Monday, August 13, 2012

Every wind of doctrine

Consider this your "shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted" Bible study post. But, hey, this passage will come up again:
We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people's trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body's growth in building itself up in love.
Ephesians 4:14-16

Here's the thing that struck me reading it this time. So. It seems to me that people toss around that phrase "every wind of doctrine" to mean "every newfangled thought that comes along." Is that how you've heard it used? But it occurred to me that at the time the letter was written, Christianity was the newfangled thought. And Paul was an innovator even within this newfangled sect of Christianity, welcoming the uncircumcised, calling a slave his brother (and his owner's brother), expecting a radical equality among genders and races and incomes. He was doing crazily new stuff, way out of the mainstream.

So it makes me wonder if doctrine here doesn't mean new doctrine, but what we usually think of when we think of doctrine: those beliefs that are settled and static and cast in stone.

What if this isn't saying, "Don't be blown about by the latest fad," but instead is saying, "Don't be blown about by 'the way we've always done it'"? Don't be blown about by those forces that wish to deny new truths that have been brought to light through Jesus Christ. 

Remember that grim hymn "Once to ev'ry man and nation"? It has this great couplet:

New occasions teach new duties, time makes ancient good uncouth,
They must upward still and onward, who would keep abreast of truth.

And of course let us not forget the great Thomas Cranmer's delightful introduction to the first Book of Common Prayer (1549, of course): "There was never any thing by the wit of man so well devised, or so sure established, which in continuance of time hath not been corrupted."

Darn right.

So the next time someone throws that old "every wind of doctrine" line at you, I'd recommend you say, "That's exactly why we need to speak the truth in love, so that we are not continually battered by doctrines that no longer fit our understanding of God and of the world." The winds of doctrine isn't about new ways of thinking; the winds of doctrine are the ones that try to blow us backwards as we attempt to make progress, promoting the body's growth.

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