Monday, November 15, 2010

Celebrating Christ, Not Doctrine

The issue of doctrine has come up recently for me in a few forms. I've been in a variety of churches with varying levels of theological conservativeness and liberalness. Some have had no statement of faith, while others have had very detailed statements.

I've recently been hearing some people saying it's important to stay true to doctrine. This seems related to Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears' new book, Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe. I had the opportunity to review it, but declined because I've heard very little come from Driscoll that I think is biblical, so I didn't want to waste my time.

I'm regretting that a bit now, as I want to know more details of this assertion of orthodox doctrine. From looking at the summaries of the chapters on the website, it doesn't look like it includes most of Driscoll's more unbiblical beliefs. And it's focused more on the essentials.

Many an argument and book have focused on what is considered essential to be a Christian and what should be included in a statement of faith. Therefore, I won't really delve into that. However, I would say that it should be relatively general. I'm not sure how useful very detailed doctrinal dogmatics are except to alienate people and draw arbitrary lines in the sand to make us feel good and others feel bad.

Scripture and Jesus are really more focused on relationships and loving God and others than on right belief. The texts really are helping readers develop a closer, stronger relationship with God. Understanding God accurately would be part of that, but I believe it's less important than others believe.

I really appreciate Azusa Pacific University's statement of faith. It is specific enough to identify clear Christian beliefs, but it not overly specific, allowing for a good ecumenical community. I personally prefer that way of defining doctrine, in contrast to more detailed statements, like that of Biola. I find it interesting that Biola doesn't even have a statement of faith. It is a "Doctrinal Statement." In contrast, APU only has a "Statement of Faith."

Both have pros and cons. In an academic setting, I'd prefer an APU model. I think I would prefer that in a church setting, too.

On November 11, 2010, T. Scott Daniels, PhD, discussed APU's theological heritage. He closed his talk by quoting Dr. Felix, a prominent proponent of APU, as saying, "where other places, their emphasis is on defending Christ, the emphasis here is on celebrating Christ."

I think that is just beautiful. In my experience most doctrinal statements and statements of faith are more focused on some sort of defense. I don't see that in the Bible. Rather, I see a call for celebration. That's what I want to do.

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