Why Heart Disease And Traumatic Head Injuries Should Be Avoided

Signs and symptomsWhen advocating for correct Biblical doctrine there will always be that one person who responds, “We are not saved by pure doctrine. You are a doctrinal Pharisee advocating for a salvation by works.” This refutation brings up a very valid point. Does doctrine matter and if it does, how much doctrine must be pure if one is to remain a Christian?

Dr. Robert Kolb in his book The Christian Faith presents an excellent metaphor that helps us understand the serious threat that incorrect doctrine has upon Christian thought. His metaphor of the human body also allows us to understand that even though incorrect theology is destructive, it does not necessarily result in one becoming apostate. Finally, his metaphor assists us in understanding that the question, “How much doctrine must be pure if one is to remain a Christian,” is simply the wrong kind of question to ask. He states,

Some people define biblical teaching as a series of topics. Like pearls on a string, these topics are all roughly of equal importance for them. If we conceive of doctrine in this way, we could say that losing any one pearl has about the same effect on the whole of biblical teaching as losing any other pearl. Some people could say that you dare not lose any pearl if you are to be dressed for the host of the heavenly banquet. Others could say that as long as you have a pearl or two left on the string, you are ready to be received at his table.

Others conceive of biblical teaching as a wheel, with a hub and spokes and rim. They suggest that wheels cannot exist without hub and rim and some spokes, but other spokes may be broken without immobilizing the wheel.

Neither of these metaphors adequately describes the nature of biblical teaching. It is better to compare the doctrine of the Scripture to a human body. The body of doctrine cannot exist if Christ the head is decapitated. It dies without the heart of our understanding of how we become right with God pumping away—although the heart, the doctrine of justification, may be partially diseased and still pump, it is true. This was evident in the medieval church, where preachers put a high but false premium on good works and still pointed people to Christ’s saving blood. We see this in contemporary Christians who empathize the contribution of our own personal decision in coming to Christ and still try to cultivate trust in his grace.

If an arm, the doctrine of Baptism, for example, is severed, the body may be able to survive. But it may hemorrhage and die. If the leg of the doctrine of the church become paralyzed, the body may survive, but it will be crippled at best, and it may fall down in a heap and crack the head, too.

So the question, “How much doctrine must be pure if one is to remain a Christian?” is simply a wrong kind of question. The whole of our conveying of biblical teaching needs to be accurate and on target—both because believers need to know what God wants us to know and because God’s Word is true. Nonetheless, sinful doctrinal error does not always break our relationship with the Lord even though it makes it more tenuous.[1]

Applying this metaphor to a contemporary example we can derive that one who embraces the tenets of the Church Growth Movement should not automatically be considered an unconverted pagan outside the Christian faith, but rather a person who walks with a serious limp due to their doctrine of the church (i.e., leg) being influenced by inflated anthropological assumptions. Consider another example, a person who embraces decision theology from the old Semi-Pelagian American Revivals of the nineteenth-century is not necessarily one who is completely lost, but one who tragically has heart disease (i.e., heart of justification is infected with free will theology). Thus, these examples are not necessarily people who specifically reject Christ as the head or promote decapitation. These examples are not necessarily people who reject Justification or celebrate heart disease. Rather, they are individuals whose body of doctrine is unknowingly ill in some areas and possibly healthy in other areas. They are individuals who are at risk of a heart attack and traumatic head injury. They are at risk of losing justification due to their free will theology infecting the heart. They are at risk of the doctrine of Christ being traumatically struck due to their faulty anthropological assumptions weakening the leg; a leg that may give out causing the whole body of doctrine to fall.

Furthermore, this metaphor also helps in showing the motives of those advocating for pure doctrine. Otherwise stated, those advocating for pure doctrine are not advocating for works righteousness by doctrine, but are fighting against false theologies that damn, distort, and poison a person’s body of doctrine. They are not advocating pure theology to meet a certain doctrinal purity quota for a salvific payout, but rather are promoting purity of doctrinal truths for the health of God’s saints.

Finally, this metaphor helps us understand why correct theology matters. It matters because it is indeed important to guard Christ and the doctrine of Justification. It matters because it is indeed important to take note of false theology within secondary doctrines that can advertently and inadvertently impact the head (i.e., Christ) and heart (i.e., Justification).

As a closing point, this metaphor allows us to consider this subject within a compassionate pastoral framework, a framework that causes one to assess a person’s error in light of its seriousness and location in the body of doctrine, which then allows one to assess the proportional corrective response that is needed.

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[1] Robert Kolb, The Christian Faith: A Lutheran Exposition (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1993), 13-14.

