You are hereWhat a church should be...

What a church should be...

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By Virgil - Posted on 04 June 2007

This past Saturday I spoke for a long time with my friend Marty Davis about the purpose a local church should have, and it so happened that this conversation took place while I was in the middle of compiling a list of church purposes, or something I believe the Church is. Marty, being a practicing Orthodox Christian had some amazing insight into the Church and expressed his frustration with the many “non-denominational” churches sitting across the street from each other but treating each other as enemies. Here is my short list of what a church should be or should try to be. Feel free to add to the list in the comments section; we can perhaps work together to define a fuller purpose.A church should be:

A mirror of New Jerusalem described in Revelation…

thus, the place to find God the Creator...

...and build relationships with Him...

...for the healing of the community, the nation and the world.

A community which values families.

A community which honors women and offers them a real role to serve and teach.

The center of the community to create, serve and give hope to the community.

A community of people which is partnering with God to fulfill God's purpose and dreams for the world.

A community of people focusing to become creators rather than consumers, in both worship and content.

A community valuing art and artistic expression as God’s gifts.

A community which is generous.

A community which heals and fulfills the creation both spiritually and physically.

A community which is dynamic and willing to accept people as they are rather than first demand change...

...therefore a place that can both give and seek forgiveness.

A place where one can find light, be it from others or simply from a candle.

A community which challenges its members but also gives them opportunities.

A place rejoicing in the noise created by children.

A community which values people more than dogma.

Ed's picture

I thought this little thought was interesting. Follow the link to The Ship of Fools website:


Papa is especially fond of us

Fredrico's picture

I think it is very good to talk about how to talk with others that disagree. I cannot say what the conversations were about in that first century when the Christians gathered. I do know there were problems because Paul addressed some. Even John emphasizes love in his letters. It was plain that the people needed each other.

I think we need each other today also. We in this country do not face the trials of those first Christians or others in different parts of the world today, but we do have our own difficulties we have to deal with. It is a relief to know God is always there to help us but there is something about human relationships that we find comfort in each other also.

1 Corinthians 12:21-26
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, "I do not need you," nor in turn can the head say to the foot, "I do not need you." 22 On the contrary, those members that seem to be weaker are essential, 23 and those members we consider less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our unpresentable members are clothed with dignity, 24 but our presentable members do not need this. Instead, God has blended together the body, giving greater honor to the lesser member, 25 so that there may be no division in the body, but the members may have mutual concern for one another. 26 If one member suffers, everyone suffers with it. If a member is honored, all rejoice with it.

There may be times that we find ourselves completely alone and must trust upon God to give us what we need. There are times; even I have had, where I thought I needed no one but God Himself. I wanted nothing to do with the church or other Christians because it always seemed like a battle and it was just tiring. That could not last for too long though because I would get lonesome for fellowship and knew I was not going to be of any help to people if I did not interact with them. After a time of being away, I had calmed down and was able to try the church scene again and I did not expect it to be any different but I was hoping the change in me would be the difference. I speak of my own experience and do not expect this to be the experience of all others.

The thing that seems to stand out the most to me either online or in churches is the lack of compassion. Not that I have not had people sympathize with me from time to time over some issues because they have but I can only explain it with an example. If in my Bible studies I was beginning to change my mind about some doctrines I held and investigated new areas that were not popular with some I would hear criticism. The people around me in church or in an online forum would begin to personally attack me and the doctrine or doctrines I was looking into. I would be criticized and insulted along with the doctrines and having people turn on me as though I was some stranger to them. I am a big boy so that kind of treatment does not hurt my feels but it does make me look at the fruit of those other people. Say I was getting into a wrong doctrine, would it not be better for people to show their concern by taking me aside and taking time in a loving manner to show me from Scripture why those doctrines I was getting into were error? The insults and rudeness do not work and just cause a deeper division.

Galatians 6:1
1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

Though this speaks of an outward action, I think it could also apply to the errors of doctrines that could lead to wrong behavior. The actions toward restoration are to be done in meekness and gentleness knowing we are all capable of sin and errors. The actions today of the people behind the pew and keyboard is a criticism that says “see I am better than that.” Way to often Christians measures themselves by others just as the Pharisees did.

If we cannot help with gentleness, our fellow Christians who we feel have fallen into error from some doctrine, then let us not just sit back and throw stones. Keep your mouth shut and learn how you can affectively help others. If you think someone is in error through their actions then before you say something about it you should examine your own actions. If you see someone error in doctrine then before you criticize you should be able and willing to take time to discuss it thoroughly and calmly. Do not try to talk about something you know nothing about just to hear yourself talk. Let us not try to indoctrinate others to the way we believe because none of us are perfect and we will just spread our error in some cases.

