Wednesday, June 14, 2006
(By John MacArthur)
Is Pragmatism Really a Serious Threat?
I am convinced that pragmatism poses precisely the same subtle threat to the church in our age that modernism represented nearly a century ago.
Modernism was a movement that embraced higher criticism and liberal theology while denying nearly all the supernatural aspects of Christianity. But modernism did not first surface as an overt attack on orthodox doctrine. The earliest modernists seemed concerned primarily with interdenominational unity. They were willing to downplay doctrine for that goal, because they believed doctrine was inherently divisive and a fragmented church would become irrelevant in the modern age. To heighten Christianity's relevance, modernists sought to synthesize Christian teachings with the latest insights from science, philosophy, and literary criticism.
Modernists viewed doctrine as a secondary issue. They emphasized brotherhood and experience and de-emphasized doctrinal differences. Doctrine, they believed, should be fluid and adaptable—certainly not something worth fighting for. In 1935 John Murray gave this assessment of the typical modernist:
The modernist very often prides himself on the supposition that he is concerned with life, with the principles of conduct and the making operative of the principles of Jesus in all departments of life, individual, social, ecclesiastical, industrial, and political. His slogan has been that Christianity is life, not doctrine, and he thinks that the orthodoxy Christian or fundamentalist, as he likes to name him, is concerned simply with the conservation and perpetuation of outworn dogmas of doctrinal belief, a concern which makes orthodoxy in his esteem a cold and lifeless petrification of Christianity. ["The Sanctity of the Moral Law," Collected Writings of John Murray 4 vols. (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1976), 1:193.]
When harbingers of modernism began to appear in the late 1800s, few Christians were troubled. The most heated controversies in those days were relatively small backlashes against men like Charles Spurgeon—men who were trying to warn the church about the threat. Most Christians—particularly church leaders—were completely unreceptive to such warnings. After all, it wasn't as if outsiders were imposing new teachings on the church; these were people from within the denominations—and scholars, at that. Certainly they had no agenda to undermine the core of orthodox theology or attack the heart of Christianity itself. Divisiveness and schism seemed far greater dangers than apostasy.
But whatever the modernists' motives at first, their ideas did represent a grave threat to orthodoxy, as history has proved. The movement spawned teachings that decimated practically all the mainline denominations in the first half of this century. By downplaying the importance of doctrine, modernism opened the door to theological liberalism, moral relativism, and rank unbelief. Most evangelicals today tend to equate the word "modernism" with full-scale denial of the faith. It is often forgotten that the aim of the early modernists was simply to make the church more "modern," more unified, more relevant, and more acceptable to a skeptical modern age.
Just like the pragmatists today.
Like the church of a hundred years ago, we live in a world of rapid changes—major advances in science, technology, world politics, and education. Like the brethren of that generation, Christians today are open, even eager, for change in the church. Like them, we yearn for unity among the faithful. And like them, we are sensitive to the hostility of an unbelieving world.
Unfortunately, there is at least one other parallel between the church today and the church in the late nineteenth century: many Christians seem completely unaware—if not unwilling to see—that serious dangers threaten the church from within. Yet if church history teaches us anything, it teaches us that the most devastating assaults on the faith have always begun as subtle errors arising from within.
Living in an unstable age, the church cannot afford to be vacillating. We minister to people desperate for answers, and we cannot soft-pedal the truth or extenuate the gospel. If we make friends with the world, we set ourselves at enmity with God. If we trust worldly devices, we automatically relinquish the power of the Holy Spirit.
These truths are repeatedly affirmed in Scripture: "Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (Jas. 4:4). "Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 Jn. 2:1).
"The king is not saved by a mighty army; a warrior is not delivered by great strength. A horse is a false hope for victory; nor does it deliver anyone by its great strength" (Ps. 33:16, 17). "Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, and rely on horses, and trust in chariots because they are many, and in horsemen because they are very strong, but they do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the Lord!" (31:1). "'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the Lord of hosts" (Zech. 4:6).
Is Worldliness Still a Sin?
