Is Bad Doctrine Sin?

It is hard for me, as a teacher of theology, to consider anything worse than bad doctrine in the church. When people’s views of God become distorted, their lives follow suit. When someone believes  it is always God’s will to heal their sickness, they are going to be left disillusioned and riddled with spiritual pain. When peripheral issues get elevated to the status of essentials (and this is bad doctrine too), the central message of the Gospel gets replaced or lost. I had a lady here at the Credo House the other day who said that God gave her a message. What was the message? That women do not inherit original sin, only men. She went through a long complicated argument. I could tell that this was incredibly important to her. She was insistent, assured, and demanding. She even wrote a book about it and gave it to me. It was the focus of her message! Was this sinful?

I suppose that I want bad doctrine to always be sin. That way, it is easy for me to explain why people don’t agree with me. If we are not on the same page theologically, the answer is simple: they are in sinful rebellion to the truth. Next…

But I am not sure this is always correct. I am pretty sure that bad doctrine is sinful, but I am not sure when it is sinful.

Let us talk about the polar extremes of this issue. It is easy to see that any rejection of Jesus is sinful. Now, one may do this with perfectly good doctrine. One may intellectually believe that Jesus is the Son of God who takes away the sins of the world. They may believe in the Trinity, the hypostatic union, justification by faith alone, and the like. But they simply refuse to accept God’s sovereignty over their lives. This is obviously the sin of rebellion. I always think of King Saul when it comes to this type of person. However, there are those who don’t have good doctrine at all. There are polytheists, who believe there are many gods. There are those who believe God is a force, not a person. There are those who do not even believe in God. Is this sin? I believe it is. Ultimately, it is a rejection of God. It is a rejection of the truths God has plainly revealed about himself and his nature – truths which some people choose to turn away from, in favor of lies. In Romans 1 we see this very clearly.

Rom 1:18-19
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness, because what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.

Notice here that there are certain things about God that he has made plain, or clear. These things have been revealed through creation and can be observed by all. Notice what things are plain.

Rom 1:20
For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes– his eternal power and divine nature– have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people are without excuse.

The word “attributes” is not really in the original. But this probably expresses Paul’s thoughts well. It is the “invisible things” of God that are plain. His “power” and “nature” are singled out as examples. Paul does not go into detail about what invisible things can be known about God through creation, but whatever these things are (most certainly his power, singularity, and transcendence), the reason for people’s rejection of them – the reason for bad doctrine – is clearly explained: people “suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”

If this is the case, then bad doctrine is not so much sinful in and of itself; it is the result of sinfulness. In other words, people suppress what is plain about God (and, I suppose, the Bible) so they can continue on in the lifestyle they desire. Bad doctrine serves to facilitate their sin. This is easy enough to see in atheism. If there is no God, there is no punishment for sin. The same can be said for those who reject God’s righteousness, judgement, wrath, and the doctrine of hell. This is suppression of truth in favor of sin.

Are there cases where people are legitimately deceived and their bad doctrine is not due to a favoring of sin? This could certainly be true in some situations, but we are going to have to let God work this out.

Other times, bad doctrine is not so bad. In other words, I think egalitarianism is bad doctrine for the most part. But I am not sure it can be described as “suppression of truth in favor of sin.” After all, there are some very good Christians who are egalitarians due to convictions brought about by their studies. I don’t think their bad doctrine is sinful. And if I am wrong about my complementarian views, I don’t think it is sinful. I could say the same thing about all non-cardinal issues. There are just so many things that we are not sure about. Someone is wrong, but this does not mean they are in rebellion. With the things that are evident, plain, and clear, I think denial of these particulars is the product of sin and is, therefore, sinful.

The best I can do right now is say that bad doctrine is often, but not always, sin.

