I came across this line in my study of Millard Erickson's Christian Theology text:
"Theology is important because correct doctrinal beliefs are essential to the relationship between the believer and God."
I just about choked. I balked. I flailed about. I considered shutting the book. I did not want anyone telling me what was and wasn't 'correct' in my relationship with God. I further didn't think that words like 'doctrine' or 'correct' had any place in my relationship with my god. It was like having a physiotherapist walking in on me making love and telling me that there was only one way to get the most out of sex and he would show me.
I was that offended.
Then I read this same passage to my friend. She was equally offended. Yet when I read on Milton Erickson made some mighty fine points. For instance he said that that the 'docetists' had maintained that Jesus just appeared to be a man. I considered then what my relationship with a friend would be if I found out he was a government informer or really just wanted to sell me something. What if I found out my lover 'faked' it all the time.
We are said to have 'open minds' but not so open that our brains fall out.
What is doctrine? It's a collection of shared ideas that refer to specifics rather than vague generalities. What alot of vagueness does is get a lot of people together agreeing and then in a position to be herded by some hard edged characters, not uncommonly sociopaths.
Of course we say "Give peace a chance", but then in the legal fine writing at the end of the "Give peace a chance" contract we see the other guy has written, "Give peace a chance, and I get your wife, your car, and your job." That's just one of the problems with so many Canadians thinking it just great that our government supports them smoking more weed.
Alone in my relationship with God it's all about God but when I meet with others and share this 'experience' or even share the word 'God' there is a meeting place. In 12 step programs we say "God of my understanding" to emphasize that the first step away from the utter slavery and narcissism of addiction and idolatry to drugs and the perceptions of a thoroughly broken and hijacked mind is to accept that my mind and my addiction is not God. This dualism is necessary as a first step away from the false detour that ends with a monkey pulling the lever on the pleasure centre electrode stimulus until it dies.
But what if my God, the God of my understanding says that I should kill you and masturbate on your dead children. It's not really a pleasant image but history and especially her story are full of far worse depictions of torture and war 'in the name of God'.
So Theology is a study of what is 'correct'. I don't think it is correct that you say your God tells you to eat me and kill my dog. That in my mind would be 'incorrect' no matter how much I don't like the word 'correct'.
Yet Theology is a study not only of God but of the idea of 'spiritual truths' and ways of living that are seen as similar to the truths and ways of science. I don't like the 'limits' of 'gravity' but I do accept that Newton's 'doctrine' regarding gravity was superior to any 'doctrine' before it. Is it 'essential' to my relationship with gravity. No, but if I chose to study gravity or become more aware of gravity and discuss gravity then perhaps then I may learn from the study of the history of gravity to date, learn what is the 'correct' scientific axioms regarding gravity and yes, if I can I might well even add to that knowledge and hopefully expand the limits of existing 'doctrine'. Equally hopefully I'll not attempt to re invent the wheel. Best of all I won't drop acid and test my own hypothesis by jumping out the high rise window in a really 'open minded' experimental scientific way.
Further I'll study those things which my 'gut' tells me are 'wrong' because my 'gut' isn't always right and my 'knee jerk' reaction to life will naturally keep me in a world where I am limited by my own biases and seek to learn only more that confirms my own ignorance.
That said I'm enjoying Millard Erickson. At times he reminds me of Dr. James Houston.
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