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Doctrine in dialogue format



Ask the Theologian


Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.

"Welcome to another view of religion. My name is Paynim Shibboleth and I'll be the host for this edition of ask the theologian. Tonight we have as our guest the distinguished author and lecturer Doctor Credence Providential. Doctor Providential, thank you for joining us for tonight's program."

"I'm honored to be here Mr Shibboleth."

"The topic of discussion tonight is the value that is placed on the traditions of a particular church. That is to say, should any given church take a firm stance on the traditions and the doctrines of that church, or should the laity be given more latitude in determining what they will believe or how they will serve God. What is your view on this subject Doctor Providential?"

"First I would like to say Mr Shibboleth you have chosen a subject that can not help but lead into deep controversy and disagreement. But regardless, I think I am up to the challenge. Any church is going to have their own set of traditions and doctrines that stand as founding stones of that church or that denomination. Any attempt to swerve from that foundation, or to chip away at that foundation is to endanger the entire structure of that organization. We see this occurring with our own nation where the constitution and Bill of Rights have been whittled and what it has done to undermine the strength and the solidarity of this nation. Traditions and doctrines are essential to any organization if it is to stand. For this reason the very first thing a prospective member of any church is given is some form of document outlining these foundations, usually in the form of Articles of Faith."

"I take it then Doctor Providential that you are in favor of traditions and doctrines and that these should remain unimpeachable. Is that correct?"

"That is not what I said Mr Shibboleth. I did not say that traditions and doctrines should be unimpeachable, or that they are even healthy. What I said is that if an organization is going to stand, it must have a set of absolute rules to follow."

"It sounds to me as if you're contradicting yourself Doctor Providential. How can you say that a church has to have a set of absolute rules, and yet state that those rules not be unimpeachable. If the rules are what hold an organization together, then wouldn't those rules have to be unimpeachable?"

"If the organization is to remain, yes Mr Shibboleth, then the rules must be unimpeachable. It is human nature that people like to have a firm set of rules to follow. We like to know where our boundaries are, where we can go and were we can't go and still be in the safety zone. We also like to challenge those boundaries as any two year old does. But we want to be brought back to the safety zone, like the lost sheep the Shepherd had to leave the flock to retrieve."

"Again you've lost me Doctor Providential. What does a lost sheep have to do with traditions and doctrines? And how can you say an organization must have its traditions to exist, yet you seem to indicate that you do not agree that they should stand firm on those traditions? Explain yourself if you please."

"Consider the Hebrew children in the wilderness Mr Shibboleth. These people had every doctrine and every rule laid out for them, and they knew exactly where they should be at any moment. There was no question about this. Yet time after time they rebelled and were severely punished for their rebellion. Then again we see the Jews during the time of Jesus. Here we have a marvelous example of traditions at work. The religious leaders and the priests knew, understood, and followed the laws precisely. But on top of these laws they added their own rules and their own traditions that they felt were on par with those God had established. If traditions and doctrines are of such great importance Mr Shibboleth, then surely Jesus would have made sure He followed them to the letter. In your reading of the Bible, do you find this to be what Jesus did?"

"I dare say He didn't. As I recall Jesus held a strong disregard for the traditions of the Jews, and condemned them. And this means what to you Doctor Providential?"

"It means to me the glue that held the organization together was of no importance. And in fact that very glue the religious leaders counted on turned out to be their undoing. Jesus not only destroyed them, but also the Temple, that by the way God had established Himself, and He scattered the people from off their land. In other words Mr Shibboleth, God was saying that the organization that was adhering so tightly to its glue was not necessary at all. In fact, if you look closely at the time you will notice that it is the glue, the traditions and the doctrines of the church, that caused these highly religious people to crucify the very One they had been looking for, the one who would redeem them from their captors. Doctrines and traditions are designed to bind an organization together. However, while they do in fact bind, they also blind the members of that organization. We place a very high value on our beliefs and our traditions. But it appears to me Mr Shibboleth that God does not."

