Jack England is a Ph.D. working in a ministerial middle management position in one of America’s Flag ship evangelical denominations. His portfolio includes work with mission.
“While I believe that in the Christian faith there is only one true and absolute doctrine, humans are unable to define it.”
Dr. Jack England, what good is it to have only one true and absolute doctrine if nobody can authoritatively define it? For that matter Dr. Jack, If we are unable to define the only one true and absolute doctrine what the hell does anybody mean when they say “the Christian faith.” This sounds very Kantian in as much as you seem to be suggesting we cannot know the thing in itself.
In point of fact Dr. Jack I believe you have told us that in your estimation there is one true and absolute doctrine of the Christian faith that you as a human are able to define and that doctrine is that there are no other true and absolute doctrines that you are able to define. Your one definable absolute is that there are no other definable absolutes.
Finally, on this score if what you say is accurate then there is no reason to say that Mormons or Jehovah Witnesses or Unitarians aren’t Christian. After all, if we are unable to define doctrine well enough to know who should be in and who should be out then who are we to freeze anybody out of the circle?
“Because, you see, when they try to define it errors are made (we humans ARE frail, fallible, and finite); when errors are made, differences occur among humans; when differences occur, new paths form; when new paths form (within Christianity), denominations surface; when denominations surface, dogma arrives; when dogma arrives, divisions occur within an entity God would rather be unified. Thus, I believe that He only tolerates denominations, Bret.”
Dr. Jack, everyone agrees with the idea of the noetic effects of sin. Further everyone would agree that we see through a glass darkly. The point though is that we do see. The reality of human frailty, fallibility, and finiteness does not negate the ability of God to communicate his mind. Now, certainly no one would argue that we can fully comprehend God (finitum non capax infinitum) but all orthodox Christians believe that God can still be known because he is able to make himself known.
You say God would rather have us united? That is a doctrine, and if humans are unable to define it then why do you presume to define it here?
Your solution of a unknowable doctrine doesn’t work because it ends up being its own unique dogma that you putatively disdain. Indeed, your dogma keeps me from being united with you, and yet that is exactly what you say you want to avoid. Your path has been pursued many times before. It’s the kind of thing you might have heard from J. Barton Stone or Alexander Campbell.
It would be nice if we could all hold hands and sing Kumbayah Dr. Jack but unity can only be achieved and maintained by a mutually shared set of definable doctrines. The doctrine that there isn’t any doctrines that can be defined is not enough to base unity upon.
“Another thought to ponder at another time might be, why have I chosen to be a Baptist, or you, CR?”
Um, because you are confused and the CRC is a denomination that historically has held to the Biblical faith once delivered to the saints?
“Without defining that “one absolute doctrine,” perhaps it would be unfair to entertain the second part of your question, ‘how does it effect evangelism?'”
I don’t understand. If it is, a-priori not possible for humans to define ‘one absolute doctrine’ then why would we even try?
Bret had asked Dr. Jack earlier,
Q: How does the one absolute doctrine effect evangelism?
Dr. Jack responds,
Well, if we look to God’s Word as the basis for the one true doctrine, we find that evangelism is more overt in the NT and more covert in the OT. The reason would be found in the life and work of Christ recorded in the NT, and more specifically in the Savior’s words to those gathered just prior to His ascension, that which believers refer to as the Great Commission. Jesus commands that his followers make disciples. While there is more to making disciples than simply leading another to conversion and belief in Christ (evangelism), God gave authority to His Son to pass the authority to evangelize people on to those called the Apostles of Christ, and I believe to many other disciples who were present, and further on to disciples/followers in this present day (to you and me). So, I believe God’s plan before time (the crux of that absolute doctrine) centered on believers applying/sharing the gospel message.
How do you know this if humans can’t define the one true doctrine?
Still, I agree that we should be busy about evangelism and discipleship. But my question still stands. How do we do evangelism apart from Doctrine informing us? Who is Jesus? What is sin? What of the character of God in relation to evangelism? When God visits salvation upon a husband and wife are they to bring their children into the household of God with them? What does conversion look like? Calvinists, and Arminians answer many of those questions differently. You just can’t do evangelism Dr. Jack without addressing all kinds of doctrinal issues.
“that’s why evangelism outweighs doctrinal dogma/differences in the way I practice my faith.”
I’m sorry Jack, you just can’t divide evangelism from the doctrinal differences. For example, I know countless number of people who will tell you when they converted from Arminianism to Calvinism it was like embracing a different faith.
Another question that comes to mind might be: What IS the definition of evangelism?
You can’t answer that without doctrine and according to you it is not possible for humans to define doctrine because they are frail, fallible and finite.
“Okay, Bret, now answer my first question: In the Christian faith, isn’t there only one absolute doctrine?”