The Purpose of Scripture & Doctrine

    I spend a lot of time thinking and talking about scripture and doctrine. And yet, as I’ve expressed in many different ways, I believe that love is the answer—the truly significant factor.

    So why not just let the scripture & doctrine stuff go?

    This is what a lot of people ultimately do. When they study and deconstruct, it gives them permission to move away from legalism, and towards love as a core value and motivating ethic. In that process, they realize that getting it all right isn’t the most important thing in the world, and they eventually let go of that study altogether.

    So why not just do that?

    At this point, I’m old enough to have been through two significant deconstructions, and to watch numerous friends and colleagues go through them too. And I haven’t always felt good about what I’ve seen.

    Many times things start out feeling like a great liberation, and then gradually wind their way to something that feels a lot more empty and hopeless.

    And maybe even cynical.

    Some people then go looking for something to fill that emptiness, and having already tried religion, they find a strong political ideology to take its place.

    I think that’s a dark path, and as more and more people are going through deconstruction, I want something better for them on the other side.

    And I’ve realized that we are not the first generation to go through this.

    “Christianity has died many times and risen again; for it had a god who knew the way out of the grave.” — GK Chesterton

    Christianity has died again and again. But each time it has been resurrected, reborn to new life.

    The result of those deaths and rebirths is what we experience as scripture and doctrine. They point us to the visions and values that helped previous generations find life. They didn’t find that life by rejecting everything that had come before, nor by refraining from critiquing it. Instead, they grappled with it, wrestled with it, took it into the wilderness—and came back with something new and powerful, carrying forward and revitalizing the heart of the old.

    This is what we see in Jesus, Paul, and the first disciples. It’s what we see in Moses, David, and the prophets. It’s what we see in the Reformers, the Restorationists, and throughout church history.

    It’s what I think we need today. We cannot really cut ourselves off from our past, and so we must either reject it, or renew it. But having experienced power and beauty in something, most of us cannot bring ourselves to fully reject it.

    And if we don’t find our way towards renewal, we’ll be caught in a dark limbo.

    This is my way out, my fundamental step on the path to life:

    I believe in life, and I believe in humanity. And I believe in a God who believes in both.

    This God calls and equips us to share his purposes. “All that I have is yours”, God says, asking us to join in and care for life and humanity just as he does.

    That’s the entire biblical story. It’s the Greatest Commands. It’s love.

    And doctrine and scripture and all the rest—when they’re good, healthy, functional, life-giving—are how we keep reminding each other of these facts.