"That's an interesting take you have on traditions Doctor Providential, but I'm far from convinced that traditions are not needed. I ask again, how is a church body or a denomination supposed to survive without their doctrines and their traditions?"

"Who's to say any of them should survive Mr Shibboleth? That is my point. Jesus made it clear that the greatest of denominations, if I may call it that, the Temple and all it entails, was not necessary, so what denomination that we run off and create, and demand the world agree with us, is going to be any more correct? Jesus didn't establish a denomination, He established a Church, a body of believers that He is the head of. He instituted a means by which we can communicate directly with the Head, and that is the Holy Spirit. The Church Jesus created is not a groups of segmented people gathering in a building somewhere. The Church is a Spiritual organism held together by the Holy Spirit. If there were no church building, no denominations, the Church would still remain. And to be quite frank Mr Shibboleth, I believe the Body of Christ, the Church, would be a whole lot stronger and healthier if there were no denominations whatsoever."

"What you're saying Doctor Providential makes no sense to me whatsoever. How can there be a church without people coming together under one banner? I read in the Acts of the Apostles where the believers came together to fellowship with one another. This indicates to me that churches did exist, and they were established by Paul, Peter and the Apostles themselves."

"Indeed Mr Shibboleth. And what, pray tell, was the denominational flag these churches flew?"

"I beg your pardon Doctor Providential. What are you talking about? How am I supposed to know what denomination these people belonged to? As far as I know the Bible doesn't say what their denomination was."

"On the contrary Mr Shibboleth. The Bible is very explicit as to the name these people met under. They were called 'the Way,' and later they were referred to as Christians. And it mattered not what part of the world a person lived, they were still part of the same body, and under the same Head. Now the Head has been removed from the churches and they are gathered under a thousand different names, headed by a thousand different leaders, all trying to thicken the walls of traditions and doctrine that separates them from other believers."

"I believe Doctor Providential that you are advocating ecumenicalism, the joining of all the churches under one flag. Is that what you want sir? Is it a one-world religion you're after?"

"Yes Mr Shibboleth, but not in the beast form the world and the churches are trying to create. I believe they will succeed in their efforts, but to the decay of the church as a human entity. No effort we make to align the body of Christ will succeed without including the Head. And as I said earlier Mr Shibboleth, the Head is not a part of this man-made concoction we call the denominational church. If we were capable of setting aside our own prejudices and self-centered attitudes and have an honest look at the denominational church and the direction it's taking, we will see that it is not seeking to please or serve the Head, but rather it is conforming to the tail, the least of its attributes."

"I believe you're forgetting something very important Doctor Providential. In several places Paul refers to traditions and doctrines and states firmly that Christians are to follow these to the letter. But you say they should be done away with. Who are we to follow sir? Should we listen to you? Or should we obey the words of Paul?"

"Paul taught the Gospel as God had given it to him Mr Shibboleth. I believe we should follow the doctrines as God delivered them to us. However Mr Shibboleth, we do not have the words of God, or of Paul to follow any longer. The words are there to be sure, in the form of the Bible. But the words we are to follow have been disassembled and rearranged into a hodgepodge of conflicting regulations called doctrines. And every church and denomination has chewed off their portion of that mixture of error to call its own. Truth can no longer be found through the church maze. It can only be discerned through the guidance of the Holy Spirit."

"Are you saying Doctor Providential that the Bibles we have today are not the same ones they had in the early church? Is that why we can no longer find the truth? If that's the case, then as far as I can see Christianity no longer exists. Either we have access to God's Word, or God does not exist as He applies to us, the Christian."

"Of course the Bible is not the same as in Paul's day. The only Bible the early Christians had at that time was what we call the Old Testament. And strangely enough those ignorant and unschooled in the ways of God's people stand as beacons of light to us highly informed Christians of this modern era. No Mr Shibboleth, it's not the Bible or the translation that is the cause of our Spiritual blindness, it's our own poisoning of the Word that has led us astray and off the straight and narrow where truth is to be found."

