Have you ever had the charge that you have left doctrine? Of course, some have left doctrine to even take up with another gospel. In such a case, that is a fair assessment. But what about receiving that charge for something of lesser magnitude? Perhaps a temptation to all Christians, and certainly a common one in the Independent Baptist world, proclaiming one has left true doctrine simply simply because he or she disagreed with you is an all-too-common occurrence.
Some say that very thing when one takes a different opinion on dress standards, or music preferences, etc. That is a flawed, illogical charge because it assumes that all issues are equal. We break fellowship over changing the plan of salvation, but we also do over a change of standard. In both cases it is charged that there is a change of doctrine. There may be a change, but it is not necessarily one of doctrine.
Those who make the charge flirt with hypocrisy for the simple reason that neither they, nor anyone else, really believes that all issues are equal. I have seen cases where one breaks with someone because they changed a dress standard, but went and preached for a friend whose music is different and conveniently looked the other way. Or other cases where the music standard was held absolute, and they overlooked some other loudly-professed belief–like eating at a restaurant that serves alcohol. The examples are endless.
It is true that “doctrine” refers to “teachings”, or particularly, the content of teaching. Still, it does not follow that all are of the same magnitude. I know people have given their lives for the Gospel, but I can’t remember someone doing it over the issue of attending a movie theater or not. Again, no one really believes it is so.
If a person believed it were so they quite logically would be required to leave off every person who held a difference of opinion on any issue. That is to say, they must on EVERY issue. I have never yet seen any person, even the most militant, ever do that. Their actions, then, prove that they believe value judgments must be made.
Once your actions prove you believe value judgments can be made, then we must agree that our only real argument is what those value judgments are. Without some measure of charity, that argument becomes only that my value judgements are better than yours. The exceptions I make are acceptable, but yours are not.
Then, you could only say they left your opinion. You could not say they left doctrine. That is why sensible Christians have always realized those things that make up essential doctrine. Perhaps they called the fundamentals of the faith, or irreducible truths, but they were the things that held up Christianity. Without them there could be no Christianity as described in the Bible.
None of this is to say that I shouldn’t try to arrive at certain Biblical opinions, and when I to the best of my ability determine it, then I should live it as well. Still, I will not label differences on non-essentials as leaving doctrine. I will not be so sure of myself to dare do that!
Find all articles in the series here.