Worldliness is rarely even mentioned today, much less identified for what it is. The word itself is beginning to sound quaint. Worldliness is the sin of allowing one's appetites, ambitions, or conduct to be fashioned according to earthly values. "All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever" (1 Jn. 2:16, 17).
Yet today we have the extraordinary spectacle of church programs designed explicitly to cater to fleshly desire, sensual appetites, and human pride—"the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life." To achieve this worldly appeal, church activities often go beyond the merely frivolous. For several years a colleague of mine has been collecting a "horror file" of clippings that report how churches are employing innovations to keep worship services from becoming dull. In the past half decade, some of America's largest evangelical churches have employed worldly gimmicks like slapstick, vaudeville, wrestling exhibitions, and even mock striptease to spice up their Sunday meetings. No brand of horseplay, it seems, is too outrageous to be brought into the sanctuary. Burlesque is fast becoming the liturgy of the pragmatic church.
Moreover, many in the church believe this is the only way we will ever reach the world. If the unchurched multitudes don't want traditional hymns and biblical preaching, we are told, we must give them what they want. Hundreds of churches have followed precisely that theory, actually surveying unbelievers to learn what it would take to get them to attend.
Subtly the goal is becoming church attendance and acceptance rather than a transformed life. Preaching the Word and boldly confronting sin are seen as archaic, ineffectual means of winning the world. After all, those things actually drive most people away. Why not entice people into the fold by offering what they want, creating a friendly, comfortable environment, and catering to the very desires that constitute their strongest urges? As if we might get them to accept Jesus by somehow making Him more likable or making His message less offensive.
That kind of thinking badly skews the mission of the church. The Great Commission is not a marketing manifesto. Evangelism does not require salesmen, but prophets. It is the Word of God, not any earthly enticement, that plants the seed for the new birth (1 Pet. 1:23). We gain nothing but God's displeasure if we seek to remove the offense of the cross (cf. 5:11).
Is All Innovation Wrong?
Please do not misunderstand my concern. It is not innovation per se that I oppose. I recognize that styles of worship are always in flux. I also realize that if the typical seventeenth-century Puritan walked into Grace Community Church (where I am pastor) he might be shocked by our music, probably dismayed to see men and women seated together, and quite possibly disturbed that we use a public address system. Spurgeon himself would not appreciate our organ. But I am not in favor of a stagnant church. And I am not bound to any particular musical or liturgical style. Those things in and of themselves are not issues Scripture even addresses. Nor do I think my own personal preferences in such matters are necessarily superior to the tastes of others. I have no desire to manufacture some arbitrary rules that govern what is acceptable or not in church services. To do so would be the essence of legalism.
My complaint is with a philosophy that relegates God's Word to a subordinate role in the church. I believe it is unbiblical to elevate entertainment over preaching and worship in the church service. And I stand in opposition to those who believe salesmanship can bring people into the kingdom more effectively than a sovereign God. That philosophy has opened the door to worldliness in the church.
"I am not ashamed of the gospel," the apostle Paul wrote (Rom. 1:16). Unfortunately, "ashamed of the gospel" seems more and more apt as a description of some of the most visible and influential churches of our age.
I see striking parallels between what is happening in the church today and what happened a hundred years ago. The more I read about that era, the more my conviction is reinforced that we are seeing history repeat itself.
” Why not entice people into the fold by offering what they want, creating a friendly, comfortable environment, and catering to the very desires that constitute their strongest urges? As if we might get them to accept Jesus by somehow making Him more likable or making His message less offensive.”
It’s not spiritual diplomacy. It’s spiritual warfare.
The ancient Israelites tried to make their religion like the pagan religions around them in Canaan. Because of this, time after time again, God rained down judgement upon them. Why do we insist on an anthropocentric church? The ways of God are not to be altered to fit the ways of man. The ways of man are to be altered to follow the ways of God.
Youth groups with Xbox systems and churches preaching ‘self-help’ sermons about “Your Best Life Now!” are not going to get Christianity anywhere. We need the unworldly, powerful, invigorating Puritanism of Early America and the spiritual fervor of the Great Awakening. Let us pray for the modern church, not only that God will use it to save the unsaved, but also that the church itself shall be saved from its wordliness.
