A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
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)

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Nothing is Mere Doctrine

None of it [the Bible's message] is esoteric. None of it is a specialized, compartmentalized thing. It's all lived... One of the wonderful things about being a pastor is that your whole work takes place in a 'storied' context. . . Nothing is mere doctrine. . . It's all embedded in this narrative way of living."-- Eugene Peterson

I truly resonate with this quote from Peterson. I have argued on this blog many times that the divide that many Christians draw between doctrine and living, belief and action, orthodoxy and orthopraxy, misunderstands the significant nature of both. As Methodist theologian, Geoffrey Wainwright correctly states,

I see Christian worship, doctrine and life as conjoined in a common 'upwards' and 'forwards' direction towards God and the achievement of his purpose, which includes human salvation. They intend God's praise. His glory is that he is already present and within to enable our transformation into his likeness, which means participation in himself and his kingdom (Doxology: The Praise of God in Worship, Doctrine, and Life, p. 10).
We must avoid the two extremes of denigrating the significance of Christian doctrine as if it makes little to no difference for how Christians live. Neither should we so emphasize right belief that we lose sight of the importance of living faithful lives. Those who emphasize orthodoxy at the expense of orthopraxy do not understand either one. Those who highlight orthopraxy and depreciate the importance of orthodoxy do not understand either one.

This side of perfection we see through a glass darkly, as St. Paul reminds us (1 Corinithians 13:12). We do not have it all figured out when it comes to our doctrine and our practice. What we believe and how we live is not a neat and tidy kind of thing. But since God has given us minds to think and bodies to act, and since both are interrelated, our storied existence as Christians must make as central matters both what we believe and how we live. They are intertwined together. Christianity is not mere doctrine with no implications for discipleship; neither is it mere action without serious consideration of the beliefs we hold dear as Christians, beliefs which shape our identity.

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