, we think alike!

  3. I agree with you on the importance of not getting bogged down in doctrine, but I wonder if you might go a little too far. Take a look at the gospels. Jesus is all about doctrine and theology. If you look at Paul’s epistles, they are also all about doctrine and theology. Yes, we need to remember that any doctrine that is not directly inspired by God is absolutely limited, but that doesn’t mean that doctrine doesn’t matter.

    All that to say, don’t through the baby out with the bath water.

  4. […] a site that I frequent I found a blog that I checked out. This guy wrote a post recently about being a Christian. His view of Christianity is as follows: When I say […]

  5. John – I don’t agree that Jesus was/is all about doctrine and theology… Jesus was/is about relationships… Jesus didn’t call Zacchaeus down from the tree to regale him with archaic, Hebrew law… or to list off all the things Zacchaeus had done wrong… Jesus called to this as-yet unrepentant man and said I’m staying at your house. Go get ready for a meal!

    Jesus never presented a doctrine… Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son. That whosoever believes in Him should never die, but have Eternal Life.”

    Perhaps we are having a semantical difference of opinion?

  6. Matthew- Yes, Jesus was about relationships, but all of his relationships were driven by theology. You mention Zacchaeus, Look at Luke 19:9-10 — And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” — Jesus’ calling of Zaccheus out of the tree to have dinner was all about the doctrines of sin, repentance and salvation. Other wise, Zaccheus would not have repented from his fraud, and given half of his possessions away.

    Our disagreement may be in part a difference of semantics, Jesus was about relationship, but doctrine and theology undergird all of his relationships. If we don’t have a doctrine of sin and repentance, we have neither need nor desire to share our faith — to be in relationships seasoned with God’s grace.

    Also, I disagree with your statement that Jesus never presented a doctrine. Doctrines leap from the pages of the gospels, doctrines on the Kingdom of God, worship, judgment, grace, repentance, eschatology. Don’t let the fact that Jesus taught doctrine through and in relationships mask the underlying doctrines that are there. The challenge for us, and I think the point of your post, is that we need to not allow the doctrine to get in the way of the relationship.

    Do you agree?

  7. John-
    Loving this discourse, by the way!

    I think my biggest issue comes down to this. When someone says “doctrine” or “system of theology”, I get the impression of a list of rules… do’s and don’ts… the edge of the slippery-slope that ends in salvation by works… salvation by adherence to “a principle or position or the body of principles in a branch of knowledge or system of belief” ( definition of doctrine provided by Merriam-Webster online @ http://m-w.com/dictionary/doctrine).

    In my mind, doctrines are simply man’s way of codifying the intangible that is a relationship with Almighty God… I don’t care what your feelings are on infant baptism, on literal creation, on gay marriage… these questions are not vital to whether or not a person is saved…

    your turn!

    SDG,
    Matty the Stranger

  8. Matthew –

    Still thinking here. You state:

    Jesus never presented a doctrine… Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son. That whosoever believes in Him should never die, but have Eternal Life.”

    In my view, Jesus’ statement is rich with doctrine.

    There is a doctrine of the nature of God: He loves the world, in fact He loves them so much that He gave His only Son.

    There is a doctrine of Jesus: He is the One and Only Son of God, He was given as the only source of eternal life.

    There is also a doctrine of man: They are sinners who are dying, and need grace to receive eternal life.

    So, in the quote that you give, I see lots of doctrine. BUT – we can’t get lost in the doctrine so that we forget about the loving God who gave his one and only Son.

  9. Ok, my last comment was before I read the definition of doctrine that you include. I agree that you can be saved despite your doctrine on baptism, creation, and gay marriage. HOWEVER, some doctrines are necessary to salvation.

    You must understand the doctrine of sin and death. You also must understand the doctrine that salvation comes only through the grace of God, as shown through the sacrifice of His Son on our behalf.

    Yes, it is a slippery slope. But, I don’t think you can avoid it altogether. Also, even if we are both saved based only on the most basic of doctrines, I THINK (not being dogmatic here) that part of our response to God’s grace is a desire to comprehend His character. This leads to the study of theology and doctrine.

    Also, read through Matthew 24-25. In it Jesus teaches a lot of doctrine about judgment, His return, etc. If God didn’t want us to worry about doctrine, would He have allowed that to be included in His Scripture?

  10. Man, I need to slow down, I keep thinking of new issues after I post something. In your last comment, you state:

    I think my biggest issue comes down to this. When someone says “doctrine” or “system of theology”, I get the impression of a list of rules… do’s and don’ts… the edge of the slippery-slope that ends in salvation by works…

    Be willing to consider that some of your reaction to the words “doctrine” and “theology” is just that, your reaction. I think a lot of us have had a bad experience where someone is rigid and more devoted to a “system of theology” then they are to the Living Lord who should be the focus of their theology. Don’t let those bad experiences ruin the idea of studying Scripture to understand God through theology. At its core, theology is about loving God with your mind as an act of worship. If it is not an act of worship, then it is mere rubbish.

  11. John-
    We’re coming to common ground, now, I think!

    If you choose to define “Doctrine” as any set of truths of the Christian faith, then, of course, you are right. Jesus taught truths. Paul taught truths. My pastor teaches truths…

    Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father, except through Me.” Is this a truth? Yes. Is this a doctrine of salvation? Yes. But it is a statement *dripping* with relationship!

    For a brand-new, baby Christian the deeper questions of doctrine are irrelevant. The author of Hebrews wrote:
    “But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” Hebrews 5:14 (NIV)

    Also, your last sentence reads “If God didn’t want us to worry about doctrine…”. I don’t think God wants us to *worry* about anything! He came to relieve our worries!

    Did I mention I’m really enjoying this?

    SDG,
    Matty

  12. Yes, I think we are coming to common ground. It bothers me when people complain about doctrine or theology, because they miss the truth that your theology colors everything that you experience.

    I don’t think that you can truly divide relationship from theology. If you have the wrong theology, you will use your relationships for your own benefit, rather than being used in them for God’s glory. Does that make sense?

    One more disagreement, however. You say that a baby Christian doesn’t need the deeper questions of doctrine. I find it hard to imagine any deeper theology than that the God of the universe died to save me. Yes there are more esoteric doctrines that can be set aside, but they may not really be deeper.

    Gotta go. There is still some work to get done.

    John

  13. Matthew and John – loved the discourse and the original blog – I’ve been a “Christian” my entire life, but really only gave my life over to my Lord about 10 years ago and I truly love the relationship I have with Him now. I think that both of you are fundamentally correct in your positions. Matthew’s point about basic truths that baby Christians can understand and focus on and John’s point that the most fundamental truth is also one of the deepest points of doctrine is also important. Thanks for really giving me a lot of food for thought!

  14. littletiger-

    Thanks for your comments… I know John and I are together on this… i really appreciated the way you worded this, “the most fundamental truth is also one of the deepest points of doctrine”. Thanks so much

    SDG,
    Matty

  15. Just want you men to know that I enjoyed reading your thoughts regarding relationships and doctrine.

    Doctrine, it seems to me, is an attempt of the finite to understand the nature and character of the infinite. GOD has presented to us glimpses of HIS character through HIS creation and through HIS son. And HE does this, of course,in the context of HIS desire to have a relationship with us.

    Enjoy the journey.

    In HIS grace,
    seanair

  16. seanair-

    Thanks for the comment!

    SDG,
    Matty

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