Very good article! I was glad that you posted it, Mr. Ratliff.
Your brother in Christ,
The Aspiring Theologian
The Aspiring Theologian Blog: Entry on The Anthropocentric Church
A relevant entry for those interested
Thanks Albert. Yes, this is one of those things that seem trival to many people, but those with discernment will see the fallacy of it.
I aways appreciate the obvious thought and research you put into your writings. One thing comes to mind as I read this one. Where is Jesus Christ in all of this? Where is the trust of miraculous workings of our Lord on the heart? I have been “unchurched” for about 12 years now and I have a great thirst for the word, I have a fire for obedience, and Jesus leads me in all things, Jesus did this in my heart, not some church teaching the correct doctrine. I will admit to being hungry for worshipping with like-minded believers though, and they are getting fewer and fewer as far as I can see. It seems to me that there should be some kind of drawing in of unbelievers, by showing them what they can have with Christ, isn’t that what Christ did after all? Then as they grow, the more heartier doctrines can be taught with the trust that Jesus has established a relationship with the believer and will convict them to the truth that disobedience equals unbelief. The way the churches are today, they draw them in but keep everyone mired in infancy with no plans for deeper spiritual growth, only plans to get more infants into the nursery. I don’t know, just some random thoughts that came to mind, I hope you’re not offended as I mean none and would love to hear your thoughts on this.
Terrilynn – I agree with some of what you said about the modern church. Numbers, giving, and happiness seems to be the thrust. And I agree with most of the JM post. There are two areas in which I believe MacArthur might be guilty of blatent worldliness. First, I don’t believe it is God’s will for a preacher to be wealthy. Only in the past generation has that been accepted, and the money that is gained through books, tapes, and personal appearances makes many preachers millionaires. Don’t lay up for yourselves treaures? Another area that many, including JM, preachers practice is this “Christian cruise” nonsense. People spend thousands of dollars to practice open glutteny and listen to Bible lessons they could hear at the local church. And to top it off, the preachers who sponser it not only go free with their wives, most of the time they get paid while also selling books, tapes, etc.. All the while there are brothers and sisters in Christ around the world who are hungry, naked, and in prison. I love most of MacAurtur’s teachings but in these things he has succumbed to the “American” brand of Christian behavior. Study church history and see how many frivilous trips Wesley, Spurgeon, Finney, Edwards, or even Calvin took. I’m guessing…NONE!
I am on the road through Sunday so my responses to comments here and email will be spotty. Whereas I believe we must have correct doctrine that is nothing without the living presense of our Lord in our Hearts who is the Spirit of the Living God. The message was intended to show the blatant unbelief that the “PRAGMATIC” Christian leaders have bought into in order to copy the “success” of “successful” ministries. There is little if any trust in prayer, and the searhing of the scriptures in order to find the will of God for their ministries. The end result is a shallow shell of Christianity which is Laodician to the core.
I am working on a new study which, hopefully, I will start posting next week. Please pray for me in this as I desire only to write and share what God will use for His glory alone.
Rick – I agree with you about the “rich pastor” thing. It is a horrible thing that these men are using God as a means rather than an end. Let’s pray for their repentance as God shines HIs light of conviction into their hearts. We are desperatly hungry for godly preaching that is grounded in the Word of God.
As far as that list of preachers you listed I agree with all but Finney. He was a heretic whose theology was blatant Palagianism. I would substitute Ashael Nettleton’s name in his place. 🙂
I’ll be praying for you brother!
God’s protection on your travels. Finney did eventually morph into a theological nutcase, but no one can deny he was mightily used of God especially in the early years. I think the major reason he sunk into a absolute crazy theology, which he didn’t espouse initially, was pride. The things he saw God do through him eventually gave him an air of superiority and he would never allow himself to be accountable to anyone. Also I never thought his calling was theology, so when he left evangelism and revivals the devil had set him up. His conversion was miraculous, his immediate surrender was breathtaking, his revivals still bear fruit today, but sadly his later writings were so unorthodox as to be nothing but “nuts”(a technical term for Biblically unbalanced!). Have a good trip, Mike!
