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Telling Secrets

faith, fatherhood, and culture

THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. DOCTRINE AND MR. WORKS

Friday, February 03, 2006

I’m slowly coming down off of Tuesday night. The event was a success – 85 people came, the discussion was good with only a couple of minor flares. The Issachar group that Jeff Johnsen brought were the highlight, providing color and a perspective the rest of us whiteys in the room lacked.

Pastor Larry Brown was filled to the brim with the Spirit before the speech and delivered an impromptu speech to set the foundation for our conversation – what is our responsibility as Christians to love our neighbor and take care of the least of these my brethren. Several of the more staunch members of the Master’s Church held vehemently whispered conversations in the back of the church during the sermon, their disapproval crackling all around.

I was a little uncertain about his speech just because I’ve never heard him preach before and he is a little bit of a loose cannon. But that is also what I love about Pastor Brown, and honestly, I couldn’t disagree with anything that he said. He ended by saying we are all on the same boat, the carrier USS America, and there are gaping holes in this boat. Whether we agree with the politics of our leaders or not, if we don’t pitch in and get active, we will sink along with everyone else. (Kind of reminiscent of the verse in Jeremiah I used to promote this event: "But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you… and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare" (Jeremiah 29:7). If there is injustice, we’ve got to patch it up. If there is hunger…patch it up. If there is poverty…patch it up. And on he went.

What’s been bugging me about Pastor Brown vs. Staunchists is the doctrinal issue. I believe Pastor Brown is speaking the Truth as it has been given to him, as he understands it. He is not one to do things half-assed. To that end, he is one of the only pastors I know who is doing God’s work in the community – taking care of the least of these my brethren. He didn’t bat an eye when I asked him out of the blue years ago to start a food bank in the permanent housing program for chronically homeless folk I was running. Because of that ministry, about 4 people in the building started going to his church Sundays.

So how important is it to have your doctrine exactly right? Who is to say who’s doctrine is right, especially when the doctrine in question results in works that most of us don’t dare to do. Who’s more faithful? The one who studies the Bible ad nauseum unto losing the capacity to love or the one who studies the Bible but focuses more on doing what it says, even though there may be some inconsistencies or incorrect doctrine that results. Did Jesus call us to good doctrine or good works?

I guess the “$64,000 question”, as Russ says, is this: are they mutually exclusive? It often seems like it, but why does it have to be? Why doesn’t sound doctrine motivate one to good, incredible works powered by the Spirit and a savior who promised never to leave us? I think that sound doctrine MUST move you out of the book and into the world to do God’s work. If it doesn’t, then your doctrine isn’t that sound after all. It’s mental masturbation of the most despicable kind. It’s religion that eventually turns to oppression and self-righteousness.

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