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How do we reconcile our belief in the Lord of creation with some of our Christian doctrines?

I love this question because it offers so many words that are a part of the language of faith – and – it gets at one of the largest tensions people of faith face as they seek to live their lives faithfully and in the modern world. 

It is always important to remember that doctrines are built in upon beliefs and emerge within unique historical moments.  This does not mean that we cannot adopt them in the modern era, but to forget that they were created in a specific context, robs them of their power and robs us of the freedom to interpret scripture for ourselves.  By definition, doctrines[1] are a belief or set of beliefs held by religious institutions, governments, political parties, or other groups. 

Our theology (big picture) is shaped by many elements.  John Wesley, leader in the Methodist movement of the 18th century is credited with naming the four major sources of theology as: Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience[2].  Scripture is the primary source of theology but it is not interpreted without influence from tradition, reason, and experience. 

Given the vast advances in science, technology, and sociology (to name a few) since the days Jesus of Nazareth walked the earth, the Gospel writers began writing, and even since John Wesley worked out his theology, people of faith who live in the twenty-first century have much to wrestle with when it comes to belief in different doctrines.

Let me also say here that faith is always an exercise in mystery.  It is an active and intentional embrace of the unknown.  If it were certain, it would not be called faith.  It would be called fact.  Faith is also different from belief. Faith includes belief but it is more than belief.  Beliefs are influenced by evidence and evolve over time.  There was a time in which people believed the earth was flat.  Most people do not believe that anymore. 

Religious beliefs, like scientific beliefs, are dynamic.  They change over time as we have new life experiences and as our logic changes.  Shifts and changes in belief happen as part of a natural evolution or growth of faith.  Changing beliefs do not indicate an erosion of faith.  I believe that changing beliefs indicate quite the opposite.  Changing beliefs support a growing, vibrant, and dynamic faith that is taking seriously the claims it wants to make. 

So.  To whomever asked the question about doctrine and individual belief, here’s what I would say: 

If you are struggling with a particular doctrine, see what happens if you let it go.  Ask yourself, what does it mean for God if this doctrine is not true?  What does it mean for Jesus?  What does it mean for the church? What does it mean for the world? What does it mean for Me?  Can I still have faith if this belief needs to change?

I have found that ignoring these personal and spiritual questions often causes more harm to “faith” than giving myself permission to wrestle with them. 

You may find that after you wrestle with the doctrine, you still hold onto certain beliefs and you may find that you let others go.  That is great, it’s  a critical part of the spiritual journey. 

If anyone is wrestling with questions of doctrine, faith, belief, or doubt, and would like to talk with a pastor, call the church office at 919.847.1333 and we will be glad to have that conversation.

[1] Google definition.  Retrieved 5.1.2019.

[2], retrieved 5.1.2019.