There are many denominations within Christianity, all of which claim to have the correct beliefs. Like me, I would guess some of the most passionate arguments between Christians you have witnessed have been over issues like predestination, spiritual gifts, and other aspects of the Christian faith about which Christians can hold very different opinions.
Often it feels like there is no good way to resolve these disputes. Though our ultimate authority is Scripture, we can find guidance from the tested and tried consensus of Christian leaders, thinkers, and theologians who have gone before us.
A recent Christianity Today article titled “Do You Believe a False Teaching?” offers an opportunity to answer “true” or “false” to a statement of doctrine and compare your answer to the consensus reached by various church councils in the early days of Christianity.
You may be surprised by your answers because a recent survey conducted by LifeWay Research for Ligonier Ministries revealed that nearly a quarter of American evangelicals hold views about Jesus that were considered heretical by early church councils, and more than half hold views about the Holy Spirit that were also termed heretical by the early church.
“God the Father and Jesus Christ are equally divine.”
This is true. The Christianity Today article notes that “The Council of Nicaea in 325 affirmed that the Father and Son are of the same divine essence, and condemned Subordinationism, which teaches that Jesus is inferior to the Father.”
Did you give an orthodox answer? Let’s try another one, a bit harder, perhaps:
“Jesus is a hybrid, partially divine and partially human.”
This is one many Christians likely will vary on.
The Christianity Today article says this statement is false. “Apollinarianism, condemned at the Council of Constantinople in 381, taught that Jesus is not equally human and divine, but is one person with one nature. Jesus has a human body and soul, but a divine mind.”
You can read the article to go over the other questions and answers.
But why, you may be asking, do seemingly subtle distinctions like these matter so much? And what’s with all the “isms”?
Al Mohler, in “Why Doctrine Matters” on Crosswalk.com explains why sound doctrine is essential to the Christian faith:
“Those who sow disdain and disinterest in biblical doctrine will reap a harvest of rootless and fruitless Christians. Doctrine is not a challenge to experiential religion; it testifies to the content of that experience. The church is charged to call persons to Christ and to root them in a mature knowledge of Christian faith.”
And while God is not calling us to perfectly understand every Biblical doctrine, He is calling us to seek to understand Him and His ways more and more, through reading and studying Scripture, looking into what trusted church leaders believed, and through prayer.
We must work diligently to preserve Christian doctrine because heresy can so easily pollute our thinking, which will ultimately affect how we live out our faith and how we view God.
As Dr. James Emery White puts it on Crosswalk.com, don’t fall prey to the “heresy creep,” by which he means the subtle creeping up of heretical doctrine we can easily adopt merely by osmosis.
Doctrine matters because God gave us a whole book in which He reveals Himself and His ways to us. We ought not to take that for granted.
Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
Publication date: October 7, 2015
Veronica Neffinger is the editor of ChristianHeadlines.com