152 Responses to “Is Bad Doctrine Sin?”

  1. We achieve the resurrection of life by belief in our heart not by doctrine in our head. Theoretically, if you have all the right doctrines laid out perfectly, but with a sour heart full of rebellion and arrogance, I think that person will die. Because you are not saved by what you know, or how smart you are. The opposite, I think, is also true. If you have a humble and contrite heart, yearning for God’s grace, but you are a whacked out with many numerous crazy, fallacious non biblical doctrines, then I think that person will see eternal life.

    This is because eternal life is a gift in spite of ourselves. Knowledge is not a prerequisite.

  2. Why would bad doctrine ever be “sin?” Doctrine is just a logical conclusion.

    And even if it was, what’s the difference? A) We’re ALL eat up with bad doctrine, and B) We’re not saved by a full and complete understanding of an immeasurably vast God – we’re saved by Grace.

    I guess, even if bad doctrine *is* a sin, it’s just one more sin that I have. I do my best to get it right, and God help me, I think I do pretty well. But I KNOW I’m not right about everything. And neither is anyone else. All I know is I am a child of God and I do my best to get it right and live in accordance to his will (and fail at least occasionally, probably more). But when I get to heaven and God asks me why he should let me in, it won’t be because I understood everything he said. It will be because “I’m with him” (pointing to Jesus).

  3. If bad doctrine was sin…boy you Calvinists would be in huge trouble by now ;)

  4. It appears to me that if God says Truth about Him is known because HE, Himself teaches it, then it is always sin to willfully suppress it. That is “Good doctrine.” Anything else is “BAD” doctrine.

    I’m wondering if you are getting closer to the edge of “philosophizing” away the PERMANENT INHERENT authoritative nature of the Bible {Jesus: “Thy Word is truth.”}

  5. Two questions:

    1) Are you assuming that all components of your theology are orthodox; and if so, why?

    2) The bad doctrine that you hold, of which you are unaware, does such spring from your sinning?

  6. Aaron Walton May 7, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    CMP, William,
    Thanks for the article. I thought it was helpful

    Another passage I noticed that you may want to consider is 1Cor 15:34. Contextually he is addressing the people regarding the resurrection and he says “Come to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning.” So it seems like he is calling their bad theology sin (though I may be mistaken).

    Your questions are really off topic. Michael is simply putting forth the idea that theology is sometimes sinful without saying anything about his own theology.

  7. Like I said at the end of the article, bad doctrine is not always the result of sin, especially when the issues are very debatable as evidenced in the history of the church.

  8. Aaron and Michael,

    I’m not trying to throw us all off topic; it’s just that we all most likely hold to some bad doctrine, of which we are not aware. So, I would, then, agree with him that bad doctrine is not always the result of sin.

    What I find ironic, however — and why I asked if Michael assumed his own theology was orthodox — is because he seems to get to say what is and is not bad doctrine; and I suppose we all can do that — even me — even the woman mentioned in the first paragraph.

  9. Aaron Walton May 7, 2013 at 6:38 pm

    I understand what you mean. I think those are legitimate questions. Though in general I think we generally know -why- we hold a doctrine if it ends up being bad doctrine. Or at least, I’ve used bad doctrine as ways to solve problems before. As one person commented in sarcasm: “Isn’t it nice for you that your doctrine to conform to you and your problems?”

    To me, it also seems to be hard to define what bad doctrine is; and I think Michael recognizes he doesn’t have everything right. I myself recognize I probably have lots of things wrong and have now started to hold most doctrine very loosely because I recognize I don’t have enough information to come to the best conclusions, and because I’ve been influenced by many presuppositions. But it is a good caution. For example, I don’t hold to Original Sin, so do I have bad doctrine or does Michael? :P

  10. Aaron,

    I myself recognize I probably have lots of things wrong and have now started to hold most doctrine very loosely because I recognize I don’t have enough information to come to the best conclusions, and because I’ve been influenced by many presuppositions.

    Oh, me too, me too!!! And the older I get, perhaps the looser the grip I have on those (especially peripheral) doctrines that used to keep me awake at night.

