Christians having a speciality in a particular field of study is not uncommon in our day and age and we must admit that we all have discovered a biblical subject that has made us ponder it to great lengths. There are major biblical themes that need a great deal of analysis, study and discussion. We are not without a thrill when it comes to pursuing the study of any of these major biblical themes. These are tremendous important to our Christian life and a deeper understanding of them is certainly a blessing. What is important is that we analyze these themes by how they relate to other biblical themes. A good understanding of biblical systematic theology can be a major help in learning more about a particular biblical subject. In other words, our theology as a whole should be in sync.
What I am writing about today is the dangers of those who become obsessive especially with doctrines that are of a secondary nature or even those teachings that are questionably “biblical”[i]. This doctrine becomes so important to them that it’s almost as if it trumps all other teachings in scripture. They are adamant on the importance of this teaching and take every step to push it on individuals at all cost. It’s all that they want to talk about and every change of subject comes back to that one doctrine. They know it very well since they’ve spent hours looking at it, talking about it and in many instances even debating it. It’s like only knowing one song on the one string banjo! It makes them feel important to talk about it especially if they introduce their new biblical discovery to their friends and have some insight that many don’t have. This is the very essence of spiritual pride and should be the first sign that there is a problem. Where the issue gets even more severe is when an individual is pushing a questionable or even false doctrine.
Where this type of obsession becomes very dangerous is when it gets so unbalanced that it becomes a standard for them. This doctrine essentially becomes the foundation by which they judge all other doctrines. In other words, if a doctrine contradicts this doctrine or is not compatible with their pet doctrine then it cannot be true. They would rather not even question their pet doctrine since they are so sure that it is true. We could use the example of Charles Taze Russell (founder of the Watchtower Society) who came to a “clear understanding” of the doctrine of soul sleep. This became a foundational doctrine for him to the point where he could not believe that Jesus was God because Jesus had died. If Jesus died and to die meant to cease to exist (and God cannot cease to exist) then Jesus therefore could not be God.
There are other issues that come to light with the pet doctrine approach in that they will also judge the orthodoxy of biblical teachers based upon their acceptance of these pet doctrines. They would argue that since a preacher such as John Piper or John MacArthur doesn’t hold to this doctrine then they have nothing intelligent to say. They are adamant that Christians should stay away from these teachers even though they may agree with the vast majority of their teachings.
One of the most dangerous things about this one string banjo theology approach is when it begins to affect the unity of a church. Our theological banjo player seems to want to promote this doctrine to everyone in the church and attempts to influence others in believing it even while the church is against this doctrine. This eventually causes tension within the church and leads to a split.
I have witnessed folks who are fanatical about the gifts of the tongues, end time scenarios and endless baptism debates which seem to produce more heat than light. I am not stating that these are not important topics to discuss but we should do so with respect and passionately but not to the point where we attack a person’s Christian character or divide a church over.
I think that we need to address these things head-on when they rise within a group of Christians especially in regards to questionable doctrines and in a church setting. It is not an easy thing to do and nobody enjoys confrontation but clarity must be given in order for the health of the church to continue. We must remember to be humble in our approach and to seek the scriptures as our foremost guide. Obsessive people are not easy to deal with but we must do so for their sake and the sake of others.
[i] It is difficult to really pinpoint every “questionable” doctrine but I would be referring to such things as King James Onlyism, Kinism, political views and the such.