We've all heard the objection: "But it was written by men and translated, so how can we know it's true?" It's God's Word and it's the Truth, and we of faith believe it. In fact, it is the ONLY fully reliable, completely infallible source of Truth in the world, written by the Master and Creator of the Universe Himself. It is perfect. No one has ever found a single error in it, though many very intelligent people have tried very hard over the years, most of whom have become believers as a result. The myriad of different denominations of Christian churches is evidence of this. Each denomination has their own set of doctrines, or doctrinal statement, that contains at least one doctrine that sets them apart from other denominations. Each denomination believes that they are the only ones with the "real truth." "Knowing this first, that no prophesy of scripture is of any private interpretation." (2 Peter 1:20, KJV)
It contains 66 books written by some 40 different men over the span of some 1,500 years, obviously without any human corroboration. Clearly, every word in it was authored by one single, supernatural source and merely penned by the men who wrote it. And it is timeless.
The more experts discover about the Bible through intense research, the more incredible it is! There are volumes of research information that unanimously reveal intracacies in the Bible that are clearly far beyond the capabilities of any mortal man!
What is Doctrine?
"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine..." (2Timothy 3:16, KJV)
A doctrine is a belief derived from scriptures.
Preachers and scholars tend to teach their own conclusions of scripture (or the conclusions of others) as doctrines. Often they are teaching what they themselves have been led to believe. The problem is that these doctrines they teach may be wrong.
It seems that for so many doctrines there are always a number of biblical scholars on both sides of the issue, each equipped with carefully selected scriptures to support their side. Each side is also fully prepared to explain away any scriptures that appear to contradict their doctrine. The following is one of the many examples of this:
The doctrine of eternal security versus the opposite doctrine of conditional salvation: The biblical scholars on one side of the coin say that a person, once saved, cannot lose his salvation, while the biblical scholars on the other side of the coin say that a person, under certain self-dependent conditions, can go in and out of a state of salvation.
Again, each side is prepared to defend their doctrine with certain scriptures, and explain away any scriptures that contradict it. How can this be? The problem is that they can't both be right! At least one of them (or maybe both) is teaching a doctrine that isn't true, but they will not be convinced otherwise!
The fact is that God is not divided on any issues. Every member of the Body can be reconciled with every other one on every doctrinal issue under God's single truth about it. No exceptions. God does not deceive, and does not lead His children to be deceived.
Remember that no matter how widely-accepted or long-standing a doctrine may be, if it's a conclusion formed by men it may not be true. When the whole Christian world had been believing what the Catholic Church told them to believe for many, many years, Martin Luther stood up against the doctrines of Catholicism after reading God's Word for himself. He used scriptural Truth to destroy the well-established, but wrong, doctrines of men.
I once attended a church where I was expected to unquestionably accept as truth whatever the pastor taught in his sermons. They believed that the pastor was anointed by God and that therefore his teachings from the pulpit were all infallibly inspired the Holy Spirit. One Sunday after his message I asked him if he had ever, as a pastor, taught anything in a sermon that he later realized was not true. He said, "Yes." This didn't surprise me, nor would I blame him, because he is only a man.
If it isn't from the Bible, it may not be true. Only the Bible is the inspired Word of God.
Doctrines of Devils
"Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils..." (1 Timothy 4:1, KJV).
Any doctrine that isn't true is a lie, a doctrine of devils. Teachers who teach their own conclusions of scripture (or those of others) as doctrine run the risk of teaching something that isn't true. But here are four things we know:
1. The Bible is the inspired Word of God, and is therefore the pure and explicit Truth!
2. No Truth can contain self-contradictory information; it is inherently impossible.
3. God does not deceive or lead anyone to be deceived.
4. All "doctrines" on any topic can be reconciled to one Truth.
So what is the problem? How can there be so many biblical scholars on opposing sides of so many doctrinal issues? Since we know that the scriptures cannot contradict themselves, we can conclude that any conflicts of doctrine can only arise frorm erroneous private interperetations of the scriptures.
Can it be that they are forming their conclusions based on assumptions?
When studying the Bible, one should understand the difference between explicit and implicit (expressed or implied) meanings or ideas. An explicit meaning is one that is expressly stated. Implied meanings are based on assumptions, but is there any such thing as a "safe" assumption?
Let's say, for example, someone says, "Joe went to the grocery store". It has an explicit meaning - all we know for sure is that he went to the grocery store. But one could think it also implies that he took his car, and that he went there to buy groceries, because that's what he usually does; but these are not safe assumptions because they may not be true in this particular case: Maybe this time he took his bike, for example, and went to get a newspaper.
We can only safely believe what scripture verses in the Bible clearly and explicitly state as Truth, because whatever else we may think they imply are based on assumptions that could very well be wrong. Here's an example:
In Revelation 20:10, "And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever." This verse explicitly states that the devil will be cast into the lake of fire, and that he will be tormented there for ever. From this one verse, we can know the devil's fate.
But then further in the same chapter we read, in verse 15, "And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." Period, end of verse, end of chapter. Many would assume from this verse that they also will be tormented for ever, simply because they are cast into the same lake of fire; but this is only an assumption, and may not be true.
