I have a real soft spot for Reformed/Presbyterian doctrine. I’m convinced that it is the most rigorously and fully true expression of the whole of scripture. Any church would be blessed, I think, to be taught it.
Yet, I want to push past pure doctrine. It’s good. It’s right. The statements it makes are, as far as I can tell with God’s help, an accurate reflection of reality. All of this is true, and pure doctrine is still not enough.
Pure water is good, but if you don’t drink the water, you still die of thirst.
Maybe what I want isn’t to push past pure doctrine. Maybe what I’m trying to say is that I want to stop choosing doctrine or practice. Maybe I’m trying to make myself less binary, less like a pendulum. This is the way I’ve thought for a long time, you see: the churches that have the good doctrine generally keep it to themselves as if to let it outside of the church family will make it fall apart, and the churches that have the great practice generally seem to think salvation is about hugs and roses and making everybody feel great about themselves.
If you recoil at this dichotomy, I don’t blame you. I don’t like thinking like that, and I’m probably not right about it.
But I’ve been to too many churches where they put a verse — sometimes even a whole chapter — about sharing the gospel and feeding the hungry and taking care of orphans and the vulnerable, but have no real corporate way to put the words into practice other than shunting some money into a basket every Sunday.
And I’ve been to too many churches that seem to be active in the community and concerned about social justice, but just can’t seem to get it that Jesus’ death and resurrection are the only reason that justice means anything in the end.
These aren’t really helpful categories, though. It’s not like every church has to choose along an axis which percentage of orthodoxy vs orthopraxy, and every prospective member has to choose which percentage they’re content with. Life isn’t like that, and hardly any churches are the gross caricatures I’ve drawn.
I want both. It’s not a difficult formula. The central message of scripture transcends both, bringing both in line. The central message of scripture is that God deserves glory and honour and praise and adoration. He does this by both saving people’s souls, and redeeming the world. He chooses to do so by means of the very people he has saved, and God help me, that decision seems a little daft some days.