Have You Left Doctrine? (IBTR #56)

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.

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17 thoughts on “Have You Left Doctrine? (IBTR #56)

  1. If it is not found in the Scriptures…leave it alone.

    Simple fix: Do away with the camps, clubs, cliques, constitutions, convictions (personal), opinions, theories and numerical nonsense. Problem solved.

  2. My mother-in-law told us that we have left the “fundamentals of the faith” because we no longer abide by their dress and music standards and disagree with some of their interpretations of Scripture. My father-in-law is the founding pastor of an independent Baptist church. What I find interesting is that in recent years, we have grown so much in our faith since we have spent more time in personal and group Bible studies. The Lord has led us to form a discipleship group to help struggling Christians who have been hurt and, at this point, will not join themselves with a church body. We have gladly traded the legalism in which we were both raised for the relationship that we now enjoy with the Lord.

  3. This points out the weakness in the so-called doctrine of “separation” and “secondary separation”. It isn’t real, biblical separation, but segregation. The problem with segregation is that it never ends. You keep segregating into smaller and smaller groups, until you end up with a group of one person. And I’ve known people who truly think they are the only person who is correct on everything, and they will fight you claw, tooth and nail to prove it. (although at least a couple of these people have never had anything to do with the Fundamentalism movement of the 50s and 60s or ever–they are just convinced they are right, and everybody else is wrong). But you start out with an unbiblical teaching on separation, and you end up with this sort of thing.

    On the other hand, there _has_ been a departure from the fundamentals of the faith among evangelicals in recent decades, which only serves to cloud the many issues connected to separation. And I know churches (mainline denominations) that felt forced into separating themselves from their denomination, and paid the price–losing their church buildings, etc.

  4. Very good article and subsequent comments. Although I would make the point that these things that you are calling “doctrines of lesser magnitude” are actually not doctrines at all. They are commandments of men. Matthew 15:9 “And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” And I also believe that this is one of the core reasons the IFB are loosing the next generation. If we make the commandments of men equal to the doctrine of scripture we cause our children to doubt everything they are taught. By doing so, we teach them they can pick and choose what is truth.

  5. I shared this article with some of my email friends and got this reply from a preacher friend named Brent Meadows. Hope it adds to the great conversation.

    Very good article, as usual, from Jimmy Reagan. I recommend reading all of his articles. What he writes below is what I have preached and taught myself, and I wish more Independent Baptists would do the same. Fundamentalism used to be about the “fundamentals” – the true vital doctrines of the Bible – back when the movement started, in an effort to combat the modernism that crept into America. Sadly, the focus has long shifted to cultural and secondary issues, matters of liberty and personal preference, leaving doctrinal preaching in the dust. And over time, we’ve continually added to the list of secondary things that we major on, preach on, and judge one another on. The results are evident throughout most of our Baptist churches – shallow, yet judgmental, Christians. Expository preaching would be the medicine for this sickness.

    Can we not exercise true Christian, biblical liberty, as expounded upon in Romans 14, I Corinthians 8, and throughout the entire letter of Galatians? Sadly, most cannot. Instead we divide up into “camps,” separate from one another over everything under the sun, throw off on other churches that don’t do things exactly like we do them, and even question the salvation of individuals based upon matters of preference and personal conviction! More grace is certainly needed.

    Jimmy’s article below is very biblical and logical (Logical is not “spiritual” enough for many of the brethren however!). We can separate from one another so much that we wind up thinking we are the only ones right, or worse yet, the only ones truly saved. When we start calling other churches and individuals “liberals” just because they don’t dress like us, listen to the same music we do, or have the same type of ministry that we do, we are in sad shape. Worse yet when we call into question their salvation. I’ve heard preachers call other churches “liberal” just because some of the women wore pants, or they had a drum set on stage, or used a different hymnal, or the preacher didn’t wear a tie, or they didn’t have Sunday night services, etc. That is foolish and arrogant!

    Doesn’t mean we have to agree with everything other churches or individuals do either, by the way – that is where freedom, personal conviction, and spiritual growth come into play. But, for example, let’s not act like having a tattoo and denying the blood atonement are the same thing – they most definitely are not.

  6. The point you made about overlooking one thing while accepting another is so very true. I’m only 34 and I have seen it numerous times. The problem I see often though is when young people (my age or younger – lol ) begin to recognize these faults then many rebel and throw out a lot of good as well. Young people reading this, may I encourage you to be grateful and thankful for the good that came from many of the places that practice some of these hypocritical things. Some of it was done to control, but some of it was done by well meaning people who just blew it like we do all the time. Give them the grace you wished they had given you. Thanks Bro. Reagan for this insightful article.

  7. Pingback: It’s Time For An Independent Baptist Truth Revolution! | The Reagan Review

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