I see a big lack of faith among many Christians. In discussions, online and in person I see too often people beating each other over the head with their beliefs. They try so hard to change someone’s mind that they fail to listen to the person they are talking with. It is the purpose with some to change the minds of others and if they do not think it will work for someone, they discontinue the discussion. Why can’t we simply present our ideas as mini debates and say what we have to say for and against a subject and leave it at that without any personal jabs? We do not know what God will use and what He will not. We may be talking with someone yet after a while, God may use that to speak to someone else. We write an article or book and we have our discussions then why not just leave it all in God’s hands to do with as He wants. God will change our hearts and minds. I know there are misunderstandings among us that need to be worked out and explained but that is different from ramming doctrine down our throat. It is the spiritual truth that the Holy Spirit reveals to us that brings us knowledge and that changes our lives. God does use what we write and say but in His way and in His time. Let us have faith in Him to teach others the truth as we speak the truth in love and as He has taught us.

Yes, there is a time we must separate because we cannot accept any doctrine or anyone but caution in judgment should rule our decisions. The guidance from God and our understanding of His Word should be the factors that lead us. Because none of us are perfect in knowledge or actions then toleration must be considered to some extent.


P.S. I have seen a change of attitude in these posts that is an encouragement.

Ed's picture

Good points Fred. I think that all of us could probably look back and find instances where we acted in ways that we now regret. One of the biggest reasons that I see for trying to act civilly is that someday we might just agree with the person that we attacked. Then what? We have to eat crow, that's what. Not that it's so bad. Sometimes we need humbling. But isn't it better to keep quiet about some things until we have heard from God on the matter?

To be honest with you Fred, there are times when you write something theological that I disagree with. I have chosen most times not to respond. Two reasons: 1)I like you and value you as a brother, 2)I don't want to jeopardize that with some kind of fight. Your words, at least of late, have been presented with grace, peppered with humility. Why would I want to argue with you, even if I disagree?

Anyway, thanks for your post.



Papa is especially fond of us

Fredrico's picture


Ed said, to be honest with you Fred, there are times when you write something theological that I disagree with.

Well thanks Ed and praise the Lord, you are not the only one to disagree with me. I will not hold that against you buddy. :-) Once you get a little older, you may see things differently. :-)



chef's picture

Maybe I'm too simple minded, but it is my scriptural understanding that the "Church" is the body (the literal body) of Jesus. He is the Kingdom, the city Jerusalem etc...

I suppose too, that why in Matt 25 Jesus informs us that half (5 of the 10) are foolish virgins.

Chef Tony

Chef Tony

mitchg's picture

I suppose as an affirmation of what Chef has stated, I would simply state that the "Church" isn't so much what or how we make it, rather it simply... is.



Virgil's picture

Tony, I don't think that's simple minded at all. It's quite biblical. How does that translate into the real world and a local community?

chef's picture

Hi Virgil!!

I suppose that I would play the role of ambassador to as many as possible, to those in Christ and with out. This is true whether I’m at a particular assembly or not (as Paul said, “to one under the Law I become AS on under the law, to those with out Law, I likewise, without law…I become all thing to all men”-something like that). I would also add that I need to recognized those (and yield to them) who have specific talents, and utilize my own for the sake of the assembly, and the community at large.

Chef Tony

Chef Tony

Virgil's picture

Tony, very insightful answer, and I love your quote of Paul. What better example eh? :)

I really hate the turn some of the comments under this article took; it was disappointing and I am sure my responses have not helped either. I do really appreciate your response brother!

KingNeb's picture

How are you defining "doctrine"? I thought I'd ask first before jumping on you first. lol.

It's just that i don't understand how or why anyone would downplay doctrine, if they understand the word to mean what i know it to mean, which is simply "teaching".

Is that how you would define it? And if so, how could you remove that from a church's priority? In fact, how would you even be able to define what a "church" is apart from "teaching"?

I long for a community of believers (believers are just that by the way...people who believe teachings) who value dogma BECAUSE they value people.

This is the Biblical approach.

Ed's picture

I know of a community that values dogma: the Roman Catholic Church. I'm sure Parker would be more than happy to get you hooked up.

What amazes me about these type of arguments is that you condemn yourself to an eternal hell by making these claims. Do you not remember that your doctrine is heretical and abominable according to every conservative Protestant and the Roman denominations? Are you not aware that your emphasis on doctrine, if you went to such a church, you would be rejected from membership until you repent of your preterist leanings?

If you don't believe me, I can introduce you to an old friend from way back who embraced full preterism and was pounced out of a very conservative denomination. Why? Because he didn't have sound doctrine.