About Pastor Matt Richard

Rev. Dr. Matthew Richard is the pastor at Zion Lutheran Church of Gwinner, ND. He was previously a Senior Pastor in Sidney, Montana, an Associate Pastor of Spiritual Care and Youth Ministries in Williston, North Dakota, and an Associate Pastor of Children and Youth in Rancho Cucamonga, California. He received his undergraduate degree from Minot State University, ND and his M.Div. from Lutheran Brethren Seminary, MN. His doctor of ministry thesis, from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO, was on exploring the journey of American Evangelicals into Confessional Lutheran thought. Pastor Richard is married to Serenity and they have two children. He enjoys fishing, pheasant hunting, watching movies, blogging, golfing, spending time with his family and a good book with a warm latte! To check out more articles by Pastor Matt you can visit his personal blog at: www.pastormattrichard.com.

Comments

Why Heart Disease And Traumatic Head Injuries Should Be Avoided — 9 Comments

  1. “We are not saved by pure doctrine. You are a doctrinal Pharisee advocating for a salvation by works.” So, what part of Christ are we allowed to throw out, since Christ *is* pure doctrine? As someone pretty sharp once said, “All theology is Christology.” How much of who Christ is, what He said, and what He did are we allowed to ignore, contradict, anathematize?

    Or, “we are not saved by pure medicine,” either, right? So how much arsenic do you want in your dose of penicillin?

    The image of pure doctrine as Body is good. Properly speaking, we don’t have doctrine*s*, we have One Doctrine: Christ (which is to say, Justification), with many articles, artikeln. Just as we are One Body in Christ with many members.

    The “string of pearls” image is a good one to describe how many people think of it.

  2. To extend the metaphor a touch, what the Apostolic Church had, and the LC-MS polity seems unable to provide today is something akin to the “AMA.” We’ve got a slew of doctrinal medical practitioners out there, but no one seems to have the ability to decertify the quacks, and rein in widespread use of snake oil.

    For all intents and purposes, atomistic roving theological motor cycle gangs, regulated only by their self-proclaimed, but unenforced and seemingly unenforceable, ordination vows.

    KE+,
    -Matt Mills

  3. If I have a correct knowledge of the divine and speak pure doctrine, but have not love, I am nothing. (after 1 Cor. 13)

    The tone with which concern about doctrine is expressed makes a difference. What God has revealed, he has revealed to bless us. So beyond the important recognition of error, can we also discern and describe the blessing at stake in accepting or rejecting particular points of doctrine?

  4. I wonder: Did Dr. Kolb mean to say (or imply) that one should not call out false teachers and teachings?

  5. Carl H :
    If I have a correct knowledge of the divine and speak pure doctrine, but have not love, I am nothing. (after 1 Cor. 13)

    And what if you have correct knowledge of the divine and speak pure doctrine AND have love?

    Then what?

    What if those, whose errors you lovingly correct, falsely accuse you of not having love because they themselves have too little love of the truth? Why should we assume that errorists have love but those teaching correctly do not?

    The tone with which concern about doctrine is expressed makes a difference. What God has revealed, he has revealed to bless us. So beyond the important recognition of error, can we also discern and describe the blessing at stake in accepting or rejecting particular points of doctrine?

    Personally, I have been both gently and sharply rebuked, but from both ways I saw that the person was motivated by love and I felt gratitude for that love.

    A sharp rebuke is no less loving if one loves the truth and is not too proud to accept correction. The person who is being corrected needs to have patience with the one who is correcting him and understand that the person may be greatly offended and exercised by the abuse of the truth.

  6. @Carl H #3
    The tone with which concern about doctrine is expressed makes a difference.

    No “tone” will satisfy those who wish to evade the question!

    [And pardon me, but worrying about “tone” instead of dealing with the question is so “last decade” in LCMess!]

  7. When Jesus overturned the tables of the money changers in the temple was the tone of his action wrong? I am going with, no. How should those money changers have reacted the harsh rebuke? Should they repent? Or are they justified in not repenting because Jesus’ tone offended them?

    If I recall correctly, we are told directly that we must correct an erring brother. If he doesn’t listen, get some faithful folks together and all go to him again. Get even more if that doesn’t work, and finally call him out publicly. We are not supposed to just sit and smile and allow error to beget ever greater error. And then deceitfully pretend that our omission was done out of love. It is neither loving to the erring brother nor to those he would mislead with his error.

  8. Mrs. Hume :

    The person who is being corrected needs to have patience with the one who is correcting him and understand that the person may be greatly offended and exercised by the abuse of the truth.

    Very well put – and a worthwhile observation, indeed, which adds an important perspective on things.

    It is not reasonable to expect those who point out one’s errors to be perfect, unlike oneself, nor to demand it of them – particularly not if one has actually hurt them.

    Worth taking to heart. I like it. My compliments. I am actually impressed.

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