"It makes no difference what you believe as long as you are sincere." Such a claim is often made in the name of faith and tolerance. The affirmation, which is itself a belief or tenet of faith, makes sincerity the criteria for religious devotion. It assumes that all religious beliefs are equal and their validity is judged by the firmness with which they are held and the sincerity with which they are acted upon. Truth becomes synonymous with strong conviction, and faithfulness is validated by "it feels right."
So states United Methodist Bishop Kenneth Carder in his little book, Living Our Beliefs: The United Methodist Way. Carder rightly rejects such a claim for three reasons:
First, doctrine supplies us with a particular perspective on life and the world. Everyone has a worldview and what one believes provides that view.
Second, doctrine "serves formational purposes." Sound doctrine is necessary because it should produce persons of sound Christian character.
Third, "doctrine serves an evangelical and apologetic purpose." John Wesley warned the people called Methodists that the movement would become a "dead sect" if the people did not hold on to its doctrine, spirit, and discipline.
To quote Bishop Carder one final time in this post, "Doctrine matters to Methodists!"
We will explore why this is the case, or why this should be the case, in future posts.
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I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)