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Unread 12-30-2004, 01:30 AM   #1
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A thought I had... let's call it the "progress of doctrine."

I'll go ahead and share the end of my thinking and then explain how I got there. I'm proposing a theory, so please take it as such.

Truth => Understanding => Faith => Action in love

The arrows indicate that each element leads to the next element and, indeed, exists for the purpose of leading to the next element. Any break in the chain, in theory, results in utter pointlessness. (If I'm beginning to sound strange and metaphysical, just bear with me until I'm done.)

I was inspired to stat thinking about these ideas by a discussion with a Catholic friend of mine. That friend believed that Catholics, in general, focused on living out what the Bible says, while Baptists/Protestants, in general, focused on simply understanding the Bible. At first, this idea offended me because I am certainly interested in living out my faith, but I think that sometimes doctrine becomes too much of a focus. Of course, as soon as I began thinking that doctrine could be too much of a focus, I began to get confused as to how this could be. Isn't our doctrine key to who we are? Doesn't God call us to study and understand His Word?

So, I came to the conclusion that we (as Protestants) focus on reading and understanding the Bible because only then will we be able to properly live out the Bible.

Then, I decided to check this idea out with Scripture.

Romans 10:17
So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

James 2:14, 17, 22, 24
What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?
...Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
...Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?
...You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.

So, it seems then that you cannot have faith without having Scripture and that faith without works is pointless. That would give us something like:

Scripture => Faith => Works

But there is an interesting thing about Scripture. It is always true. You can know Biblical truths, however, without ever understanding the point of them. Thus, it is important not only to know the truth but to understand what that truth means. Thus I end up with:

Truth => Understanding => Faith => Action in love (is that not what works are all about?)

If you do not start from the truth of Scripture, how will you gain understanding?

If you do not understand the truth, in what will you place your faith?

If you do not have faith, on what will you act?

If you know facts about God but never understand them, what good will it do you?

If you understand God's Word but don't really believe it, what good will it do you?

If you believe God's Word but never act on it, what good will it do you?

Can any element of the chain justly be removed?

Yet I don't think any of the elements are more important than the others. God's Word is of the utmost importance. As is proper understanding of it, faith in it, and action based on it. Faith is certainly no less important than works, nor works less important than faith.

Yet each element seems to exist to produce the next. What is the purpose of God's Word if not to make us understand the doctrines of Christianity? What is the purpose of those doctrines if not to make us have faith? What is the purpose of our faith if not to produce works?

Am I making any sense?

What do you think of what I'm saying?

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Unread 12-30-2004, 02:10 AM   #2
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I think this is one of those things where you are getting a deeper understanding and stuff is "clicking" in your mind, but when you try to express it to other people it's like "umm, duh" Like when someone is going "God loves us! He really does! wow!" and it's like we know that, but is it really clicking like it is with them at that time?

Anyways yeah, I would agree that real faith is that which produces faithfulness. Otherwise your faith is not real faith but simply recognition of the truth without acknowledgement of it in your actions. In terms of ractical view in life, this means I don't consider myself having learned anything until I see it in my character and the fruit of my life.

In terms of doctrine and the differencebetween Roman catholics and Protestants. I would say what you described was a misunderstanding of Protestant doctrine. The Protestant view is that it is faith alone that saves, but true faith produces works, and it is possible to have a saving faith before those works have yet been enacted. Roman Catholics don't seem to recognize one's faith as valid until it has been validated by works, so it's Faith+Works not Faith-->Works.
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Unread 12-30-2004, 02:35 AM   #3
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Well at least my organization into a simple logical progression was crisp and clean, right? *hopeful look*
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Unread 12-30-2004, 02:42 AM   #4
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Yeah, also the misunderstanding i mentioned was only what your RC friends said to you, not your own misunderstanding...right?
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Unread 12-30-2004, 10:29 AM   #5
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One of the times in my life as a Christian when I was the _most_ focused on "Truth" in terms of correct doctrine and understanding of the Bible was a time when I was doing the _worst_ job of living a holy life and showing the love of God to others. I was so eagerly pursuing the "Truth" because growing in understanding made me feel like I was growing as a Christian when, in fact, I was growing away from God.

Don't forget that the Pharisees pursued truth very diligently (Jn 5:39). Don't forget that demons have perfect doctrine (Jas 2:19). Pursuit of understanding and pursuit of good works can both become ways for us to _feel_ like we're maturing in faith when really we're only growing more prideful.

Here's my theory:

Jesus -> truth
Jesus -> understanding
Jesus -> faith
Jesus -> action in love
Jesus -> love, joy, peace, patience...

The person whose life is built around gaining understanding of the truth, and the person whose life is based on living out the teachings of the Bible, are both equally idolaters. As Christians we are called to "fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith" (Heb 12:2). Not on His Word. Not on His Law or commandments. Not on pleasing Him. Not on doing the right thing for Him. But simply on Him. If your eyes are fixed on Jesus, everything else will follow.
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Unread 12-30-2004, 12:06 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blindman
One of the times in my life as a Christian when I was the _most_ focused on "Truth" in terms of correct doctrine and understanding of the Bible was a time when I was doing the _worst_ job of living a holy life and showing the love of God to others. I was so eagerly pursuing the "Truth" because growing in understanding made me feel like I was growing as a Christian when, in fact, I was growing away from God.

