Starting @ the :52 second mark and ending at the 1:29 point
“I actually do think some people make an idol out of doctrine because there are sectors of the church that say if you have your doctrine straight, and if you have your doctrine right then you’re pleasing to God and then you are part of the solution, not the problem and you’re not like all these other parts of the church that are very heretical.
There is a pride and a smugness about having good doctrine that, to me, puts doctrine almost in the place of the saving grace of Jesus Christ and so it becomes an idol.”
Rev. Dr. Tim Keller, Pastor
Redeemer Presbyterian PCA,
New York City, NY
Rev. McAtee responds,
Rev. McAtee responds,
1.) Certainly, we must concede that as anything can be turned into an idol and so even doctrine can be turned into an idol. However, if and when that point has arrived the question that must be asked is whether or not the doctrine is the problem or whether the idolator is the problem. Of course, the problem is not the doctrine since it is only doctrine which will rescue the idolater from their making doctrine an idol.
2.) Keep in mind that if someone really has straight and right doctrine then it is not possible to be involved in idolatry since straight and right doctrine, by definition, is not compatible with idolatry. Indeed if one is making an idol of doctrine their doctrine certainly is neither straight, good nor right. This is a large part of the confusion inherent in this statement by the Rev. Dr. Keller.
3.) Keep in mind that the only solution for those who have turned doctrine into an idol is to tell them to return to doctrine. Since the problem is not with the doctrine but with the idolator the only thing that is going to solve their idolatry is more doctrine. As the problem isn’t the doctrine the only solution is doctrine. If someone has turned doctrine into an idol they can only be reached by giving them true doctrine. As such, contrary to the Rev. Dr. Keller, the doctrine isn’t a problem.
4.) Obviously, we are pleasing to God only as being in Christ and coming under His protection and covering. However, that is a doctrine that I must have straight before I am pleasing to God. God is pleased when we by searching the Scriptures look to see what it is that we should believe (doctrine) in order to honor God. Now, while as a judge God is either pleased with us or not, as a Father God is more pleased with His children who search out Christ wherein are the treasures of all wisdom and knowledge (i.e. — doctrine). That this is so, is seen in how the Lord Christ deals with the seven Churches in Revelation. All Churches are Christians. Five churches are condemned for some weaknesses that the Lord was displeased with while two were only commended. God was more pleased by their faithfulness to the true doctrine than he was with those who were not faithful to true doctrine.
5.) Would to God that every sector of the Church would connect increasingly straight doctrine with God, as Father, being increasingly pleased with us. What other option is there? Would we say that God isn’t increasingly pleased as we are led by the Spirit to increasingly get our doctrine straight? Is God non-plussed over whether our doctrine is increasingly straight or increasingly crooked?
6.) People with crooked doctrine are part of the problem, no matter their good intentions. In the same way, people with straight and right doctrine are part of the solution.
7.) Would the Rev. Dr. Kell have us pray that our doctrine would not be good so that we would not suffer from pride and smugness?
8.) Rev. Dr. Keller complains about doctrine being put in the place of the saving grace of Jesus Christ and yet the whole idea of the saving grace of Jesus Christ is a doctrine that we’ve been warned against as having right, straight, or good.
9.) Rev. Dr. Keller worries about pride and smugness and idolatry and rightfully so. However, each of those is an issue of improper orthopraxy (right behavior). As proper orthopraxy can only be present where good, straight, and right proper orthodoxy (doctrine) first exists we realize that we can never steer clear of improper orthopraxy (pride, smugness, and idolatry) unless we are good, straight, and right, in our orthodoxy (doctrine).
10.) Some sectors of the Church are indeed very heretical and they are heretical precisely because their understanding of the truth as it is found in Jesus Christ is severely deficient.
Some might say, “Come on Rev. McAtee, you know what he means.” To that my response is, “I’d like to think I know what he means, but I honestly am not sure.” The Rev. Dr. Keller has had his bell rung on certain doctrinal issues that are important and where he has been less than clear upon. Is this a complaint on his part that people who dare disagree with him on his doctrine are examples of those who are pride, smug, and idolatrous?
Look, in our irrational age, it strikes me as passing odd to complain that one of the major problems of the Church is that it is over precise when it comes to its doctrine. This is like warning someone suffering from hypothermia that there is danger in sunstroke.