David Keen, David Ker and Doug Chaplin have been posting on “5 Deeply De-Christian Doctrines”, a meme for which they have been tagged. So far no-one has tagged me specifically on this one, as far as I know. Is that because my name doesn’t fit the meme’s alliteration by starting with “D”? But David Ker did write:
If you’re a reader of this blog consider yourself tagged.
So I will make my contribution. The challenge is to
List 5 doctrines that are taught within the Christian church that you believe to be deeply de-Christian.
Here is my list, taking up themes already discussed on this blog:
1. Original Sin: Doug in his list has a go at Augustine, but doesn’t mention this, perhaps the most fundamental of his doctrinal errors. The Church Father and former Manichaean seems to have introduced into the church aspects of his non-Christian Manichaean teaching. I am not sure if the Manichaeans taught original sin, but, as I wrote more than two years ago, Augustine did, and justified his teaching from a misunderstanding of one poorly translated Bible passage. Later scholars have recognised Augustine’s exegetical error, but have relied on his authority as a Father and so failed to reject the false teaching that came from his error. Now I do accept that humans are born with a tendency to sin, and that, apart from Christ, all are guilty before God because all have sinned. But I reject as “deeply de-Christian” Augustine’s doctrine that babies are born guilty and subject to condemnation, apart from anything they might have done, because of the sin of Adam.
2. Church leadership by a special caste of pastors or priests: Now I know Doug would disagree with me on this one, but I don’t think either David would. It seems clear to me that Jesus and his apostles entirely rejected the concept of a special priesthood and hierarchy of church leadership. Doug is of course right that these ideas are found in the church as early as the second century. That simply shows how quickly the church became de-Christianised by taking on the values of the world. But then many Protestant Christians who would reject this concept of priesthood have set up a new priesthood by another name consisting of their pastors, elders or whatever name they choose to give – a self-perpetuating small group of those considered qualified for church leadership, and to whom deference is due. This is also “deeply de-Christian”. Of course churches do need leadership, but not on this model.
3. Leadership is male: This is one I have discussed many times before on this blog, so I won’t go into the details again. Just let me say that I can find no basis in authentic biblical Christianity for this concept, which also seems to have been imported into the church from the surrounding culture.
4. War is an acceptable means for Christians to further their aims: As we come up yet again to Remembrance Sunday here in the UK, I want to mention this one again. I do want to honour those on all sides of each conflict who have chosen to fight for what they believe is right, or have been coerced into fighting, and especially those who have died or have been injured in horrific ways. Also I don’t want to take a doctrinaire position that war can never be right or just. But I consider “deeply de-Christian” the way in which professing Christians like Bush and Blair considered it acceptable to start wars of aggression when there was no real threat to their countries or to world peace.
5. Salvation by right doctrine: In his point 5 Doug touched on this one, the idea that one is justified or saved by assenting to the right doctrine. The idea is particularly prominent today among conservative evangelicals, especially the latest crop of younger Calvinists. But it has ancient origins, in the historic Creeds of the church, assent to which came to be seen as necessary for salvation. The biblical position, however, is that the only requirement for salvation is to repent and believe that Jesus is Lord – not as a propositional truth to be accepted in an intellectual sense, but in allowing Jesus to be the Lord of one’s own life.