"Poisoning of the Word Doctor Providential? That you will have to explain. What do you mean by saying that we have poisoned the Word?"

"I'll give you an example of the poison we can spread in order to keep someone away from truth Mr Shibboleth. Let's say I was to tell you that your neighbor was a Communist. What reaction would you then have toward your neighbor?"

"I don't suppose it would effect me one way or another Doctor Providential. As long as my neighbor did not try to influence me toward his way of thinking I don't suppose it would matter what he believed."

"Well now Mr Shibboleth, that's a reasonable response to take. And at one time being a Communist was a fairly typical thing in this country. In fact there was a Communist party that was fairly popular in some circles. Then came the McCarthy hearings. People were being blackballed from work, and they were castigated by their friends and family if there was even a hint of a Communist background in a person's life. If this happened to be that age, what then would be your reaction to your neighbor if he was a known Communist?"

"I get your point Doctor Providential, but I fail to see how it applies to the subject at hand. Please keep to the subject sir."

"The subject as I understand it Mr Shibboleth is how do we keep people away from truth. And that is what I am explaining. Gossip as we know is a grand tool with which to lead people in the direction we wish them to go. I believe you can imagine what harm I could do to you if I was to spread a rumor that you were a Communist during the McCarthy era, or a Jew in Germany under Hitler. Now, how about if I was to tell you that a report has come out that a certain food has been shown to contain poison that accumulates in the body and will harm you over time. You like that food and purchase it in large quantities for your family. How likely would you be to continue buying that food Mr Shibboleth?"

"I suppose I would be reluctant to consume a food I thought might harm me or my family Doctor Providential. But, so what? Again sir, what's your point?"

"My point Mr Shibboleth is that you, me, we all will avoid anything that causes us to feel uncomfortable. If we are told something, we just naturally assume it to be true. This is especially so if we have been told this by our teacher, or parent, or our church leaders. In regards to the church, if we are told that a certain doctrine is correct and all others that do not agree with that doctrine is wrong, and the holders of other doctrines are evil and going to hell, then we believe this, regardless of what we read in the Bible. If your church believes that taking medicine is of the devil and will send you to hell, then you will decline the medicine that will save your life. And this even though next door to your church is another church that teaches that to refuse medicine is of the devil and foolish. If I see a truth in the Word, and I want to keep you from believing that truth, then I would tell you that what you're reading is wrong, and it is a doctrine of the Modern church or some cult and therefore to be avoided. If you seem to hear this same thing from everyone in your church, even if all those in your church had never cracked the covers of the Bible, you would then take for granted that the truth you read for yourself is not correct. We see this in every church. The truth is hidden behind accusations that it is a part of a lie. And rather than risk appearing wicked or foolish to our fellow church members, we follow the broad road to oblivion. Every church has its untouchables, doctrines that must not be questioned, even though, with examination, they either make no sense at all, or they have nothing to do with our salvation. We find that instead of concentrating on having a good relationship with the Lord, and following the Holy Spirit into producing fruit fit for the Kingdom, the churches protect their insignificant doctrines in the same way the Pharisees were willing to kill anyone who rubbed seeds between their hands, drank out of unwashed cups, or raised the dead on the Sabbath. Blindness, Mr Shibboleth, is the fruit of conformity. And denominationalism is the epitome of Spiritual blindness."

11These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. (Acts 17:)

14Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers. 15Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 16But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. (2Tim 2:)

6Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.. . .12Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. (Mat 16:)

3But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?. . . Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. (Mat 15:)

13But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. 14Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch. (Mat 15:)

24Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. (Mat 13:)

40And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? 41Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth. (John 9:)

15I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. 16So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. 17Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and BLIND, and naked: 18I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. (Rev 3:)




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