Protestant Doctrines I Have Officially Abandoned
Posted by Cory Tucholski
I seek truth, and everyone who seeks truth must (if they intend to remain intellectually honest) reject beliefs if they find that those beliefs are untrue. Though I have previously defended these three distinctly Protestant doctrines, I can no longer do so. After much reflection, I believe they are false.
The first is perspicuity of Scripture, sometimes called clarity of Scripture by the less fancy among us. This is the ridiculous notion that Average Joe Christian, with no help or guidance, can grab a Bible in his native language, read it, and totally understand everything.
I think we can agree that doesn’t happen. Otherwise, there would be no need for primers on theology, books like Malina’s Handbook of Biblical Social Values, Bible commentaries, study guides, or Bible dictionaries and other reference works.
Now that doesn’t mean that Average Joe Christian can’t understand it, or that he can’t come by the requisite knowledge to understand it. The problem with perspicuity of Scripture is the claims that he will get it unaided.
The Bible was written 2,000-4,000 years ago across vastly different time periods by authors from all walks of life. It contains everything from epic poetry and song lyrics to pithy cliches and historical narrative.
To understand the Bible, you need knowledge of the various cultures it records, the literary style of the book as the culture that produced it utilized that style, familiarity with several dialects of the original languages, and the basics of textual criticism. And that’s only a start!
Fortunately, we have these people called pastors and elders who have studied all of that stuff. It is therefore the job of the church to teach us sound theology. Unless we’re willing to devote a lifetime and an academic career to it, interpreting the Bible shouldn’t be our aim. Understanding God’s truths should be, and that’s what the teaching ministry of the church is there for.
Related to the perspicuity of Scripture, I now reject sola scriptura. The problem with the first plank, perspicuity of Scripture, combined with this plank, that the Bible contains all of God’s truth, is that you get exactly what the Catholics say you get: anarchy.
The problem is the lacking of a central authority of church officials the way the Catholics have. Questions about points in Scripture that are unclear, such as how to perform a baptism ceremony, what a Communion service entails, and the relationship between faith and works have wildly different answers in various Christian denominations.
For example, in my own Grace Brethren denomination, we believe that a person is baptized upon declaration of faith by immersion in water three times. Our sister branch from Germany (we’re actually the same denomination under a different name in the United States) is nicknamed the “German Dunkers” for that reason.
Presbyterians sprinkle infants, not believers. How do we decide who’s right? Well, we can’t. There is no central teaching authority. So we split our fellowship with each other and go our separate ways. That’s what’s wrong with Protestantism, and why I’ve been so fed up with it.
The bottom line is that different believing and sincere brothers in Christ are going to read the same passages differently than each other. Without submission to the church as a teacher, you have no other way to go other than to split into a separate body of believers with no further fellowship when a disagreement arises. And there are 38,000 recognized denominations of Christianity proving my point!
The third doctrine I reject is sola fide, which teaches salvation by faith alone. The Bible itself explains that more is required of us than mere faith. That faith must be refined through trials, produce good works, and endure to the end of the age.
Salvation by faith alone is the subject of much ridicule because it essentially lets a person who lived life as an a**hole make a deathbed confession and go to heaven. However, I don’t think that’s the case at all, as there is more required than simply one day saying, “I believe in Jesus!”
We are saved by the grace of God alone, and faith effects that grace. But more than just a profession of faith is necessary. If the faith produces no good works and the world is no better for your profession of faith, then what has the Kingdom of God gained?
More can be said on all of these topics. But I will save that for another post, as this post is already running longer than I would like.
About Cory TucholskiI'm a born-again Christian, amateur apologist and philosopher, father of 3. Want to know more? Check the "About" page!
Posted on September 13, 2011, in Apologetics, Religion, Theology and tagged bible commentaries, bible dictionaries, denominations, handbook of biblical social values, interpreting the bible, perspicuity of Scripture, Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, sola scriptura, sound theology. Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.