You may say to me at this point that at Sam's church you have sound doctrine, and he won't kick you out. Great! I'm happy. But unfortunately, you're wrong. Sam's teaching is every bit as heretical as mine in the eyes of every single conservative Presbyterian and Reformed denomination in the world. You might find a home in the PCUSA, that's where Randall Otto did, but remember, they emphasize love over doctrine.

I'm not saying that "doctrine" properly defined isn't important. Doctrine, properly defined, IS love. GOD is Love. Yes, the bible describes that love to us. Don't lie about your neighbor. Don't steal from him. Don't have sex with his wife. Don't drool over his wife, etc. We all know them. We all fail at them.

The sound doctrine in the NT was God's mercy found in the person of Jesus Christ. Yes, that's doctrine. It should be emphasized. The doctrine that I don't think has a place in our discussions is that which divides us; like Calvinism, Universalism, and Arminianism. Recognizing the love of God that is found in Christ is sufficient doctrine for us to emphasize. That unites. That brings about love, mercy, grace, forgiveness.

As Virgil has pointed out: doctrine is fine, but if it hurts a brother rather than restores him, it isn't sound. I've had enough of that kind of doctrine, the kind that "steals, kills, and destroys." We need doctrine that restores, reconciles and edifies.



Papa is especially fond of us

Ozark's picture

Hey Neb, is it possible for “good doctrine” to be harmful? Can good doctrine actually lead you away from God? It depends on your definition of good doctrine.

“And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” (I Cor 13:2)

Just as the Pharisees in Jesus’ day separated the Law from Christ, so it is also possible to separate doctrine from Christ. It can become merely being right. From there it is a short step to self-righteousness and hatred for our brother who is “wrong.” This is one of the great problems with dogma. Even the non-believing instinctively know that a person can have all his facts straight but still not know anything about God. That person might even be walking away from God not towards Him.

Doctrine is a tool for knowing God. Knowing God leads to love for our brother even if our brother is at odds with us over doctrine. IMO, the greatest proof that your doctrine has served you well is that you love those who disagree with you. As Paul said, if you are just right, so what?

KingNeb's picture


First, you do realize that you are appealing to a "doctrine" of love, don't you...that you are appealing to a "teaching" concerning love, don't you? Which gets back to my point to Virgil...these words, "person", "love", etc., have to be defined. Everybody and their momma has an opinion of what "love" is. And i don't really care what people may think it is...I'm interested in sitting at the feet of Jesus and learning what it is. And all of this involves "doctrine"..."teaching".

Second, keep going in your quote there of Paul:

1 Corinthians 13:6 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.

Third, No...good doctrine is not harmful. That would be akin to the issue Paul raises in Romans concerning Torah. The law is holy, righteous, and good. Law wasn't the problem. Man was.

Lastly, Paul is not saying there that good doctrine is harmful. He said if you have all knowledge MINUS love. He didn't say having all knowledge harms. It's knowledge MINUS love.

Let us not divorce what God has joined together. Many want love but no doctrine, which is ridiculous and impossible. It's really love with bad doctrine.

Others want doctrine with no love, which is ridiculous because the very doctrine of Christ deals with issues of love.

I want both - sound doctrine with love. One does not have to be sacrificed at the expense of the other and that is what i see many trying to do.

Ozark's picture

And i don't really care what people may think it is...I'm interested in sitting at the feet of Jesus and learning what it is. And all of this involves "doctrine"..."teaching".

I think we are getting closer to a meeting of the minds here. You make a very important point. The problem with the Pharisees was that they divorced the Law from Christ. They made it about them rather than Christ. Because of their self-righteousness, they could not see Christ revealed in the Law nor could they see their need for Christ. Consequently, because of the darkness in their hearts, they used what was good for evil. Their zeal for God led them away from God.

We must understand this great irony, because the same can apply to doctrine. If doctrine is sitting at the feet of Jesus, it will invariably lead us to love for that is His nature. Truth is ultimately a Person not just an idea or concept. However, if doctrine is divorced from Christ and becomes something I have figured out about God, it can easily become self-righteousness. “I thank you God I am not like that fool over there who just doesn’t get it.” I will look at myself as my brother’s superior rather than my brother’s servant.

Preterists generally love doctrine. Yet, we seem to be dividing into all these little camps. I won’t talk to you anymore, etc. It makes me wonder if we really get it yet. Is that where good doctrine is really supposed to lead us? Just asking.

Virgil's picture

Third, No...good doctrine is not harmful.

Actually it is; Calvin has killed over 60 people because (I would argue) good doctrine. He was enforcing right and biblical things - the wrong way. Therefore the enforcement of doctrine has become more important than the lives of people in Geneva. I can't think of a better example of doctrine run amok.

KingNeb's picture



You said he was enforcing right and biblical things, but the wrong that doesn't mean that the "right and biblical things" caused harm in and of was Calvin himself who was the problem NOT the good doctrine.