  11. The way we do things, just about everything that we touch is ‘sin’.

    After all, it is far more than an occasional stepping into the pile of doggy stuff.

    It is our ‘condition’.

  12. I, too, think that CMP is right that holding bad doctrine can be but is not necessarily sinful. –As long as there is a distinction between sin and error. After all, there is only one truth, and all doctrines opposed to true doctrines must be in error. Yet people holding erroneous doctrines have varying degrees of culpability.

    Anyway, if erroneous doctrines about “non-cardinal” issues are not sinful because of lack of clarity in Revelation, then doesn’t it follow that the doctrine of unity should not be broken over non-sinful doctrine?

  13. Truth Unites... and Divides May 7, 2013 at 10:10 pm

    “In other words, I think that egalitarianism is bad doctrine for the most part.”

    I agree.

    “So, the best I can do right now is say that bad doctrine is often sin, but not always.”

    A related question, can someone teach and promote bad doctrine and still be be Heaven-bound? Or how much bad doctrine can a person hold onto and teach and advocate and still be Heaven-bound? Or what degree or quality of bad doctrine can a person teach and advocate, and yet still be Heaven-bound?

    Let’s say a person knowingly denies the Virgin Birth. Still saved?

    Or a person knowingly denies the doctrine of the Trinity. Still saved?

    Or a person knowingly believes and teaches that same-sex behavior is not a sin. Still saved?

  14. Michael,

    Similar to you, I have struggled with how to categorize the sinfulness of wrong beliefs that are non-essential for salvation and other tertiary beliefs or doctrines. I keep coming back to a quote that Spurgeon made (see below). How would you interact to this quote? (click to see the whole quote) Spurgeon says here that every wrong belief is sin. I definitely lean that way now, which seems contrary to your conclusion. Again how would you interact with his statement? Do you believe that he is not making the proper distinctions concerning certain kinds of doctrines?

    “In the first place, every deviation from truth is a sin. It is not simply a sin for me to do a wrong act, but it is a sin for me to believe a wrong doctrine. Lately our ministers have absolved us all from obeying God in our judgments; they have told us point blank, (many of them, in their drawing-rooms, and some of them in the pulpit) that we shall never be asked in the day of judgment what we believed. We have been told that for our actions we shall be responsible, but for our faith we shall be irresponsible (or something very much like it). … But is that true? No… (Charles Surgeon:
    Form of Sound Words, p. 634-636) (Full Quote:

  15. James F. McGrath is asking a similar question at Exploring Your Matrix, but his dividing line may be a little stricter, in that he is holding to the idea that Young Earth Creationists are in sin.

    He writes:

    “Now young-earth creationism is in its very essence an act of pride – a refusal by the ignorant to accept correction from scientists and scholars about matters pertaining to both Scripture and the study of the natural world. And it is fundamentally about deception – making false claims about the evidence from both the Bible and the natural world.
    And thus it is clear that young-earth creationism is inherently a form of sin.”

  16. Aaron Walton May 8, 2013 at 7:24 am

    Truth and Greg,
    One distinction someone made was this: though some church Fathers had heretical doctrines they weren’t branded as heretics because no one sought to correct them. Had someone sought to correct them and they stubbornly persisted in their false teaching,they then could be called heretics. So I think this principle applies as we deal with others and is akin to Michael’s point; are people proud and stubborn in holding to their doctrine? Or are they mistaken or possibly deceived?

  17. Aaron. I am convinced alongside John Wesley that there is no more wicked doctrine then that of Calvinism. Calvinists are convinced that I am a pelagian or a semi pelagian.. but the way they misrepresent Arminian theology is truly sinful.. Roger Olsen takes great pains to point this out and correct this.

    So where do we go from here. I am stubbornly convinced of this through my reading of the Scriptures. and Calvinists are convinced of this through their following the Calvinist line of reading the Scriptures… ;)

    Maybe the truth of the matter is, we are both heretical?

