“Doctrine Divides.” Of Course It Does! That Is Precisely What Doctrine Is Supposed to Do!

“Doctrine divides.” Yes it does. The thing that continually amazes me, however, is that those who say this seem to take for granted that this is a bad thing. But, of course, it is not. Doctrine does divide. And that is a good thing.

It divides between those who believe the doctrine and those who do not.

It divides between the children of light and the children of darkness.

It divides between the wicked and the righteous.

It divides between those who are sons and daughters of God, and those who are sons and daughters of the evil one.

It divides between the sheep and the goats.

It divides between good soil and bad soil.

It divides between those who are on the narrow way to life and those who are on the broad way to destruction.

It divides between those who obey the commands of God and those who not only disobey these commands, but also teach others to do the same.

It divides between those who choose to forgive and those who refuse to forgive.

It divides between faithful teachers and false prophets.

It divides between those who do the will of God and those who do no more than say, “Lord, Lord.”

It divides between the sincere and the hypocritical.

It divides between the wise who put Jesus’s words into practice and the fools who do not.

It divides between those who acknowledge Jesus before others and those who disown him.

It divides between those who love Jesus more than family and those who love family more than Jesus.

It divides between those who find their life, yet lose it, and those who lose their life, yet find it.

It divides between those who are wise and prepare for the Lord’s return, and those who are foolish and do not prepare for the coming of the Lord.

It divides between those who are born again and those who are not.

It divides between those who hate the light and those who love darkness.

It divides between those who do evil and those who live by the truth.

It divides between the wheat and the weeds.

It divides between good fish and bad fish.

It divides between wise virgins and foolish virgins.

It divides between those who believe in the Son and have eternal life, and those who reject the Son and on whom the wrath of God remains.

It divides between those who believe and are not condemned, and those who do not believe and are condemned already.

It divides between those who exalt themselves and those who humble themselves.

It divides between those who take refuge in Christ, the chosen and precious cornerstone, and those who reject, and will be crushed by, that stone.

It divides between those who delight in the law of the Lord and those who mock the ones who delight in the law of the Lord.

It divides between those who believe that Jesus is the Christ and will live, and those who do not and will die in their sins.

It divides between those who love God and listen to what he says, and those who do not.

It divides between those who can see and those who are blind.

It divides between those who have ears to hear and those who do not.

It divides between those who have been given the secrets of the kingdom and those who have not.

It divides between those who belong to Christ’s flock and those who do not.

Interestingly, the statement, “Doctrine divides,” is usually coupled with the statements that Jesus practiced “radical inclusivism,” and that he came to “break down all boundaries.” However, that is very hard to maintain in light of the fact that the list above consists of exclusionary statements taken from the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels. Furthermore, it is hard to maintain in light of Jesus’s express words:

Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn

a man against his father,

a daughter against her mother,

a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—

a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household. (Matt 10:34-36)

Or as the same is expressed in Luke 12:51-53:

Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.

Also, in deep irony, it seems not to dawn on people who say such things—“Doctrine divides”; “Jesus practiced radical inclusion”; “Jesus came to break down all boundaries”—that they are in fact teaching doctrine. And they want you to subscribe to their doctrines, rather than other doctrines. Their doctrines, however, are in fact harmfully divisive, because they end up pitting Jesus against himself, in essence creating a Jesus who never existed, a Jesus who, apparently, never taught doctrines which he claimed were true and life-giving, and who, apparently, never railed against other doctrines which he claimed were false and destructive.

Doctrine divides. But it also unites. It unites those who believe Jesus’s teachings, and who accept them as the very truth of God.

I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.

Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.

I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. (John 17:14, 17, 20-2

Doctrine divides. Doctrine unites. Both are proper functions of the teachings of the Christ.

Jerry Shepherd

April 4, 2019

One thought on ““Doctrine Divides.” Of Course It Does! That Is Precisely What Doctrine Is Supposed to Do!

  1. of course!!! i am not a biblical literalist but deeply believe we should unpack the meaning it intends to convey and the better liberal scholars do that (hays , ellen davis, fretheim,Maybe brueggeman but he is a bit too agenda driven and postmodern for my taste).. evangelicals of course almost always automatically do this.
    anyway agree doctrine matters.

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