You are equating good doctrine with sins Calvin committed. Come on dude...

Ozark's picture

So, Calvin had very good doctrine but he was a very bad human being. Don’t you see the dilemma this creates for you? Why does knowing God lead to loving our brother, and why does focus on doctrine often lead to hating our brother?

KingNeb's picture

Don’t you see the dilemma this creates for you?

No, it does not create a dilemma for me. You are trying to create a problem by erroneously equating a "focus on doctrine" with committing sins.

Here is what you're doing:

Focusing on doctrine = Committing Sin

And again, Paul, neither in 1 Cor nor anywhere else, does that. It is a problem YOU guys are making up.

That's like arguing that people shouldn't get married because we have examples of couples who did and the husband beat their wives.

And so you go on this campaign: Love more, marry less.

What I am saying is - there is nothing wrong with marriage IN AND OF ITSELF. The problem is not the God-ordained institute of marriage but the evil within that man's heart, who happened to dispay his evil in the context of marriage.

Good doctrine is NOT the problem. It never was, never will be. And not only is it not the problem, but to downplay good doctrine is to actually make room for more evil, because it is good doctrine that restrains evil in the world.

Romans 16:17-19 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. 19 For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil.

Ephesians 4:13-16 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

1 Timothy 1:3-5 As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. 5 The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

1 Timothy 6:3-5 3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.

Titus 1:9-11 9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. 10 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. 11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.

Absolutely no where does the NT downplay "sound doctrine". It is to be sought and maintained. Furthermore, as i mentioned above, forsaking sound doctrine leads to more evil, because sound doctrine restrains evil. Notice how Paul describes those who reject sound doctrine - not a pretty picture.

I emphasize sound doctrine exactly because i love people and don't want to see them wander off into evil.

Love without sound doctrine is meaningless and harmful.

TheIdealNate's picture

Actually, what he did was apply a scenario that will always happen, as taught by the Jewish system over 2000 years of history.

Mankind does not have the ability to adjudicate holy law.

In the Eternal Christ,

Ozark's picture

Neb, that is not what I was trying to say. I am sorry you interpreted that way. In no way was I trying to equate focus on doctrine with sin. Yet, can it lead to sin? It undeniably can. This is not a made up problem.

The verse you quoted in I Timothy says that one of the great goals of doctrine is love. If our doctrine is not getting us there, I think we need to ask why not?

What I was suggesting is that we can learn from the issues of the first century. No one, not even Paul, would deny that the Law was good. Likewise, I do not deny that good doctrine is a good thing. However, it was what men did with the Law that led to evil. I was suggesting that we often do the same thing with our doctrines. It is the same old self-righteousness just wearing different clothes.

I was also wondering about the nature of the kingdom of God. Is the kingdom of God supposed to be a place where we all agree or is supposed to be a place where we can love those with whom we disagree? Is our agreement the glue that holds the kingdom together or is it Who Jesus is and what He has done? The way I see it is that you and I are brothers whether we like it or not. Just as the Jew and Gentile of the first century were one by God’s doing, so are we.

KingNeb's picture


But you just said that love is a goal of what? DOCTRINE!

Therefore, as i have been saying all along - it is not an either/or. It is love AND doctrine. In fact, without God's doctrine, we would not know what true love is.

What i see happening with many preterists is that they survey the scene and they don't like the lack of love...ok, that's fine. But then they attribute that lack of love to people emphasizing doctrine/dogma.

That is a mis-diagnosing. (Unless of course, you're doctrine just stinks, but then that would be a case of bad doctrine.)

You cannot escape doctrine. It is unavoidable. It is impossible. The very minute you pull me to the side to explain to me what "love" is, you're teaching me. You're advocating "principle(s)'.

The problem is never doctrine, per se, but BAD DOCTRINE.

You said you were wondering about the nature of the kingdom of God and what it is supposed to look like...ok, fine, great questions...but do you not realize that your question is a "doctrinal" question?!

And once again, you're setting up a false either/or scenario that we should either struggle to all agree OR learn to love those we disagree with.

Again, i say BOTH. You guys keep making it either/or - I am saying both.

You said, "The way I see it is that you and I are brothers..."

Wait a second...what is a 'brother'? By brother, do you mean someone who follows Christ? And if so, then that means you are aligning yourself up to a set up teachings! You are, as i said at the conference, placing yourself in a box that many are not in.

What does it mean to be a Christian? A Christian is someone who believes in a certain set of propositions as laid out for us in the Bible...again, DOCTRINAL. You can't escape it.