  18. Aaron Walton May 8, 2013 at 8:06 am

    Well played. :P
    I think the manner in which Calvinists and Arminians hold to their position is often sinful whether or not they are right or wrong. That should probably be resolved first. Though in line with Michael’s post, their doctrine itself may be sinful if it is a denial of what God has revealed.

    The Lord has taught me to be humble enough not to speak ill of Arminians, and humble enough to listen (I see where you guys are coming from and see how you get what you are getting); and we very well may both be wrong as you say. (The Lord has taught me that there is more important things we need to be doing than debating Calvinism/Arminianism because people are being neglected while we are often busy debating.)

    May God have mercy on us.

  19. Aaron. For some reason, I thought you would like that comment.

    For me the crux is Christ. The writers of Scripture never taught outright systematic theology and so we should be tentative in how we believe our doctrine explains stuff.. For myself, I like what Leon Morris wrote on the subject as to how they are all theories.

    The only sin that I am aware of that will rob us from our salvation is that of denying Christ. Therefore I gladly call anyone who calls Jesus Lord, family.

  20. “the best I can do right now is say that bad doctrine is often, but not always, sin.”

    informative, thoughtful, more on this please

    for the time will come when sound doctrine is not endured 2 Tim 4:3 with advocates of doctrine not agreeing with sound words nor conforming to godliness1 Tim 6:3-4a for there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers Titus1: 10a

    may the Lord be teaching us to speak the things fitting for sound doctrine so that we adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect. Titus 2 1,10b

    -seeking the LORD with all our heart,soul and finding Him Deut 4: 29
    -being led by the Spirit of God, appraising all things Rom 8:14 ;1 Cor 2 15
    -praying for we (want to be) sure that we have a good conscience, desiring to conduct ourselves honorably in all things. Heb 13:18appealing to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 1 Peter 3:21b; holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience;1 Tim 3:9;with love from a pure heart, a good conscience, a sincere faith. 1 Tim 1:5

  21. It always amazes me how ignorant many people are of the Bible, and most especially often theological students! And now today, postmodernism and postmodernity is in the Christian academy itself! The only place and really position that will always challenge and even change this is in both the God of the Bible, and the doctrine of His complete Sovereignty and Providence!

    In my lifetime, two men come to mind here…and their books and writing, Harold Lindsell (his book: The Battle For The Bible), and the writings of Francis Schaeffer! And I bet today few bible & even theological students have even read either men!

    And btw, in my opinion, James McGrath is hardly an Evangelical Christian!

    As I have said before, John and Charles Wesley were in many places more Calvinist and classic Reformational than Arminian, i.e. on the doctrine of Sin, Justification by Faith, etc.

    Love the Spurgeon quote myself!

  22. Fr Robert,

    I haven’t commented on P and P much lately, but I have wondered about something for a long time now. I may regret asking this, but why is it that almost every conversation has to involve Calvinism in one way or another? Is Calvinism really the end all of almost all theological discussions?

  23. Fr. Robet-

    “James McGrath is hardly an Evangelical Christian!”

    I don’t anyone said he was. In fact his blog is on the “Progressive” section of Patheos, not the “Evangelical” section.

    However, it is interesting how he and CMP are touching on the same topic.

  24. Scripture is clear that men AND women inherit original sin. Anyone who says otherwise is engaging in false teaching.

    The statement was also made that Mary had original sin because she had a human father.

    Actually, the question is: Do both genders pass original sin onto their offspring? Romans 5 (verses 12, 17, & 19) clearly says that by ONE [Adam] MAN’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one [Jesus] shall many be made righteous.
    Eve is not mentioned in this passage one single time.

    God clearly stated that Messiah would come from the woman’s seed, that is, the ovum of Mary.
    Is it possible that the ovum of Mary was without sin?

    In light of Romans 5, is it possible that sin is not genetically passed from the mother to the child, but passed genetically from the human father to the male child as well as the female child?