Thanks Rick and Terry Lynn your prayers are precious to me. I will be visiting a church this weekend that I used to belong to back in the mid 1980’s. I am looking forward to that.
“It is often forgotten that the aim of the early modernists was simply to make the church more “modern,” more unified, more relevant, and more acceptable to a skeptical modern age.” As John pointed out this is parallel to the argument for many of activities that are happen in professing Christianity today. And those who argue for relativism, unity and acceptableness speak as if it is “cutting edge”; that the problem is that past generations did not think “out of the box”. It makes me weep. Having been so self-deceived for so many years I am ever aware how the ego (Old Man) trots out these same old rationalizations time and time again, leaving us self-congratulatory and quite pleased with our ability to reason it out, think “out of the box” and problem solve effectively. Thanks for the posting, Mike.
And Henry, thank you as well for addressing the activity of “Christian Cruises.” In 2002 I went on one of the cruises. I had lived for many years professing Christ as Saviour but living for my own pleasure and glory. My life collapsed around me in 2000 and 2001. During the darkest times I began listening to Truth for Life on my way to work in the mornings. The sermon series was from 1 Peter and it was called “Standing Firm in Shakey Times”. God used the clear biblical preaching and teaching in a might way in my lfe. I was so thankful for this ministry. When they began to promote their cruise I was interested. Then, quite amazingly to me, someone offered to pay for the cruise- knowing how much this ministry had touched my life. I went on the cruise in September to beautiful Alaska. The preaching was a blessing- but only 1-2 hours of the entire day. The scenery was awe inspiring. But… I was deeply saddened at the worldliness that is just part of a cruise. I thought often of the many brothers and sisters in Christ that I will one day meet in heaven who are hungry, thirsty, and naked. I thought of those living in poverty, prison, persecuted; facing death, tortured, having property confiscationed, beaten, etc for the sake of gospel. I was also very troubled that my diner table companions (all there for the T for L cruise) were not interested in talking about Godly things. Several of them were regular cruisers. When I asked about individuals how they came to the LORD I was reminded/rebuked that we were not to be wearing our denominational labels. I believe the LORD allowed me to be at such a table to show me the emptiness of seeking after growing in the LORD this way. I really had envisioned that everyone on such a trip was so committed to walking with Christ in obedience and hungry to discuss the WORD. And I envisioned they were all so much more mature in Christ than me. Anyway, I digress. I was very aware that I could have simply listened to these same messages in a few years on the radio and been just as blessed the the GOD honouring and GOD loving teaching.
In embarassment, I rarely tell anyone I went on such a cruise. And I certainly have not shared these sentiments before. I spent a lot of time crying in my cabin and praying. It is comforting to have read you speak out much of the conflict I have with “Christian Cruises.”
Kim, that was very well said. Thank you for your heartfelt honesty on this difficult subject. We all need to hear from God from His word by His teachers and preachers or as we read it for ourselves. The distractions can really open doors to the flesh that we need to keep closed. I have never had cruise or anything like that. I have been a few retreats though that I ended by thinking it would have been more productive to have had the same teachings come from our pulpit or in a class setting. However, Jesus did take His disciples away to quiet places to teach them personally or to let them relax and rest in Him. I suppose the best thing to do with this is to utilize discernment and prayer before getting involved in anything like this or not.
Terrilynn, you ask where is Jesus in all this? Well, Jesus is the very center of what John MacArthur is talking about. The point of the article is to say that the gospel of Jesus is being pushed aside to bring in “more effective methods.” Methods that are pragmatic and successful and do not offend. We arrogantly think that we need to make the gospel more appealing, (as if this is possible.) We in the church have turned to methods, and sensationalism to bring them in…So what is the trouble with this? It is this, what you get them with is what you keep them with. And the result of what we have in the church is evidence of just that. There is no end to the lengths we will go to keep people interested in church, because the numbers say we are relevant. I am saddened that so many churches have lost the message of the gospel in the midst of their methods. Thinking they have become relevant, they have become irrelevant in the Kingdom of God.