So why downplay doctrine? Why brush it to the side? That does not make a lick of sense to me. Unless you aim is to redefine what it means to be a Christian as some doctrinal-less position where you believe whatever the heck we want to believe...some people are going that route. Not me. it's not sound, it's not right.

flannery0's picture

Hey Jason, you wrote:

"What i see happening with many preterists is that they survey the scene and they don't like the lack of love...ok, that's fine. But then they attribute that lack of love to people emphasizing doctrine/dogma.

That is a mis-diagnosing. (Unless of course, you're doctrine just stinks, but then that would be a case of bad doctrine.)"

I am moving more and more toward the opinion that lack of love in Christians is *always* the result of bad doctrine. Sure it may sound alright on the surface, but on some level there *has* to be something amiss in their theology. I concur with your assertion it isn't either/or (love or doctrine). It *is* both, but what I think is worth considering is the ultimate implication of it being both, which is that when a professing Christian lacks love and mercy toward other Christians, there is doctrinal error at the heart of it.


Ozark's picture

Neb, you are still misrepresenting what I am saying, but I don’t know how else to say it. You said:

"And once again, you're setting up a false either/or scenario that we should either struggle to all agree OR learn to love those we disagree with.

Again, i say BOTH. You guys keep making it either/or - I am saying both."

The problem is that there are very few people trying to do both. Lots of disagreeing, very little learning to love those with whom we disagree.

KingNeb's picture


i agree that it is a problem. But my only point is - the PROBLEM is not due to "GOOD DOCTRINE".

The problem is BAD DOCTRINE.

Virgil, based on what he has said here and at the conference, seems to be implying that the problem is doctrine, period. That somehow, emphasizing teaching and attempting systematic theologies is what causes problems in the church.

Now, if that is not what he means, he needs to clarify. But i and large number of people (including some who were there at the conference) are taking it that way.

I am seeking to understand Virgil...I want to give him the benefit of the doubt. That is why i asked what he meant by "doctrine", but instead, i get jumped on. ) :

Sam's picture

Good doctrine in this regard is to "live at peace with all men" (Romans 12). Also, "love your enemies." Great. Now that that is solved (by appealing to Paul and Jesus' doctrine about who to love) we need to define "love". Okay, let's turn to I Corinthians 13. Now, that's solved. Great. Now, let's move on to another doctrine, the "ekklesia." Virgil has listed a bunch of "principles" or "doctrines" which he unqestionably has attempted to derive them from the Bible. Very good, and very doctrinal of Virgil. Virgil's "list" is a systematic (logical) construction. However, the only issue Jason has an issue with is "people before doctrine." Perhaps what Virgil means to say is, is that I am a Calvinist and see an Arminianist or a Universalist in a ditch, after he has been beaten and robbed, I should help him (love him) out of the ditch and see that he gets medical attention. Great. It would be wrong to say, "well, he's a Universalist. He gets what he deserves and I cannot help him." Truly, a wrong response. Jason would agree. But, everything I have just said is DOCTRINE (teaching) derived from a parable that Jesus TAUGHT to his DISCIPLES (people who adhere to their master's doctrine without question). Thus, Jason's point stands: It's all doctrine, even loving your enemies and your neighbors. It's all doctrine. It appears to me that Virgil cannot see that "love" and "helping those you disagree with" are doctrines as well. In light of this, "people before doctrines" appears to say "doctrines don't really matter." If that is what Virgil means, then he self contradicts. But, if what he means is an illustration of the parable, then he has illustrated by the phrase "people before doctrines" a doctrine of Jesus. Jason was merely asking what he meant by the phrase.


Virgil's picture

Sam - very well said and clear. I could not disagree with anything you've said, and I think you got the point of what I was suggesting.

When a guy is dying in the ditch, we don't ask him what his soteriology is, therefore we shouldn't do that in our churches either. Whether we are talking about people dying in a ditch physically or dying inside on a spiritual level, the principles apply. The "doctrine" is there for the people, not vice-versa.

KingNeb's picture


This is why you leave me scratching my head so many times.

You said to Sam, "I could not disagree with anything you've said"

Which included from Sam:

It appears to me that Virgil cannot see that "love" and "helping those you disagree with" are doctrines as well. In light of this, "people before doctrines" appears to say "doctrines don't really matter." If that is what Virgil means, then he self contradicts.

So, are you saying you don't disagree with this assessment? You said you don't disagree with "anything" Sam said. So, are you agreeing with Sam that you seem to contradict yourself?


On another note - got your email. No hard feelings bro. I am just here trying to understand what you're saying. Dave Curtis taught an excellent lesson at your conference on "loving my neighbor". He and I would both agree with you on how to handle someone laying in the ditch. We are to love our enemies. I would never walk past anyone and leave them in the ditch - i don't care who they were. And none of the "reformed" people i know would either. In fact, for many years i did street ministry in Alabama and New Orleans and basically baby-sat homeless non-believers. So any comments directed towards me that people who emphasize doctrine too much are out to kill, steal, or destroy, is completely unfounded.