    Thiking is not a sin.
    Introducing questions from a different perspective is not a sin.

    Sometimes people misunderstand one another, then they jump to false conclusions. Broadcasting a false conclusion (without clarifying it) is a form of sin.

  25. if bad doctrine is a sin then all of us are guilty of it, I think being stubborn and resistant to the truth when you hear it is the sin.

  26. @Cherylu: If you look carefully at my posts, I usually don’t use the theological moniker “Calvinism” overly. Though I am one of the Reformed persuasion and Divinity most fully! But by saying this it does not mean I don’t agree generally with the term “Calvinism”, though I am myself more of a neo-Calvinist myself. But indeed the Reformed Faith and Divinity is, as Greg said, the most comprehensive!

    Btw, let me recommend Francis Turretin’s, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, (3 Vol. Set). Some have called him “the best expounder of the doctrine of the Reformed Church.”

  27. @David: Both James McGrath and CMP engage in evidentialism, but Michael is the real Calvinist Christian!

  28. A couple of years ago, there was a big discussion in certain Baptist circles over whether the refusal of otherwise orthodox and sincere paedobaptists is tantamount to living in a continual state of unrepentant sin. As I understand it, this question is directly related to the one posed in this post. Some would say that biblical teaching requiring believers baptism by immersion is “evident, plain, and clear.” Others would make the point that refusal to be baptized as a believer is not only “bad doctrine”; it is disobedience to the command of Christ.

    I would be interested to hear how others feel the issues raised in this post impinge on these questions.

    *BTW, though I am a convinced Baptist, I am not one of those who say convictional paedobaptists are necessarily in a state of unrepentant sin.

  29. Fr Robert,

    @Cherylu: If you look carefully at my posts, I usually don’t use the theological moniker “Calvinism” overly.

    Well, between the name “Calvin,” and the terms “reformed,” “calvinism”, and “neo calvinist,” they are used a lot. Overly? I guess that depends on your definition of the term “overly!” :)

    Just please remember that all of those posting here aren’t convinced that Calvinism is the best comprehensive explanation of theology like you and Greg are. There are times when I start feeling like this blog has become more about Calvinism then it is about anything else.

    Now then, I got my “rant” out of my system. Have been sitting on it for a long while now.

    Back to “Is Bad Doctrine Sin?”…….

  30. Although I am Reformed, I believe it would be best for Calvinists to remind themselves of John Calvin’s reasons for being buried in an unmarked grave. He did not want people worshipping at his gravesite….

    On that same note, the doctrines of grace are near and dear to my heart but the gospel of Jesus Christ should be held closest to my heart.

    Furthermore, those who hold the doctrines of grace need to remember what the Lord requires from each one of us: to DO justly, to LOVE mercy, and to WALK humbly before thy God. Micah 6:8

    Anyone claiming to be a teacher of others whose lifestyle ignores the Lord’s requirements for our lives is also ignoring the Scriptural truth of I John 2:27.
    Surely the teaching of the Holy Spirit abides in each one of us and we do not “need that any man teach you.”
    Such a blessing that the pastor at my church opens his Sunday School lesson each week with prayer including I John 2:27.

  31. @Cherylu: For better or worse P&P is a theological blog, or set themselves here. And it also claims something “Calvinist”. But always one simply MUST be a seeker to find Christ and the Gospel, which is always connected to GOD’s Sovereign Grace & Glory! But, the whole “seeking” and “finding” is the work of God’s Purpose and Doctrines of Grace, and this is itself central in the Reformed Faith & Divinity!

    Speaking for myself, I wish people and Bible students, etc. read more of Augustine! Here is where Calvin got the majority of his theological thought (at least towards the doctrine of Election), of course with the Holy Scripture itself. But John Calvin was a reader and seeker for sure! We can see this with the growth of his Institutes over the time of his life.

  32. But always one simply MUST be a seeker to find Christ and the Gospel….

    Yes! But that can at times seem to be buried in something else, like a huge emphasis on Calvinism or some other doctrinal preference a person may have.

