Do our doctrines motivate our behavior
does our behavior motivate our doctrines?
This question has come up on two discussion groups I deal with. Interestingly, and perhaps in answer to the question, the doctrines presented in these discussion groups are dramatically different. The two groups are as close to opposites as we will find within the Christian community.
In one group, we are told that all are saved and there is no hell and nothing will keep anyone from Heaven. So, the folks who teach that are free to do whatever they want without spiritual consequence. In the other group, we are told that God is angry with evil and that only a few will get through the gates and that that anyone who disagrees is already condemned. So the folks who teach there believe they are superior to everyone else and do pretty much whatever they want without worrying about spiritual consequence. Since the folks in both groups seek to minimize and manipulate earthly consequences, they are almost completely unaccountable. Yes, it is just that bizarre.
The only difference between the groups, other than their basic beliefs, is their willingness to expose their behavior. The first group, the one that rejects any negative consequence, is loud and in your face. The second, the one that teaches others to behave under law and condemnation, has to hide the excesses. The first doesn’t care about exposure; while the second avoids it. Otherwise, their behavior is much the same.
Behavior proceeds out of our thinking, according to the Scripture. So does our doctrine. What we do comes from what we think. But what we believe also comes from what we think. If I think I ought to be able to do something I will find ways to do it and justify it.
So big name preachers mishandle money and women. And grace teachers get drunk and cuss. And church leaders abuse their wives and gossip about others. They do it because they think they should be able to do it. And they create doctrine that allows it.
Both behavior and doctrine come out of our thinking. When our thinking is perverse, both our behavior and our doctrine will be perverse. We are called to “renew” our minds, our thinking, according to the thinking of Christ. We are to have His mind and His heart.
The Christian life is not a certain standard of behavior. It is also not a certain set of doctrines. The Christian life is a relationship with a Person. It is an exchange, if you will, of His life for ours, of His quality for ours. He loves us and we love Him. We walk with Him and He talks with us and we begin to think like Him.
Is there right behavior? Is there right doctrine? Of course, but neither matter unless they come out of our relationship with Jesus.