MARK HERRIDGE SR.
THURSDAY, APRIL 26, 2018
Every person has a dogma that they adhere to. I know this may not be a term that most people use on a regular basis but the word “Dogma” does describe a system of beliefs, and everybody believes something. Even those that claim to have no belief system are simply fooling themselves, for they indeed have a belief system. Their belief system, or their dogma, may only consist of one rule: I have no dogma – but that in itself becomes their dogma, their belief system.
The word dogma has been used since the 17th century and usually it is applied to religious beliefs. The word “Dogma” is defined as
Sometimes a system of “Dogma” can be positive, and being “Dogmatic”, while clinging to those beliefs, can be a good thing. There are other times that being dogmatic can be detrimental. I certainly believe that we as Christians need to study the Word of God and adhere to a system of belief, doctrine, and practices that are steadfast. There is nothing more confusing than a “Double minded” person and we are warned about this danger in scripture.
James 1:8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.
It is important that we as Christians study the Bible and fix the truth in our soul. We cannot afford to change our belief system every time a new idea comes along. Throughout my ministry I have crossed paths with people that have changed their entire belief system numerous times, and these people are the most confused and confusing people to be found anywhere. One week they are Trinitarian and the next week they are Unitarian. One week they Pentecostal and the next week they are Baptist. Their belief system, their dogma, is not fixed but always evolving. We call these kinds of people “Wishy-Washy”. The Bible uses a term applied to Ruben in Genesis 49:4 of a person being “Unstable as water”.
Water as an element is fluid. It is always in a state of flux. You cannot build a house on a foundation of water. You cannot walk on a foundation of water, unless it is frozen. Water in its vaporous state, or in its liquid state, is unstable as a foundation. When Israel referred to his son Ruben as being “unstable as water” he was simply pointing out that Ruben was undependable and ever-changing with the circumstances. This would accurately describe quite a few people today.
Today, it is quite popular to have a fluid set of ethics. Dogma is certainly not popular in today’s society of inclusiveness and tolerance. To the modern day philosopher, ethics are based on situations, hence the term “Situational Ethics”. Many modernists claim there can be no absolutes. This philosophy of changing rights and wrongs as the situation dictates has produced a modern day crisis of character and behavior. To many it is okay to lie if the situation warrants a lie. A married man or woman can be unfaithful if they can find a reason to justify their unfaithfulness. In essence, such people have no solid foundation upon which to build their character – they have no dogma.
The Bible is absolute. From the law contained in the Old Testament to the unchanging teachings of the New, we find the only solid basis upon which a person can build. Jesus described two men in one of His parables. The first was a foolish man who built his house upon the sand and when the storms of life came along everything the man had built came crashing down. The second man was referred to by Jesus as a wise man. This man built everything upon a solid rock and the storms could not move him. In this parable Jesus made it very clear who the wise man was:
Matthew 7:24 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:
Two things characterized the wise man: Hearing and obeying. To hear the truth and obey it is to build upon the solid teachings of the Word of God. Every person needs to find this foundation and build upon it. When the winds of change blow through we should not be moved to switch to another belief system, and we should hold dogmatically to the solid teachings of the Bible.
So we should have a system of dogma, or doctrine, that we hold fast to. This is not a bad thing but rather something desirable. At the same time we should also be teachable. I was very fortunate in my upbringing to have been reared by Godly parents and established in the faith from an early age. Those great Bible doctrines that were taught to me as a child have been firmly placed in my life. I have never strayed from those teachings. Of course my understanding and knowledge has grown over the years, and I have certainly strengthened those beliefs over time.
Unfortunately, some use dogmatism to hold to beliefs without any chance of maturity. This is when dogmatism can be used in a negative way, and most often when the word “Dogmatic” is used it is refencing this idea. To turn dogmatism into stubbornness is dangerous.
1 Samuel 15:23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king.
While it is desirable to hold fast the profession of our faith, it is dangerous to cling to teachings that cannot be fully substantiated in the Word of God. It is also deadly to not hear the council of elders. There have been times when I have discussed Bible Doctrines, or even things not clearly laid out in scripture such as issues involving Christian Liberty only to have those individuals say to me, “I dogmatically hold to my beliefs”. As I stated earlier, it is certainly admirable to hold to sound doctrine. And I do believe that dogmatism is a good thing when it concerns doctrine, but when it comes to areas that are not so clear in scriptures it can be stubborn and oppressive.
This is why the Apostle Paul gave warnings to those that minister the Word of God through preaching and teaching, that they should hold fast to sound doctrine. Look at this verse:
2 Timothy 2:14 Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers.
Here Paul instructs Timothy on how he should train those under his authority. First he tells Timothy to “put them in remembrance”. Every sound Christian should teach others sound doctrine. We do this through our words and actions. We should convey truth clearly and faithfully. Once a sound teaching has been established we should not allow circumstances or people to change that. Solid Bible teachings should be steadfast.
While it is certainly important that we be dogmatic about what is clearly taught in the Bible there are some things that are not as clear. There are certainly areas that call for a display of grace towards one another. It is in these minor areas that we sometimes see the greatest conflict. Should we really be fighting over Christmas? Should we be splitting from brethren because one goes to the County Fair and another thinks it is sinful to ride the Ferris Wheel at the County Fair?
I know of churches that will not allow a Minister to preach in their pulpit if that minister goes out for lunch at a restaurant on Sunday. Their take is that it is the Sabbath and no one should work or enjoy the work of others on the Sabbath day. In reality Sunday is not the Sabbath, it is the first day of the week and the day that the Church in the Book of Acts chose to meet on for weekly services. Either way it is not a point that we should be arguing and dividing over.
Dogmatism only works when it is applied to doctrine and practices outlined clearly in scripture. When dogmatism is used as a blunt instrument to beat everyone over the head with that disagrees with our particular viewpoint, then it becomes oppressive and carnally offensive. We should endeavor to listen to our Brothers and Sisters in Christ. It is never advantageous to cut someone off only a few minutes into a conversation with accusations of heresy or compromise. Again, I am not speaking of foundational doctrines such as the authority of scripture, salvation by faith, or the deity of Christ. Those doctrines should be fixed in our spirit and be uncompromisingly held to. If a Christian does not set them in stone they will be like the person spoken of in the Book of Ephesians:
Ephesians 4:14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
I have seen some very good Christians, with sound doctrinal beliefs, that could get along with very few people simply because an aura of stubborn dogmatism permeated their countenance. To disagree with them was to invite their wrath. In a very short time they would call for your repentance simply because you did not see things quite the way they did. Forget “come let us reason together” for that has now been thrown out the window. Now tempers are up and no progress towards sharpening the iron is being made.
My call is for the Christian to be dogmatically founded upon the doctrines of the Bible. It is also that we be reasonable enough to listen to other true believers on matters not laid out as clearly in the Bible. I can assure you that this will lead to a better understanding of the Mind of God and foster growth within His spiritual body. We are all growing up “unto the measure of the fullness of the stature of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). There are things that we see much better now than we did when we first started this race. There are some things we may never quite see eye-to-eye on, yet they are differences of a nature that do not adversely affect our salvation in Christ. These things may be beneficial to discuss in a forum where the world is not looking in upon, but they should never consume so much of our time that we fail to be truly benevolent in our spirit.
Yes, be dogmatic on those things that are dogmatically important. Don’t be like a “reed shaken in the wind”. Be steadfast in your faith, be unmoveable in your doctrine (1 Corinthians 15:58), but also “be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (James 1:19).
Mark E. Herridge Sr.