    Did you read Lora’s comment above? Although I am Reformed, I believe it would be best for Calvinists to remind themselves of John Calvin’s reasons for being buried in an unmarked grave. He did not want people worshipping at his gravesite….

    On that same note, the doctrines of grace are near and dear to my heart but the gospel of Jesus Christ should be held closest to my heart.

    I am not saying that the Gospel of Christ isn’t held closest to your heart. I am just saying that by constantly bringing Calvinism, Calvin, neo Calvinist, “reformed,” etc, into discussion after discussion, sometimes it starts to look like Calvinism is taking a place of emphasis above other things.

    Of course, I am speaking from my perspective as a non Calvinist here too. But I can’t help but wonder what it would be like if the shoe was on the other foot. What if a large percentage of the conversations here by someone spoke of Arminias or Arminian theology as if it was simply to be taken for granted that was the correct understanding and was put forth as if it was the answer to whatever was being disdussed? How would that be perceived by the Calvinists here?

    Neither Calvinism nor Arminianism are the answer to the world’s problems. Jesus is.

    And yes, Michael and others that post articles here are Calvinists. But this blog is not about Calvinism. It is a general theology blog.

  33. He did not want people worshipping at his gravesite….

    Afraid people would worship him? Sounds like the picture of modesty.

    Just saying. (;

  34. @Greg: Amen! Indeed we both are still very flawed sinners in ourselves, but the Doctrines of Grace & Glory have set us free and we know it! Speaking for myself, God In Christ, and God In Christ “for” me, is the certitude of my faith!

    And btw, perhaps the greatest lack in the so-called Evangelical Faith, is the lack of the biblical-theological reality of understanding the Ascension of “Christ Jesus”, 1 Tim. 2: 5-6! That Christ IS the Mediator is surely the ground of “our” surety in faith in glory! And our “election” is the Elect-One Himself, “Christ Jesus”.. the Glorified Man (God-Man)…the Redeemer in Glory! (Heb. 9: 24)

    “Therefore (looking back to verses 14-15) if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature (now); the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Cor. 5:17) And yet this perfection and change is first forensic (God’s law court), Law/Gospel! And only from here do we as regenerate, “grow in grace and knowledge”!

  35. Jesus Christ as Lord, is part of the great Reformed Divinity! Just that simple and yet profound! And yet, only ‘In Christ’ do we move into and see the great Trinity of God! (Eph. 2: 18) “The persons of the Trinity are related perspectivally, but not “merely” perspectives on one another. . . . In their involvement with creation and history, the three persons of the Trinity are all involved with everything that happens. But Scripture does present a rough division of labor among them: the Father devises the eternal plan, the Son executes that plan, and the Spirit applies it. So emerges the pattern “authority”, “control”, and “presence.” (John Frame)… 1 Peter 1: 1-2!

  36. Thank you Irene…I appreciate what you said:

    He did not want people worshipping at his gravesite….

    Afraid people would worship him? Sounds like the picture of modesty.

    His modesty is an example for those who declare themselves to be a “teacher of theology”

    At times, my pastor (just before he preaches) prays the
    following words:
    Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14

  37. Back to the original post….

    Michael, I would be interested in knowing more about the book that the lady wrote and handed to you….

    What is the title?

  38. Btw, there is hardly much knowledge of John Calvin himself these days! Not just his theology, but knowing something of the man himself. Indeed this is not an easy task, for Calvin was himself very modest per se. Though he knew his calling, as should every true pastor-teacher!

    Again, for those historical people: see Bruce Gordon’s nice bio: Calvin, (Yale University Press, 2009/2011 in paperback).

  39. Been nearly ten years since I have read any biographies on John Calvin. The one that I remember the most is ALister McGrath’s A Life of Calvin. First six chapters are biography, last six chapters are about his influence upon Western civilization (art, education, science, political theory, economics…)

    McGrath inspired me to write my master’s thesis on John Calvin’s influence upon the political philosophy of John Locke.

