Two handed Doctrine

Posted: April 10, 2011 in Church, Theology
Tags: ,

Christians need to know what's worth fighting for...

Mark Driscoll once preached a sermon in which he described a “two-handed” approach to Doctrine. As a young guy with training wheels on his theology, I’m exceedingly thankful for having heard that sermon about a year and a half ago. God continues to use it to this day as I try to sort through what His Word says and how I can be faithful to that in current and future service to Him.

Although this is probably true for all men, I’ve noticed us young guys in particular tend to go one of two directions regarding theological conviction…we either come across as an arrogant, critical, self-righteous jerk who is defined more by what we’re against than what we’re for, or we come across as passive, cowardly, sweet little church boys who won’t fight for anything and who everyone loves but no one respects. Neither approach is fitting for a Kingdom servant.

And I think Driscoll’s insights have proven time and again to be very clarifying and well balanced in truth and humility. His basic view is that there are certain doctrines that we hold in the closed hand (essential, non-negotiable) and there are those that we hold in the open hand (we can lovingly agree to disagree). In other words, there are doctrines that need to divide us and those that need not divide us. The key is to know what to hold in which hand.

For the Christian, there are core, foundational beliefs that simply can’t be compromised. The Bible is God’s Word, God is one God in three persons, we’re sinners, Jesus died on the cross in our place for our sins, Jesus rose from death on the 3rd day, apart from Jesus you will go to Hell, etc. These are close handed, non-negotiable beliefs that should be defended and held dear as points of unity amongst Christians no matter what their tribe.

Other issues concerning God’s foreknowledge, eschatology, spiritual gifts, etc, are things that should be held in humility in the open hand. That doesn’t mean we don’t have convictions on such secondary issues, but to me there’s no reason that Christians need to divide over these kind of issues. Too many Christians make their theology a prison and not a home…a place they can’t escape to serve alongside other brothers and sisters in Christ. Somewhere in between the fundamentalist who wants to fight over everything and the liberal who won’t fight for anything is a loyal, humble, Kingdom servant that seeks to proclaim the Gospel and make the invisible God visible through His Church. My prayer is that God will continue to move us all in that direction.

The bottom line is that Christians are in a war. This isn’t a game. And to make war on the powers of darkness, we need soldiers who care less about themselves and more about Jesus and those who don’t yet know Him. And Doctrine is mission critical to the advancement of the Gospel, especially for the young men who will serve our local churches. As Paul told young Timothy:

“16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” 1 Tim 4:16

Men of character and men of sound doctrine lead Christ’s church. And in doing so, we need to be very careful to know what goes in the closed hand and what goes in the open hand. Cowards have no place in Kingdom service. Neither do arrogant jerks. Jesus was neither. And if we’re truly to be His body, shouldn’t we follow Him?  

 

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