Don't forget that the Pharisees pursued truth very diligently (Jn 5:39). Don't forget that demons have perfect doctrine (Jas 2:19). Pursuit of understanding and pursuit of good works can both become ways for us to _feel_ like we're maturing in faith when really we're only growing more prideful.

Here's my theory:

Jesus -> truth
Jesus -> understanding
Jesus -> faith
Jesus -> action in love
Jesus -> love, joy, peace, patience...

The person whose life is built around gaining understanding of the truth, and the person whose life is based on living out the teachings of the Bible, are both equally idolaters. As Christians we are called to "fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith" (Heb 12:2). Not on His Word. Not on His Law or commandments. Not on pleasing Him. Not on doing the right thing for Him. But simply on Him. If your eyes are fixed on Jesus, everything else will follow.
Right on, I have noticed this as well. I'm so bad at teaching myself anything, it's best to focus on Jesus and let Him do it.
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Unread 12-30-2004, 12:36 PM   #7
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Quote:
Truth => Understanding => Faith => Action in love (is that not what works are all about?)

If you do not start from the truth of Scripture, how will you gain understanding?

If you do not understand the truth, in what will you place your faith?

If you do not have faith, on what will you act?

If you know facts about God but never understand them, what good will it do you?

If you understand God's Word but don't really believe it, what good will it do you?

If you believe God's Word but never act on it, what good will it do you?

Can any element of the chain justly be removed?

Yet I don't think any of the elements are more important than the others. God's Word is of the utmost importance. As is proper understanding of it, faith in it, and action based on it. Faith is certainly no less important than works, nor works less important than faith.

Yet each element seems to exist to produce the next. What is the purpose of God's Word if not to make us understand the doctrines of Christianity? What is the purpose of those doctrines if not to make us have faith? What is the purpose of our faith if not to produce works?
I like the general purpose of your comments, but I think most attempts to systematize this fail in some way. For example, while it is true that "faith comes by hearing", and we need to have faith in something, understand and knowledge of God can also be said to come by faith, so both work with the other to strengthen the believer in Christ. Hearing the word of God begets faith, which necessitates some sort of understanding, but faith also begets understanding.

Ultimately, I like what blindman said. Everything must be seen in light of our union with Christ. The Spirit works in us regeneration and unites us to Christ by means of faith, in whom our faith is strengthened and in whom we are justified, sanctified, and glorified. As long as we note that our initial salvation (passing from the kingdom of evil to the kingdom of God), the progressive working out and application of that initial transfer into the light, and our final perfection, the end of all God's work in us, is by the power of the Spirit, Christ's mediation, and the Father's election, and that all of this works in our union with Christ by God's gift of faith, we can look at ethics, doctrine, etc. in a much more Christ-centered, consistent way.
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Unread 12-30-2004, 02:34 PM   #8
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I like where this is going. Everything learned must be learned in the light of Christ. I have known many who emphasized doctrine, I myself did at one time, to the exclusion of the Gospel. Doctrine divorced from Christ is dead doctrine. My pastor uses this example: I love my beautiful wife and she makes the clothes she wears beautiful. But I don't go to her closet and admire her clothes when she is not wearing them. 1Co 1:30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who of God is made to us wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption;
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Unread 12-30-2004, 02:43 PM   #9
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I'll go ahead and share the end of my thinking and then explain how I got there. I'm proposing a theory, so please take it as such.
Bob what you are revealing is what it is about. You can change the order of somew of the middle points, but it all starts with Jesus and His woprd and progresses from there.

Faith w/o works is dead and works w/o faith is just as dead.
Knowledge w/o grace leads to legalism and grace w/o knowledge leads to false spirituality.

You have understood the purpose of our devoton to Christ and His word.!!!! 5* for you
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Unread 12-30-2004, 06:41 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Dice
Yeah, also the misunderstanding i mentioned was only what your RC friends said to you, not your own misunderstanding...right?
Indeed.

I am wondering, how exactly do you pursue Jesus apart from His Word, faith and works? Or is this just one of those things that can't be explained?
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Unread 12-30-2004, 07:12 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by nolidad
Faith w/o works is dead and works w/o faith is just as dead.
Knowledge w/o grace leads to legalism and grace w/o knowledge leads to false spirituality.
I like that, though I have often contemplated that a different rendering might also be applicable: "knowledge without love leads to judging." But then I thought, "ignorance without love also leads to judging."

Someone commented that "the Pharisees pursued truth very diligently." I don't believe this is entirely accurate. The Pharisees pursued their traditions diligently, not the Word.

'but in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.' "Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men." He was also saying to them, "You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. (Mark 7:7-9)

Jesus said in John 5 that searching the Scriptures for eternal life will lead one to find Him, and will therefore find eternal life. Beleive Moses and you believe in Jesus. Jesus never derided the pursuit of Scriptural truth, but He did deride setting aside the weight of Scripture just to focus on a pet point, especially selfish or false pet points.

I would say, pursue truth as much as you like (there is no danger in that), but even more, pursue love for Jesus and love for your fellow man.
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Unread 12-30-2004, 08:39 PM   #12
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I would say, pursue truth as much as you like (there is no danger in that), but even more, pursue love for Jesus and love for your fellow man.
As Jesus said in JOhn "I am the Way, the Truth...." A true pursuit of the truth is a pursuit of Jesus which leads to love for Him and a right love for mankind.
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