  40. I have read McGrath’s: A Life of Calvin, and I still have my copy (a Blackwell’s hardback). Still a nice book! When I did my D. Phil, on Luther’s Ontology of the Cross, one of the many books I read was McGrath’s book: Luther’s Theology Of The Cross.

    Old John Locke, eh.. well that will make the mind press it a bit! Both the liberal and the conservative.

  41. D. Phil….I’m impressed, Robert (Anglican) :-)

    I’m not sure John Locke was all that liberal…Having read him for myself, I think he is pretty conservative.
    Even though I don’t agree with everything Locke said,
    he is my favorite philosopher.

    Do you have a favorite philosopher too?

  42. @Lora: Btw, Locke is called “the Father of Classical Liberalism”, though of course his contributions to the classic republicanism are reflected in the US Declaration of Independence, as they say too.

    I like Locke too, a great thinker for sure! But philosophers, always love “their” thinking don’t they? ;) Luther had it right to my mind about the essence of philosophy, when not submitted to God’s revelation, i.e. the great whore! Sorry, but she still exists front and centre in the Christian Academy today!

    Yes, I still like Philosophy however, but surely more of the Western version, especially Plato! It is here too that Augustine is so easy to read and like, well perhaps like! ;) Note I was raised Irish Roman Catholic (in Ireland), and my first degree was a BA in Philosophy from a Roman Catholic college. But that was many moons ago now! I lived and taught in Israel in the late 90’s. I have to mention that I fought in Gulf War 1, as an RMC, Royal Marine Commando (recon officer), and this had a great influence on me! (i.e. Radical Islam, etc.) This pressed me to change my theology here, I am now (since the mid 90s) a Biblical Zionist, and yes Historic Pre-Mill. (post-trib.)

  43. Thank you for responding. You sound like you are a kind and wise man….

    Over the years, I have had some questions that could not be answered by Scripture……

    I like words of Aristotle:
    Theology is the queen of the sciences, and philosophy is her handmaiden.

    My key to a coherent, consistent epistemology :-)

  44. @Lora: Thank you for the kind words, which one does not hear to often on the blogs! :)

    Indeed nice quote from Aristotle! If you like theology and philosophy, check out again the 3 vol. set of Francis Turretin’s Institutes of Elenctic Theology, (P&R). Just a classic combination! (But of course it was written in the 17th century).

    Yes, always “consistent epistemology”!

  45. What I’d like to add to this discussion is that doctrine depends on interpretating scripture, and that is not an exact science.

    Fortunately, there is near-universal agreement on the essentials of our faith, and it’s really only on the secondary matters where Christians disagree.

    Let’s apply this to baptism as someone else suggested. Baptists believe one thing, presbyterians another. Traditionally, each side has said “I’m right, you’re wrong, and therefore you are a sinner”. I’d suggest this is an arrogant and unhelpful approach, and it is not showing love towards a brother in the Lord to denigrate his sincerely-held scriptural convictions like that. In fact I would suggest that it is sinful to call someone a sinner in these circumstances!

    Instead, we need humility to accept that we all know in part. So I would offer a better way, “this is my understanding of the teaching of the Bible, but I am aware that other people have a different understanding, which I respect and honor”.

    This gracious approach, in my view, is far more in line with Biblical principles than black-and-white fundamentalism. It does have the problem that it produces a spectrum of orthodox belief, with blurred edges, but I’d rather deal with the challenges of that (eg how do I relate to someone who believes that homosexual relationships are biblical) than treat anyone who disagrees with me as a sinner. After all, I could be the one who is wrong…

  46. Thank you David for providing such an excellent summary and gracious conclusion.
    I hope others are open to learning from your positive example.