Why is doctrine so important? Because NOTHING that is everlasting is accomplished apart from TRUTH. Jesus is called Truth, and the Holy Spirit is sent to lead us in all Truth. We are told to worship God in Spirit and TRUTH. Doctrine is TRUTH and TRUTH is doctrine. When we leave truth we leave the substance of all that Jesus is. We must remember this in all we do in the Christian walk. No experience that we have is real if it is not grounded in truth. I heard the other day this statement, “perception is reality.” Well what is wrong with that statement? It is a lie. Perception does not make something real…what makes something real is fact, hard, solid, reliable truth. At any moment I can think or feel any way about something. My heart is deceptive…and so if I follow my heart, I may very well find myself lost in the mist of a lot of lies and deception. No, when my heart is wavering, it is the truth of God that He has placed in me, as he has used His truth to transform my mind, which keeps me in reality. My reality comes from TRUTH that God has revealed to me. My feelings can fluctuate with the wind…but the truth of God never changes, because He never changes.
Now, as to the statements made earlier about Dr. MacArthur and his worldliness. I have had the opportunity to meet this man. He is one of the most gracious men I have ever met. I confess I do not know how he uses his money, or the financial dealings of his ministry, but unless one has the records to make these statements, we need to be careful about what we say so dogmatically. It has been my understanding that all the money he receives from his tape ministry is placed directly back in to the ministry. This may very well be true of his books too. I know that is what Dr. Piper does. I am in the ministry, and I have never seen a godly pastor who is over paid. Most scrap to make ends meet, and this is certainly not right either. I also know too that many who have been blessed by the Lord are extremely gracious to others in silence, meaning that they give to people and no one on this earth will ever know about it. As far as Dr. MacArthur I have never known a more solid bible preacher, and I trust God to direct this man. The word will not return void in his preaching, or his own life.
Now….I have no idea about the cruises. I have never been. I will rely on Kim’s response above. I am sure that many people are ready to pay the price to go on such because the preaching of the word is so void in the local pulpit. I suppose that most vacations would fit in to the worldly category if we are honest. Certainly we in America are about fulfilling fleshly desires…eh?
I’m sorry if it seemed I was implying that doctrine was not important. Let me ask you this, when Jesus first came upon a sinner, did he immediately launch into doctrine?
Let’s use for example the Samaritan Woman, Jesus got down on her level and offered Himself to her, as the Living Water, He told her He would quench her thirst. He showed that He loved her by telling her that He knows her and He didn’t judge her, He gained her trust first.
Then he began to teach her the truth: John 4:
23Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
My only point is that there has to be some balance, if you immediately pounce on unbelievers with doctrine without first showing them the love of Christ, it won’t work. One has to be totally in love with Christ to obey.
I think it is only natural to draw people in with a self-focus, Jesus did the same exact thing, but then there has to come a point when the church leadership must begin to help their flock mature and become doctrinally sound and to become spirit-led as opposed to soul-led and this is where the western churches are failing miserably.
I believe I said that MacArthur “might” be guilty. Just because he is very gracious, and I have no doubt as I have also met him, he is not beyond examining his ministry under the light of the Holy Spirit and perhaps finding some correction. Sometimes nobodies like me can lovingly and humbly see something that men of God like him can benefit from. There is an inherant danger that comes with an incredibly large ministry both financially and in the area of accountability. I reiterate my love for his ministry and I have been and continue to be edified by his teaching.
Terrilynn asks, “When Jesus first came upon a sinner, did he immediately launch into doctrine?” Actually yes Terri, he did.
Joh 4:10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”
This was his statement to her. When he said this he was saying if you recognized that I am Messiah, you would take you eyes off of earthly matters and begin to focus on the spiritual matters. He in effect was saying take your eyes on of you and put them on Me. I am the One who is able give you life.
And he goes on to tell her this. Joh 4:13-14 Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
He is saying it is NOT about you. Then he sets her up basically, oh he knows the truth that she has had five husbands and is now living with another man. But he wants her to see it…to admit it. So he says, Joh 4:16-18 He *said to her, “Go, call your husband and come here.” The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus *said to her, “You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly.”
