Dogma & Death

Most modern churches of my acquaintance have during my lifetime undergone the highly significant change of delivering their message, whatever it is, by affective means, designed—yes, designed—principally to make Christianity attractive to an audience of predetermined character, rather than to preach and teach a universal and unchanging gospel without consideration of how or whether it might strike a congregation of every mind and estate, leaving its application to a transaction of God and man carried on in the inner chambers of the heart, invisible and inaccessible to those who wish to address a certain kind of audience (e.g., to certain ethnicities, classes, or attitudes).

One of the things lost in this softening is doctrinal preaching, for it is inevitably true that “doctrine divides.” The modern religious mind is interested only in what brings together (“inclusivity”), and advertises this as an unquestionable virtue, in light of which preaching dogma as truth is a vice, and a brutal one at that. Truth is reduced to a generous attitude, and the listener who is seeking it unobscured is left to his own ignorant devices to sort things out.

For this seeker I recommend avoiding the typical church (even if it has a reputation for being “conservative”) and seeking out those that make their teaching on everything (and what they therefore oppose) unmistakable in plain language, without regard to its attractiveness. When this is done, a church’s doctrine may be compared to differing or opposing doctrines and to the Scriptures themselves, and one may find considerable path-clearing in the quest for truth, attractive or not.

For we all know instinctively that a sign of truth is that it will oppose us in many ways, and we will not love it until it changes us. It beckons us to “come and be killed.” But the child of God, hungry for liberty, will run toward this death with all haste.

S. M. Hutchens is a Touchstone senior editor.

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