Monthly Archives: August 2014

Irrelevant Doctrine?

If you think of theological “doctrine” as irrelevant, you aren’t thinking of the right doctrine. Or maybe you’ve heard the right doctrine served up in dull and uninspiring ways. If so, I’m sorry this has been your experience, because doctrine is the very thing that ties you to the story of God’s saving power. Looking for something that makes the Bible relevant to your life? If that’s your primary goal, you may actually have a hard time finding it. But if you simply study its teaching, then it’s importance to you personally will not fail to jump out.

The Bible records a lot of history. It tells us story after story about things that have happened. Those things are interesting. They are often fascinating. But so is a history of World War II. So is the Lord of the Rings, for that matter. The stories in the Bible are not just true stories, however. They are a purposeful weaving together of the acts of God on behalf of his people, in anticipation of the coming Messiah, of the coming Messiah himself, or of the acts of the apostles after the Messiah had come. But what of it? What does that mean for me?

Well, these are stories of God acting to save his people from their sins. Are you one of God’s people? How do you know? That’s a doctrinal question, and the answer is not in the story, but in its explanation. Doctrine explains the meaning of the story and our part in it. For example, here’s story: The promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. Okay, great. Now here’s doctrine: So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith …. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

The doctrine takes the historical fact and applies it to YOU. The doctrine tells us what the story means to us personally. Let’s take another example. We know Jesus was delivered up to Roman crucifixion by Pontius Pilate. We know that he was subsequently raised from the dead. That’s interesting—especially that last part. And it’s a great story. But without the doctrine it remains mostly disconnected from us in time and space. So now, let’s allow the apostle Paul to apply the doctrine. Jesus, he says, “was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” The doctrine, which gives us the meaning of the story and reveals where we come into play and how it affects us, is what draws us in and makes the ancient history our story too. Jesus was raised, yes … but he was raised for OUR justification. Ah, now that’s doctrine!

John MacArthur: What if my Adult Child Comes Out as a Homosexual?

The following video posted by Alpha and Omega ministries is a ten-minute discussion of John MacArthur’s answer to the question, “What do you do if your adult child comes out as a homosexual?” As we would expect, both John MacArthur and James White understand and articulate the appropriate response to such an event. As we would also expect, MacArthur has been getting criticized on the Gay Voices page of the Huffington Post website. The kind of hatred, ignorance, and incivility sure to be represented in that forum are so predictable that I’ll kindly save myself the ulcer and forgo visiting the page for myself. Besides posting Dr. White’s video, I wanted to make a comment. Dr. MacArthur is receiving criticism from many angles for his biblical answer, to be sure. One of the things that many people will hate about his stance is precisely what I admire: MacArthur’s refusal to idolize his own children.

I have heard stories of people, including one Republican politician as well as others, who believed in natural marriage until their own children professed to be gay. The “change of mind” caused by such a revelation is difficult for me to understand. I would ask, “Before your child was homosexual, you were aware that other people’s children were homosexuals, right? So how could your own child’s sexual orientation possibly affect your belief on the subject? What new light could it throw on the foundational premises that upheld your original conclusion?” The answer? The “foundational premises” were actually missing, and these people had not really “concluded” that the natural view of marriage was the correct one—they simply believed it by default, by tradition, by inheritance, or because it was expedient. But expediencies change, and empty tradition* can be challenged by any change. If your belief about marriage and sexuality is ungrounded in facts and argument, then it can be easily toppled without facts or argument—but simply by a new situational pressure or an emotional reaction. Such as your own child’s sexual orientation. But of course, someone, your child or someone else, being gay is not an argument. It’s just a fact. The fact needs to find its place in the arguments.

John MacArthur is right. He refuses to seat his own son or daughter on the throne of God by favoring his affection for them over God’s instructions. In an environment where “love” is misunderstood, MacArthur’s obedience to God and love for his hypothetical gay child will also be misunderstood. But don’t be surprised if the world hates you … just keep loving them back.

*Empty tradition may even include traditions that are true and have plenty of factual basis for practice, but whose bases have been forgotten or neglected and are now running on sheer momentum, either for the community or the individual.

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