Doctrine in Action

Photo by Ameen Fahmy on Unsplash

In C.S. Lewis’ book The Screwtape Letters, senior demon Screwtape writes fictional letters to Wormwood, a junior demon, on how to defeat his “patient.”  In one of these letters, Screwtape advises: “As long as [man] does not convert it into action, it does not matter how much he thinks about this new repentance… Wallow in it… Write a book about it; that is often an excellent way of sterilising the seeds which [Heavenly Father] plants in a human soul… Do anything but act. No amount of piety in his imagination and affections will harm [the cause of evil] if [it is kept] out of his will… The more often he feels without acting, the less he will ever be able to act, and, in the long run, the less he will be able to feel.”

Christianity is not a soul-less doctrine, but a restoration of the right relationships between souls and their Creator, which should lead to action.  Teaching should lead to love.  In 1 Timothy 1:3-4 Paul writes to Timothy: “As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.”  In his commentary on the verse, John Calvin says that Paul “judges of doctrine by the fruit; for every tiling that does not edify ought to be rejected, although it has no other fault; and everything that is of no avail but for raising contentions, ought to be doubly condemned.”

Calvin’s note and Screwtape’s fictional letter remind me of the linked Monty Python video of philosophers philosophizing about soccer while simultaneously “playing” soccer.

Every doctrine and institution of the church should empower His people to live for Him.  Are we playing the right game, and are we playing to win?

“In All Things Charity”

While any religious slogan or motto has its shortcomings (we wouldn’t need a Bible with 1,189 chapters if one sentence would do), some can summarize a lot of good truths.  Recently in Sunday School a phrase I used a lot during my college years came back to me:

“In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity”

Nobody in the class knew the phrase, and I couldn’t remember exactly where I learned it, so I found and forwarded this article which explains the saying and its origin. Like many things, the phrase has been mis-attributed to well-known figures in Christian history, but it actually is a quote from Rupertus Meldenius, a relatively unknown seventeenth century theologian.  I’ve found it useful in striking a balance between doctrine and love, and hope you will too.

What do you think?