My Two Cents / Religious Dogma

The Devil in Your Doctrine

This is a rant on doctrinal elitisms’. In the war of words, the words spoken between two staunch supporters of dueling doctrines becomes particularly venomous. This behavior results as a belief becomes hardened over time and becomes a part of identity, and a fear of letting go of that part of oneself.

It is nonsense to think that somehow only one denomination of Christians has received the revealed truth in scripture. Despite what we tell ourselves, doctrine is interpretation. Unless God himself stands before us and instructs us, we have only our evaluation and interpretation of the scriptures. There is no fault in this until we become so confident that we have correctly interpreted the meanings and begin to believe and assert that anyone who does not agree with this interpretation is wrong.

Saint John the Baptist and the Pharisees

Saint John the Baptist and the Pharisees (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Divisive interpretation has existed since the earliest beginnings of Christianity.  In the time after Jesus’ death two prominent religious leaders emerged to carry forth His ministry. One was James the Just, who Jesus, while he was alive, named as his successor. The other was Paul, who claimed a divine encounter with Jesus. Both of these men were men of God and both equally were devoted to the ministry of Jesus. Yet, they disagreed in their interpretation of Jesus’s ministry and the way in which He would have intended it to be delivered. Paul brought the gospel to the gentiles. In doing so, he disregarded many of the Jewish customs. James continued to uphold the Jewish customs that Jesus had abided by and was not receptive to changing these customs for benefit of the gentiles. Both of these men were devoted followers of Christ. Both had extreme relevance in progressing the gospels. For those who believe that only their doctrine is correctly upholding the message of God I would ask which one of these men, Paul or James, were divinely inspired to deliver the gospel, and which one was misguided?

The historical account of their disagreement in how to advance the gospel lends credibility to the idea that interpretation is just that. It is not the divine revelation of God to one particular denomination of faith. The evidence to this assertion is in the hearts of the many good people who serve God with faithful obedience, yet disagree on the minor details in their interpretation of scripture.

From the beginning of organized religion, before and after the lifetime of Christ, each and every division of a religious belief structure is the result of a group of people disagreeing and thereby disassociating with the previous denomination.

History provides much insight when we consider how current doctrine came into being. Following the initial ministries of James and Paul there was more division. The bible contains the warnings of Paul in letters addressed to congregants encouraging them to stay true to the doctrine and to not fall away into varying beliefs.

Early Christians included Gnostics, Jewish Christians, disjointed Christian communities and the Episcopal Sees who would eventually birth the Roman Catholic Church. The protestant churches resulted from a movement of reform wherein the Catholic Church was called into question with the assertion that scripture was being polluted by additional Catholic doctrines and papal authority. The Mormon church would become into being for also concluding that the ministry of Jesus had been corrupted from the truth of his teachings.

Before and during the lifetime of Christ religious divisions existed such as the Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes, Hellenists, and Herodians.  In the bible, Jesus reproves the Pharisees for the manipulating and adding to the scriptural laws by injecting their own interpretations and preferences into the scriptures. This is significant to understand.  Jesus’ reaction to the Pharisees concludes that he disapproved of interpreted doctrine being put forth as divine law.  The Book of Revelation warns that the word should not be added to or taken away from. While this is easily recognized in the addition or removal of written words, it is overlooked when certain denominations essentially add to and take from the scripture when designating a specific interpretation to be God’s intent.

To say that God allows only one correct interpretation of the scriptures is to make him as human and intolerant as we are.

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6 thoughts on “The Devil in Your Doctrine

  1. That’s an excellent point about the Pharisees- I find anyone who swears on their life that they know what Gods intent was to be suspicious.
    I prefer to follow the words of the the gospels. Well. Try to follow . It seldom works out that way!

  2. Interesting! I had heard about the dispute between Paul and James, but didn’t know the causes or the circumstances. Your blog induced me to look it up. I guess there have been religious disagreements in Christianity almost from the time Jesus died!

    • Learning about religious divisions from the start was one of my spiritual “aha moments”, and most freeing. It means to me that nobody searching for spiritual truth is utterly wrong, and equally none are completely right.

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