A few Sundays ago, our pastor mentioned in his sermon that many consider the doctrine of the security of the believer a “dangerous doctrine.” (He doesn’t.) I leaned over and whispered to Uni that any teaching about God’s grace could be considered a dangerous doctrine. On the way home she called to my attention that a person sitting next to her in Sunday school class had used these same words about something I had said in my teaching. This person’s dispute was, I believe, based on his misunderstanding of the Trinity and the Incarnation that had come up in class.
Though I was (and still am) troubled by what seemed a judgmental statement, it’s not the first time I’ve been accused of teaching dangerous doctrine or some such thing.
I suppose teaching, studying or even reading the Bible might be considered dangerous for at least two broad reasons: it challenges (or threatens) a person’s thinking; and, it challenges (or threatens) their behavior. This is true whether they consider themselves and their fellows as Christians or not. In fact, most of the flak I have received has been from those who consider themselves Christians.
I believe that much of evangelical Christendom has become fearful of thinking through our theology, as well as our ethical positions. We let the “experts” dictate what we are to believe in both areas.
I understand that fear; I have taught Bible and theology for years and many times I have played the role of “expert.” I have even “pulled rank” in some theological/doctrinal disputes. But I have also tried to teach my students to think, to be like the Bereans mentioned in the book of Acts who “were more noble minded …, who received the Word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures every day, to see if these things (Paul’s teachings) were so” (Acts 17:11).
Some doctrines that are considered dangerous by many Christians (most of these are closely related):
· The security of the believer (the one my pastor mentioned). We’re told that if people believe they are eternally saved, they will feel free to live the way they want to.
· Election. I’ve been told that if my salvation is totally God’s choice – if He chose me before I chose Him – that makes us robots.
· Salvation by simple faith, trusting Christ’s work alone, without a “commitment” on the believer’s part.
· “Grace giving” – the teaching that the believer is not under the Old Testament obligation to tithe.
· Any teaching of the believer’s freedom from the Old Testament Law.
· Any concessions to modern science at all; any attempt to reconcile current scientific discoveries with scriptural teaching.
I’ll not attempt to deal with these issues here. I’ve had much to say about most of them throughout this blog.
Most of these have to do with grace. And grace is threatening to one who likes structure and order. Grace gives us the freedom and responsibility to make choices; it doesn’t simply give us rules to live by.
Grace is also threatening to some pastors. It’s difficult to shepherd the flock when they are allowed to think through issues on their own. For some it’s much easier to tell people what to think and how to behave.
But it’s that danger that in many ways makes following Christ exciting!