Dogmatism And What Christians Don’t Know

halloween-1369053-mRecently I took the time to write a number of articles to refute the notion that spiritual things are not knowable (for starters, see “Christians Should Not Be Silent,” “What Christians Know,” “What Else Christians Know,” “Christians Also Know . . .,” and “Doubt And Uncertainty.”) Frequently those who take the “can’t know” approach accuse Christians of being know-it-alls. Because I say there are things Christians do know, I am not saying we know everything.

Sometimes I think we need to remind each other of this fact. Because we are Christians, we don’t know who will make the best President of the United States or who should be the next Supreme Court justice. We don’t know if it’s better to delay Obamacare or not. We don’t even know if we should celebrate Halloween or if we should baptize babies or move to Arizona. We don’t know if we should homeschool or send our children to Christian school or to our local public school.

Let’s face it: there are tons of issues that require an opinion, and most of them do not have a corresponding, clear statement of Scripture by which we can set our convictions. There may be principles to guide our thinking, but different people can interpret principles in different ways.

Which brings me to dogmatism. We should cut it out (she said dogmatically. 😉 ) Seriously, dogmatism, by its nature, leads to some dangerous things: legalism, self-righteousness, pride, exclusivity, prejudice, even abuse.

As soon as we cling to a belief dogmatically such that we believe our position is the only right one, we are putting ourselves in jeopardy. Please note: I’m not referring to those things that Christians know, such as God is, Jesus shows us the Father, we are saved by His grace, and so on.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. I believe the Bible clearly teaches parents are to discipline their children. Some parents believe that when Scripture refers to the “rod of correction,” this means a literal rod and the only appropriate discipline is spanking.

Other parents take issue with that view and believe there are effective means of discipline which fulfill the Scriptural principles regarding raising children that don’t include spanking.

My caution is against dogmatism and against ignoring Scripture. If one parent understands what Scripture says about discipline and decides the best way to implement the principles is by spanking, and another parent, also using Scripture, decides to use time-outs, neither should judge the other.

Scripture is to be our guide, and by prayer, trusting in the Holy Spirit to illuminate His truth, we should make reasoned, careful decisions. But once we’ve done so, we need to refrain from extrapolating from our experience to what all other Christians or Americans or humans should do.

We don’t know what God has in mind for someone else and ought not judge.

However, not judging does not mean we are to make our decision and ignore everyone else. We are in relationship with others. With peers we are to let iron sharpen iron. We are to discuss, even debate, so we and they can learn. We are to teach–older women, the younger, and older men, the younger. Pastors and teachers are to instruct. We are to live as examples for one another as Paul did for the church at Philippi.

In other words, it’s fine, even necessary, for us to share what we’ve learned and what we believe. It’s not fine to expect everyone who has heard us to reach the exact same conclusion as we have. And, more so, it is not fine to look down on those who do things differently.

We might think they are wrong. We might even be responsible for confronting them and telling them they are wrong, though we would need a lot of Biblical backing to reach that point. But unless the issue is something clearly stated in Scripture (don’t steal, for example), it’s not OK for us to be so dogmatic we leave no room for the Holy Spirit to work differently in the lives of different Christians.

Unfortunately, I think our Western culture has influenced Christians to the point that we are less inclined to be dogmatic about the things the Bible states without equivocation (for example, Jesus is the way, the truth, the life; no one comes to the Father but through Him) and more inclined to be dogmatic about our own preferences and point of view (things like, the Harry Potter books are of the devil–or not).

There’s one other thing I think we need to remember. With God there is forgiveness. Nothing any of us does or has done is beyond God’s mercy. He has made it clear that Jesus “bore our sins in His body on the cross that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” So even the things that we hold to dogmatically that align with Scripture (I’d put a stand against abortion in that category, for example), do not give us the right to hate others or malign them.

Scripture says we’re not fighting against flesh and blood but against spiritual forces. Consequently, people with opposing views are not our enemies. If this is true when it comes to the clear things of Scripture, it certainly is true when it comes to things not spelled out in the Bible.

In short, we have no business taking a dogmatic stand on things that aren’t in the Bible–I don’t think. 😉

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Published in: on October 29, 2013 at 5:00 pm  Comments (2)  
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2 Comments

  1. Christians and all people should heed this advice, listen to each other and put themselves in other’s shoes, people will listen to such a person all the more closely in the end

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  2. Bravo. One of the best — and worst — examples of this I ever beheld was a Christian on a broadcast vigorously asserting that our planet is the ONLY planet in the entire universe that has life upon it or can have life on it and that is the only biblical position! Er um ah oh (now I sound like the mom in A CHRISTMAS STORY) we just can’t make assertions like this. We can say this is the only planet of which we KNOW that has life on it. But that is all, if we want to remain biblical, folks. Dogmatism to me, as you so rightly point out, leads to a self-inflating pride, which inevitably leads to us creatures thinking we can warm God’s throne for Him. Don’t think so. That being said,I also love the way you distinguish biblical certainties from things not quite so certain. It takes courage today to lay dogmatism to rest. God bless you for doing so!!!

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