Doctrinal Discussions

January 31, 2006

Lately I’ve done a bit of commenting on threads on other blogs about doctrinal questions.

FIDE-O is having an interesting discussion of Calvinism. I’ve commented here and here. The consensus of the group is decidedly pro-Calvinist. I have not been able to bring myself to accept some parts of that body of doctrine.

Over at Regan’s Ravings, Regan is wrestling with the idea of baptism and with questions on the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

I am a bit conflicted about the idea of getting into controversial doctrinal discussion. The baptism question seems foundational to me. I take Acts 2:38-39 to be a universal and conditional promise. Baptism is one of the conditions. So in a quest for unity that discussion seems to be one in which I should engage.

However, the Calvinism debate is different. I don’t know of any scripture indicating that a person must understand and accept (or reject) that doctrine in order to be saved. Therefore I think there will be people on both sides of the question in heaven. So those who disagree with me are still my brothers, and I should not be quarrelling with them about disputable matters. And yet… Perhaps it would be possible to establish enough common ground between the two sides to eliminate suspicions and misrepresentations.

I’m not as confident about which category the question about the Holy Spirit belongs in.

For those of us who place a high priority on pursuing the unity Jesus prayed for in John 17, it is important that we handle these doctrinal discussions in a unifying way, if we engage in them at all. That is necessary even if the other participants do not handle the discussion in that manner.



  1. Alan:When I first started my blog, I was much more stand-offish about unity than I am now… and since I have now expanded my definition of fellowship, I’ve been somewhat relucant to engange in them, but when I saw Travis’ link to the gender and churches of Christ website, I felt I needed to comment.After wrestling with the two sides for a while, I think I’ve come to a happy medium… I can hold to convictions and beliefs, even on disputable matters, without casting others out of my circle of fellowship. I believe that women shouldn’t speak or hold positions of authority in the church, but I won’t draw a line in the sand and withhold my love from those that I believe are in error. I think it is healthy for us to talk about, even debate, doctrinal issues. When we do this, we learn about each other, learn all sides of the issue at hand, and most importantly, put a name and a face on those that disagree. Too often those who disagree are painted as mysterious, faceless, nameless individuals…and then it is very easy to call them an enemy.

  2. Hi Clarke,I agree that there are potential benefits from dialog about doctrinal controversies. There is a downside risk, but perhaps the negatives can be minimized. There certainly is an art to engaging in such discussions in a constructive way. Sometimes a group is a monoculture, seldom hearing a dissenting voice. Going into such a group to discuss the other side of the story is not for the faint of heart. It takes a thick skin, and a lot of restraint. It is not helpful to chase every rabbit that runs by. You just have to let some things go unchallenged, to keep focus on the constructive side of the discussion. Not an easy thing to do.Alan

  3. Alan you are correct in stating that in heaven there will be people on both sides of the issue. However, one of them will have been right and the other wrong. We may both be there, but there is way more to this life down here than just getting to heaven.

  4. Hey Scott,I suspect that both will be right about some things and wrong about some things. I doubt I’ve ever met a human who understands every concept in the Bible perfectly.Alan

  5. Alan:Are you going to respond to Doug’s tag….I wanna read your answers…-Clarke

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