Seperation of Doctrine and Morals?

There is currently an excellent piece on Christians and politics over at the Pulpit magazine blog.

It ties in a little with my “Call to Unity” post a few days ago. It also raises another important issue, one which I consciously chose to avoid, namely the seperation of doctrine and ethics.

It is virtually impossible to believe that there will be any agreement on Christian doctrine any time soon, sad as it may be. At the most basic level, a belief in God and the atonement of our sins through the life and death of Jesus is what defines Christianity, but that is where it ends.

I hold strongly to the Doctrines of Grace as defined through the reformation. That puts me in opposition with Roman Catholics, some Baptists, the Methodists and many others.

The contention I then have is that most Americans define themselves as Christian. Logically then, there should be no problem with holding to Biblical morals in the US. However, as stated in my previous post, there is a clear decline in morality when measured against Biblical standards, and also the state of the country (and the world) a few years ago. Moral relativism rules, even among those calling themselves Christian. How can that be, if the majority are Christians?

I have a couple of ideas:
1. The first relates to the title of the message. Can we seperate doctrine from morality as Christians? If so, then the larger Christian community should have no problems in a democratic country to elect and select leaders that reflect that morality, both in government and business. The deeper question, and this is where I know I will get in trouble, remains about the seperation. Each doctrinal position manifested in a denomination pretty much claims exclusivity to real Christianity, so the objection will remain that although a majority say they are Christian, they are not “real” Christians, since they do not follow a specific doctrine. Therefore there cannot be commonality in morality, because our view of Biblical morality follows our doctrinal beliefs.
2. The second reason may be that the secularists dominate to such an extent, and anti-morality has been deemed free speech for so long, that it would be impossible to institutionalize morality to any extent again. Free speech protects almost anything, and the consequences are immaterial. One may argue that free speech also allows me to write here, and freely express my displeasure with the current state of morality. That is true, but my counter-argument is that this message does not damage anyone, it has positive consequences, while abortion and pornography causes damage.

This brings me back to my original message, where I argued that even though we may have doctrinal differences, the moral message of the Bible seems to be pretty clear. As Christians, we are stewards of those morals. I agree with Dr. MacArthur, that evangelization is a major starting point. The logic seems simple enough, more Christians means more morals, right? I would add that we need broad sanctification too, since that is where the growth happens. One cannot be a Christian unless you are also sanctified. (Except if you hold to the Free Grace position, of course). What is inherent in doctrine that prevents moral agreement? I think it is more a case of doctrinal pride, rather than any real Biblical differences.

Once there is a body of sanctification, that body can lead by example, and also exert the positive influence of Biblical morality in all areas of life.


2 responses to “Seperation of Doctrine and Morals?

  1. Amen. The Great Commission doesn’t tell us merely to make converts, but to make disciples. And what does that include? “Teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you”. This last part is too often ignored after the sinner’s prayer has been said.

  2. Here in NZ we have a (now elderly) Presbyterian clergyman called Professor Lloyd Geering, someone who back in 1967 was tried on heresy charges due to his work demythologizing the Bible. He was recently mentioned in one of our national newspapers together with an opinion that he had ruined a great many clergy with his brand of theology.

    The Letters to the Editor since then have proven interesting. Many self-described Christians have stood up for him, claiming that he brought a breath of fresh air into out-moded beliefs.

    Well, how do these people consider they are Christians? All I can think is that they are of the liberal revisionist kind who are confusing the Word of God with elements of our postmodern culture and its underpinning philosophies. So I honestly think that the percentages that we see today of those who claim to be Christian are probably far lower when these “cultural Christians” are removed from the numbers.

    It is interesting to note that Prof Geering worships at a church whose principal minister is a woman, a practising lesbian. How can people like them do as PL suggests in his comment here – “Teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you”?

    I am extremely grateful to my friend who had a big hand in seeing me safely back into the fold. He didn’t leave me at the gate, but diligently answered a thousand plus questions and directed my reading, praying for me often. Discipling is essential, but I think I was one of the privileged minority to have received a good measure of that.

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