Ask Augustine with Dr. Paul Tambrino
Ask Augustine is a weekly column where professor/author Dr. Paul Tambrino discusses various theological questions with wit, clarity and substance.
Question #16 – Isn’t It True That Doctrine Divides? If So, Shouldn’t We Avoid Doctrinal Disputes?
The axiom of our day is the expression “doctrine divides.” And, indeed that is true.
Doctrine does have a tendency to divide, but it does not seem to divide as much within liberal churches and among liberal theologians as it does within the more conservative churches and among the more conservative theologians.
I suspect that the reason for this is because the more liberal a church or a theologian is, the more able they are to tolerate a wide variety of doctrines because doctrine matters very little, if at all to them.
Liberal theologians and liberal churches have no passion about the content of the Christian faith, whereas conservatives are prepared to give their lives for the truth of the Gospel because it has eternal significance.“The more liberal a church or a theologian is, the more able they are to tolerate a wide variety of doctrines because doctrine matters very little, if at all to them”
The great theologian Emil Brunner made one of the strongest indictments against nineteenth century liberalism when he said the essence of liberal theology could be stated in one word, “unbelief.”
Liberal churches and liberal theology can be very tolerant with respect to the tenets of creedal Christianity because those things matter little if at all to them.
On the other hand, believers who read Scripture know that virtually every page of the New Testament contains exhortations to guard the truth that has been delivered because there are those who would undermine it with false doctrine.
Historically, wherever the Gospel is preached it divides and controversy ensues.
However, people do not want perpetual controversy, they want peace. Peace and unity have become more important than purity or truth. But is peace and unity at any price worth it?
Neville Chamberlain is the archetype of those who call for peace and unity above purity or truth.“We need to coexist with those who may disagree with us, but in doing so we must never negotiate away the purity and truth of the Gospel.”
In the Old Testament we are confronted with false prophets who preached peace when there was no peace.
Yet today, we are constantly told that the highest virtues are peace and unity.
Of course we need to coexist with those who may disagree with us, but in doing so we must never negotiate away the purity and truth of the Gospel.
Paul’s preaching as recorded in Acts 17:1-15 caused division among the Jews in Thessalonica and Berea.
Jesus tell us in Matthew 10:34-36 that He did not come to bring peace but a sword and to alienate even members of the same household against each other.
The demands of discipleship must take supremacy over all other human obligations and relationships.
When loyalty to Christ and His Kingdom conflict with other loyalties, regardless of how cherished they may be, those secondary loyalties must give way.
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View of Hampton Court Palace in London seen from the south side, 1700 – 1799. Anonymous artist. The Rijksmuseum. RP-P-1980-479.