But both David and I were scratching our heads with some of the comments you made at the conference regarding systematic theology / doctrine.

Granted, discussions here with others wears thin on me at times and i have to chill for a bit. But my aim is not destroy anyone nor is it to purposefully look for ways to disagree with you so that i can walk away.

Bottom line Virgil - you word things in ways that don't make sense to guys like myself, Dave, Sam, and others. I'm asking for clarification to understand.

take care.

Ed's picture

I do know Reformed people who have no compassion. I've broken bread with them. I've been to their house. I've watched their unruly children destroy my furniture. But boy oh boy are they ever righteous - at least in their own eyes.

I hope you will take the time to read the comment I made to Virgil about this issue. I think that I was pretty fair-handed concerning your position and his. I have no disagreement with you about the simplicity of doctrine, but when it moves beyond simplicity is where I get challenged. We must be very careful - all of us - to not allow agreement with one another's theology to become our fellowshipping point. It is Christ, and His doctrine that is our common ground.

I think the question I ask is this: is this point necessary to experience the love of God in Christ? IOW, do I have to believe in a young earth, OR an old earth, in order for God to love me? Or, do I need to believe that the bread and wine are the ACTUAL body and blood of Christ?

That's where I see dogma as potentially dangerous. That's where I dig in my heels and argue that simple faith in Christ is sufficient. Of course, that brings up another point concerning what is that simple faith, or how does it look, or how is it appropriated? Baptism, the sinner's prayer, etc. That's where we, as Christians, should return to the scriptures.

It's a matter of attitude towards one another. If we can discuss things without calling one another "ignorant" or that we are "denying scripture" when we don't agree, then we are emphasizing God's love and PATIENCE with us. We need to have that same attitude towards others, as difficult as that may be at times. It is still necessary though, especially since we can't choose our family.



Papa is especially fond of us

Ed's picture

A biblical verse to illustrate this point is:

the sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.

Sabbath, as the good doctrine that Jason defends, is for us. It does protect us. It defines love. It helps us to see how we should act towards one another. Jason is exactly correct in what he is saying.

But when doctrine/sabbath becomes a way to control, harm, tear down, etc., then it is no longer sound, no matter how correct it might be. This is where you, Doug, and I (among others) are trying to make the point.

I can see that both sides have a valid argument.



Papa is especially fond of us

Virgil's picture

Ed, your illustration is very well put. I think what Jason hears me saying (and I was talking to Mick this evening about it too) is "all doctrine is bad" when in fact I am not saying that at all. I clearly and specifically said that doctrine should be left up to those inclined to be seminarians, theologians and scholars. If they want to sort out doctrine for a living, then so be it. However, sorting out doctrine in the church (especially local churches without any denominational standards) has often disastrous consequences, UNLESS whatever "doctrine" is defined is generous enough to ensure that oddballs (such as Preterists for example) are not excluded and ostracized.

Ed's picture

Preterism aside for one second, I'd say that a basic theology or doctrine is sufficient. For example, I have attended a Church of Christ up here in northern Michigan where their only statement of faith is "Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God." They feel that if it was good enough for Peter, it's good enough for them.

Some, like Jason and Sam, might argue that it doesn't go far enough. All well and good, but it seems to have worked for this congregation. Another example is the Lord's Supper. When the Church gathers to take it, I think we should let each man and woman decide for themselves what the symbols mean. Why must we say "you MUST believe that this is the literal body and blood of Christ, or you are damned to hell"? Or, "if you think that this is the literal body and blood, you are damned to hell"? Why can't we just say "take, eat, this is His body broken for you...and likewise...take drink, this is the blood of the new covenant..." Which is preferred, the man-made declarations or the scriptural one? And which one shows more love to the partaker? I think the answer is obvious.

This is my only gripe with the dogmatic folks. We have the tendency, all of us, to make our opinion equal to scripture. When that happens, we can no longer find common ground. We must fight and bicker. We all do it. If we could find a way to not do it, and accept one another in love, realizing that it is not knowledge that saves (in fact, doesn't scripture say something about it puffing up?), but Jesus Christ who saved.



Papa is especially fond of us

Barry's picture

Hi all,
Just a few thoughts about doctrine and knowledge from this thread:

Interestingly enough "that" knowledge (as a covenantal state of immaturity) ceased in AD 70 (the link between 1 Cor. chapter 8 and chapter 13).

On an egocentric level (as per the changeover of the ages) knowledge was attached to the validity in the old economy, that is to the "self defining" of the old economy (hence the death of Adam).

The knowledge of good and evil and self defining go hand in hand.

The ramifications of full preterism are very great indeed.