  47. Greg, you misunderstand me in one respect.

    Pedobaptism and credobaptism are both orthodox christian beliefs. Affirmation of homosexuality is such a minority viewpoint that it cannot currently be regarded as orthodox. I accept this totally. However, you are correct in that I’m not prepared to rule out the possibility that one day it will be mainstream. There are plenty of other areas where beliefs have radically changed over time. We are historically ignorant if we deny this. Our protestantism began with a rejection of the status quo – if Luther hadn’t nailed his theses to the door, we’d all still be catholics. A few hundred years ago, the view that slavery was not a “biblical God blessed reality” would be condemned as “rank apostasy”, contradicting the clear meaning of scripture. Those who challenged the accepted wisdom back then are now seen as heroes, and those who fought to preserve it are seen as deeply misguided. We do well to bear that in mind, or future generations may view us in the same way that we see the slavers of old.

    That said, my understanding is that the exegetical basis in favor of homosexual relationships is extremely weak. But I’m sure the abolitionist case was once similarly regarded. I really find it a difficult topic.

  48. Considering the first paragraph of the original post, I’m still considering Scriptural requirements concerning our behavior towards one another….

    I appreciate Paul’s advice to Timothy:
    And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient…
    (II Tim 2:24-26)

  49. We can find an interesting contrast (to Paul’s description of the servant of the Lord) in II Tim 3:1-4….for another understanding of this passage, check out:

    Narcissism is addressed in the Bible in Paul’s second pastoral epistle to Timothy (2 Timothy 3:1-7) in the fall of A.D.67. Paul seems to be concerned about the character and behavior of leaders within the church, so he warns Timothy to beware of those who act out of a “self love attitude”. He says, “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away.” Here Paul names many of the attributes associated (in psychology) to-day with the narcissistic personality we are all becoming so familiar with.

    The Science of Psychology and Narcissism as a scholarly study is relatively young, barely more than a century old in fact. However, the term “Narcissism” is not confined to psychology alone, it is also seen through the lens of other disciplines, such as sociology (i.e. Narcissistic Culture); Political Science (i.e. Citizenship and Moral Narcissism); Criminology (i.e The Narcissist and Threatened Egotism); Theological Anthropology (i.e. Theism and Narcissism); Theology (i.e Hedonism and Narcissism).

    For the rest of the article, go to

  50. Here is today’s message from a friend of mine, a true servant of the Lord….

    When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. – Matthew 13:19

    We’ve all heard about people being attacked by sharks in the open water. Why is it that we never hear about a shark attack occurring on the beach? That’s because the beach isn’t the shark’s domain; the water is. As terrifying as a shark is when it’s in the water, it’s no match for anyone on dry land.

    Our adversary is called the ruler of darkness of this world (Ephesians 6:12). Darkness represents many things, but the thing that hits closest to home, the thing that gives our enemy his strength and ability to operate, is our ignorance; being “kept in the dark.” As the ruler of darkness his domain is wherever there is ignorance and a lack of wisdom and understanding.

    In the Parable of the Sower, it’s not the fact that the seed was sown in the heart. The devil’s domain is not the heart, but he has dominion over any darkness found in the heart: misunderstandings, misinterpretations, false teachings, false doctrine . . . and hatred, jealousy, lust, pride, bitterness, amongst other things. Our adversary looks to steal, kill, destroy, or confuse any of God’s life-giving truths that are not “taken to heart.” And just like the shark, we’re no match for our enemy on his territory.

    So if you want to prevent your enemy from messin’ around on your territory (your children, your marriage, your finances, etc.), then make sure you seek to understand God’s word as it applies to your life. Shine the light on the subject . . . and stay out of the deep water!

    This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. – 1 John 1:5


  1. Blog Break (08 May 13) | Alien Citizens - May 8, 2013

    […] IS BAD DOCTRINE A SIN? Michael Patton: “I suppose that I want bad doctrine to always be sin. That way, it is easy for me to explain why people don’t agree with me. If we are not on the same page theologically, the answer is simple: they are in sinful rebellion to the truth. Next…” […]

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