He tells her the truth. Jesus had one shot at her, and He held nothing back. He spoke truth to her and it changed her. This is the most loving thing anyone can do for anybody. I think we fool our selves when we are so afraid of offending that we hold back the truth from those who desperately need it. Oh…I am certainly not talking about bashing someone. This was never the point I was making. I was saying that the problem with the Church in America as a whole is this…we do not believe God is able to do what he says He will do. (Jesus said, “I will build my church.”) We believe that He desperately needs our help. God is still God. Just as when the worshippers of Baal seemed to be all that was left in Israel, God had prophets that had not bowed the knee, so it is in America. There is a remnant. For this I rejoice. But I do believe that the leadership in American churches that have traded the gospel for a method will stand accountable.
This was how Jesus ended His discussion with the Samaritan woman,
Joh 4:21-23 Jesus *said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.”You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.
Again it is not about how you think you are to worship. It is about what God is doing and has done, and how he says we are to worship. True worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.
Our (all believers) mission as given to us by Jesus Christ is this, Mat 28:19-20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
We are about making disciples, teaching them to observe the commands of the Lord. We are not about appealing with self focused messages. We are about helping people see the Holiness of God the Father, and the Way to Him, His Son. When we see the holiness of God, we then see our sin, and realize that we need a Savior.
I suspect Terri, that the difference in you and I would be our philosophy of ministry. You see being in the ministry for nearly 20 years now, I realize that the only think that I have ever seen effective to change someone and cause them to fall completely in love with Jesus, is the word of God applied to their life. I have seen people come and go, looking for the best program, the most exciting place to worship or some other self feeding thing. Jesus said in , Joh 3:14 “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up;” and then in Joh 12:32 “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” I am to do one thing, lift the name of Jesus. I do the through proclaiming the word, and He will draw men unto Himself. I trust in this. I bank everything on this, because there is nothing I can do to make men desire Jesus. God must do this. And He uses His Word to do this.
I am sorry for the length of this post. My reaction to what you said Terri, and probably you too Henry, has more to do I suspect with the state of the church as a whole and how difficult it is to have a godly and Christ centered ministry today. If I offended I am truly sorry. Godly ministers are hard to find…and more and more of them are leaving the minstry everyday.
“but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
I understood this as Jesus offering to quench her thirst, thirst is a need. He says He will meet that need and will even extinguish that need. This is why I said that Jesus drew her in by offering to fill a need, and then led her into doctrine.
I really have no experience or philosophy of ministry. I spent 10 years of my young adult life in the Herbert W. Armstrong cult, then I spent ten years basically recovering from that spiritual abuse.
I then have tried a couple of churches but have been quite disappointed and gave up for awhile but now am looking again.
So, the only thing I have to relate to is the ministry of Jesus Christ, Himself. He is the one who drew me to Him, in my need, and as I grew to trust Him and fall in love with Him, then He became my need. He is the one who has led me to study His word, He is the one who speaks to me, teaches me, exhorts and rebukes me. He is the one who has written His law upon my heart and causes it to burn with desire to follow Him, in obedience and in praise. I fell in love with Him first and then applied His word to my life, so please understand I am only speaking from my own personal experience as I understand that you are speaking from yours, my brother.
Also, I am not defending the state of the church, I was just questioning a balanced approach.
Praise be to Jesus Christ, our perfect Minister, Lover of our souls, may He be worshipped in the truest sense of surrender and abandonment by all who speak His name!
Much Love in Christ,
Wow! See what I miss when I drive for 5+ hours to get home. This is some great discussion. I don't have much to add to bruisedreed's comments, but I will try.
Do I think doctrine is important? Yes. Without it we have no direction. The problem is that there has been a dilution and corruption of proper doctrine by men following their own desires rather than submit to the teachings of the prophets, Jesus and the Apostles. The Spirit-led will be tender-hearted towards God and will be reluctant to attach themselves to the doctrines of men. However, the slip to fall out of this tender-hearted, Spirit-led mode is quick and deceptive. I think many good men and women have succumbed to false doctrines by simply following feelings or caving in to pressure from others they are trying to please. The book of Galatians is very clear in telling us that proper doctrine is vital and knowable.