Covenantally "doctrine" has no more validity toward a self defining process.
God has defined his own offspring. It is out of our hands.

"Doctrine" therefore is now the acceptance of God's authority to define you and me as his loved offspring.
Believed "doctrine" does not itself define us. This is the key.
The belief that it does is what causes us to hate and kill and divide and fight tooth and nail. Because in the belief that we self define our "doctrine" becomes the framework of self definition so that we can tell ourselves who we are. So that we can prove to ourselves who we are.
God has covenatally taken this out of our hands. Knowledge has ceased and been replaced with maturity on a covenantal level.

Doctrine is now the understanding of that maturity and its unfolding.
The egocentric of the old economy has been covenantally invalidated.

BTW since this always comes up by someone:
The "Dogs" outside the city in Rev. are covenantal matters that were at that time still being worked out. We know who the "dogs" were and when they were destroyed as "dogs". :)

we are all in this together

KingNeb's picture

Anyone else understand this?

Ozark's picture

I think this is a relationship issue. What makes us close to God? Some would say it is behavior. Ever more prayer, ever more good deeds, etc. Some say it is ever more knowledge. If I can know enough about God, I will be close to Him. Thus, we have a never ending search for more insight. There has to come a time when we understand that closeness to God is a gift. It is not our accomplishment, it is Christ’s. ( I know what I just said is a doctrine, but it often eludes us.) Thus, close to God is a place we are not a place we are getting to. In other words, who we are, where we are, and what we have is God-defined.

If our position with God is God-defined, we cannot look down upon our brother even if his understanding is not as great as ours. He still shares in God’s gift.

This is also a righteousness issue. The righteous man has worth before God, his neighbor, and in his own eyes. If righteousness is earned, there is no peace with God, our neighbor or ourselves. If worth is a gift, it changes our view of God, our neighbor, and ourselves.

Barry's picture


IE, One believes that what they believe defines them in good and evil in approved or not, in acceptable or not and so on.
(1) Therefore they are at a constant struggle to get it right to be right.
(2) They then have faith in their belief (which is not the faith of Christ Jesus). Belief then becomes their own work to be saved.

The knowledge that ceased in AD 70 (as per 1 Corinthians chapter 13) is the authority "covenantally" of knowledge to self-define.

Knowledge puffed up because knowledge still had a covenantal hold on self defining.
But to know God was rather to be known by God. IE to know that he alone defines who we are.

Hence the maturity of love, or the perfect, when it came did away with the immaturity of self defining through knowledge.

This was the choice given to Adam in the Garden. In essence he was told that if you self define you will die.
In defining himself for himself he became fully a natural man. [Comparing himself "naturally" with others "naturally".]

Blessings Barry

we are all in this together

KingNeb's picture

Anyone else understand this?


Barry, i'm still having difficulty with what you're saying.

Let me try to state what i think you're saying in my own words and you can tell me if I've got it or not:

Under the old economy, people tried to defined who they were as a covenant people by the doctrines they believed. And this act of trying to define yourself covenantally by the doctrines you adhere to is to live in a state immaturity, to be a "natural" man.

In the New Covenant age, believing in particular doctrines is not what defines us as a covenant people. What we believe is irrelevant to who we are.


Does this sound right?

Barry's picture

Not really.

Adam desired to frame "relationship" through his own independent potential.
This leads to getting everything right to be right.
This leads to getting your doctrine right to be right.
Because of this "doctrine" is often seen as that which determines the relationship as opposed to that which actually describes the relationship.

All of this is opposed to simply allowing God to define the relationship through His potential.

The old economy is as a whole way to lead back to God. So then it is immaturity as apposed to the "perfect" of 1 Cor. chapter 13.

The knowledge that ceased was the "knowledge" that was framed in elements of an independent human potential. It was set in immaturity. As a child has toys to play with but eventually replaces those toys with mature things and so leaves those toys behind.

In essence doctrine describes the relationship as it is through God's potential as opposed to doctrine determining the relationship through human potential.

we are all in this together

Ozark's picture

I also agree with Sam's comments. However, what would cause a Samaritan to help a Jew? Surely, that thing is of the Kingdom of God. On the other hand, what would cause a Priest or a Levite who supposedly had Torah down pat to walk on by? Surely, that thing is the essence of another kingdom.

We preterists are usually the first to say that the Kingdom is here. Yet, the Samaritan’s expression of the kingdom is sorely lacking. We have far too much of the attitude of the Priest or Levite.

Virgil's picture

Doug and again, you are making an excellent point. The Kingdom is truly the place where the hearts of people are what really matters, and how those hearts put into practice the love of God.

We have far too much of the attitude of the Priest or Levite.

I agree and put my hand up as being guilty of this myself. Preterists have a looooong way to go before we get it right.

Ed's picture

Good illustration Doug. Thanks.



Papa is especially fond of us

MichaelB's picture

Brilliant exchange Kingneb.
Right on target!!!
Presupp 101 =)

Virgil's picture

Doug, your question about the Kingom is crucial. As you can well see in this thread, the arguments over doctrinal accuracy are ripping people apart and they have been doing so to Christendom for hundreds of years. The discussion itself serves as a monument of what I was talking about above in my article.

KingNeb's picture


Have you ever stopped to consider that the ripping in this conversation started with you jumping my case for asking a sincere and honest question? Ever stop to think that you may be causing part of the problem?

Virgil's picture

Jason, I really doubt that's the reason. When Jesus said "love your neighbor" the wrong response was "who the heck is my neighbor?" I see a resemblance of that in what you are doing. I say "people come before doctrine" and you ask "define people?" :) Do you really see no problem with that?

KingNeb's picture

Virgil, your analogy there demonstrates to me that you still don't understand why i asked that question.

I'm not some smart-elek, asking questions like that to get out of obeying Jesus' command.

If that is why you think i asked, then again, that indicates to me that you're part of the problem ... because that is not why i asked.

I asked you to define "people" to demonstrate the point that "people" is a meaningless word without doctrine. What is a person, Virgil? Can you explain to me what a "person" is without appealing to teaching? Without appealing to God's Word?

FOR EXAMPLE: If you and an atheist were to grab my attention and the atheist said, "Jason, a person is not made in the image of some invisible god-like myth...he's merely a bag of evolved swamp critter" and you, the Christian, said, "No, we are more than that. We are made in His image, which implies that..." so on and so on - i would then have two competing definitions in front me as to what exactly a "person" is and why we have any honor or worthiness, if any.

And once you involve God's Word and all it says about what a "person" is exactly...what separates us from the snakes and trees...what separates our understanding of what a "person" is from the moron are then entering into a "doctrinal" discussion.

I made a similar point in my lecture. "Love", as a concept, is a meaningless word apart from doctrine. TRUTH logically precedes LOVE, because you cannot have love without truth.

"Personhood" and our inherent worth is meaningless apart from truth.

If you take truth out of the picture...if you take doctrine (God's Word, God's teaching) out of the picture...then you would not be able to tell me what a person is, much less argue its priority over doctrine. We would be left with the moronic babblings of atheists and other theories.

Virgil, simple test here: Try to explain to me what a "person" is without teaching me...without resorting to doctrine.

davo's picture

KingNeb: We would be left with the moronic babblings...

Reading through all these posts this "person" is inclined to agree. -_-


KingNeb's picture

in my borat voice...

thanks for the input



So what are you saying Davo - that addressing the logical priority of doctrine is a moronic thing to do?

davo's picture

KingNeb: So what are you saying Davo - that addressing the logical priority of doctrine is a moronic thing to do?

No. What I'm saying is that you are simply pushing a philosophical line for argument's sake – the very thing that doctrine, when taken for "doctrines sake" does, i.e., where doctrine comes before people.

I assume you grew up in a family of "persons" – was your family's primary interaction around "doctrine" or "love" i.e., relationships? You have run with pedantic logic at the sake of common sense. To "learn" something does NOT necessitate that that learning was or is "doctrine" – learning to ride a bike for one, certainly isn't.

I suspect that the point Virgil originally tried to make that you took all over the place was simply this: relationships come before dogma – and DOGMA as in being "dogmatic" was the sense in which Virgil meant "doctrine" – at least that's how "I" was reading it. Now IF I'm wrong Virgil can set me straight on reading him wrong. Either way, when one feels the need to elevate "rightness in doctrine" of the "development of relationships" then yes, IMO that is fruitless AND moronic.

Now NONE of that is to deny doctrine – it simply puts it in a given place.


Ed's picture

That brings to mind that different people "learn" differently. They may also do things differently due to different learning. E.g., learning to cook in an Italian home may look different than in an African-American home. Both are learning to cook, but neither is dogmatic in that it is the only way to cook. In addition, certain foods within ethnic cooking are culturally based. Again e.g., in the African-American home, they eat collard greens and chiterlings. This is due culturally to what they had available to them during those years when they were enslaved. They got the innards, and the not so appetizing greens. But they learned how to cook them to make them appetizing.

Learning is essential to doctrine, but doctrine is not all learning. Dogmaticism is, in the example cited, where Caucasians may tell blacks that they must cook like a white person, or they are "doing it wrong." That's dogmatism.



Papa is especially fond of us

Virgil's picture

Dude...I've asked you several times and you did not yet answer. Who makes doctrine? Is doctrine today given by God or is it created by fallen human beings?

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