All we can safely know from verse 15 is that they will be cast into the lake of fire. Period. In order to know whether those in verse 15 will also be tormented forever as with the devil in verse 10, we would have to know more. This requires diligent study.
Diligent study of God's Word requires that we search out and carefully examine all the explicit scriptures on a given topic to get the complete Truth. Just as with a picture puzzle, we need all the pieces to complete the picture, including any verses on the topic that may seem at first glance to contradict the rest. Together, they will form a complete picture of Truth. A concordance book, such as Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, is a great tool for this.
Rightly Dividing the Truth
Most of us have been indoctrinated with teachings we have heard and believed throughout the years, including wrong conclusions and private interpretations of teachers. But if we want the Truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth, we cannot allow fallible teachers, no matter how "scholarly" they seem or how widely-accepted their doctrine is, to relieve us of the responsibility of diligently studying the Bible for ourselves.
"Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15-16, KJV)
Our thought processes are profoundly influenced by our indoctrinated beliefs. Consequently, as we read the scriptures, we subconsciously read them through the "colored glasses" or filter of pre-learned doctrines, and interpret them to fit these doctrines.
We make the scriptures fit the doctrine, rather than forming doctrine from the scriptures. To avoid this, we must be careful to take the scriptures at face value, and make no assumptions; to "think outside the box" of man's understanding and read them through the "clear glasses" of devotion to Truth.
So if we can't trust the teachings of any fallible man to be the infallible Truth, what must we do? We must ask the Holy Spirit to guide us into all Truth as we carefully read His Word!
"But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie..." (1 John 2:27, KJV, emphasis added)
In a Box?
It is impossible, for example, for the natural mind of man to fully understand how there can be three Persons in one God, but it is the Truth. Heresies about the nature of Jesus have been conceived by natural man's attempt to understand this spiritual mystery in human terms.
"But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him;..." (1 Corinthians 2:14, KJV).
Man's natural mind seeks knowledge through understanding. Once we fully understand something, then we know what it is and what it does. Then we can use it.
A toddler sees something, and immediately begins testing it. First he grabs it and picks it up, then he tastes it, then tries to bite it, then he tries to break it, then he hits stuff with it, then he eventually throws it. He is trying to figure out what it is and what it does. He's using scientific method.
Scientific method is man's way of gaining knowledge about the things in our world. We come to know something by eliminating all the mysteries about it. We test it to determine the nature of its composition and limitations. Then we can standardize its behavior according to a criteria of stimuli, so that we can accurately predict how it will behave in any given set of circumstances. In other words, "Every time we do this and this, it will do that." Once we have this knowledge "nailed down", then we will know how it can serve our purposes.
Man's natural mind is not content with mystery. We need to define it, characterize it, standardize it, nail it down. Then we can "put it in a box" and set it aside.
Natural man cannot fully "nail down" all the spiritual truths of God. We cannot standardize all the spiritual things according to scientific method. I believe that the erroneous doctrines of men, or the doctrines of devils, are conceived when the natural man, in a desire to learn how to manipulate God, attempts to nail down the spiritual things of God and put them in a box.
I believe there are some things we should remember in studying the Word of God:
1. Ask the Holy Spirit to lead you into the Truth in His Word.
2. Be willing to forsake what you've always believed in favor of the Truth you read.
3. "Wipe the slate clean" of the conclusions and private interpretations of others.
4. Believe only what the scriptures clearly and explicitly state; make no assumptions.
5. Search out and carefully examine all scriptures on a topic to get the full picture.
6. Don't try to "nail down" the spiritual things of God, or put Him "in a box" of your own natural understanding.
Otherwise, you might be believing a doctrine of devils!
We've all heard the objection: "But it was written by men and translated, so how can we know it's true?"
It's God's Word and it's the Truth, and we of faith believe it. In fact, it is the ONLY fully reliable, completely infallible source of Truth in the world, written by the Master and Creator of the Universe Himself. It is perfect. No one has ever found a single error in it, though many very intelligent people have tried very hard over the years, most of whom have become believers as a result.
The myriad of different denominations of Christian churches is evidence of this. Each denomination has their own set of doctrines, or doctrinal statement, that contains at least one doctrine that sets them apart from other denominations. Each denomination believes that they are the only ones with the "real truth."
"Knowing this first, that no prophesy of scripture is of any private interpretation." (2 Peter 1:20, KJV)
» left by Teresa Ortiz (3 years 222 days ago.)
Hi Terry, Welcome to world wide bible studies, I am blessed you have joined us. I appreciate this article for many reasons, and not just because I happen to agree with you on every point :-) God never intended to have denominiations and sects, this is all manmade and the devil has used it to his full advantage. We must come together and put our pride and arrogance aside and fully seek the holy spirit to bridge the gap in our understanding. Everyone grows at a different pace and our minds work differently, this is a gift, it should not be used to curse. Excellent job. Another great example is when we look at some incredible scholars of just over 100 years ago. They could not fathom Israel truly becoming a nation, so they "spiritualized" Jesus' teaching and therefore "spiritualized" the tribulation and many other issues. Yet today, we have more knowledge, more "signs" that show us these great men only had partial understanding. Some have turned away and now accept a literal application and some cling to the scholars of the past as if they were Jesus himself. We cannot do this, we must remember, as the prophet Daniel said, (paraphrase) the closer we get to the return of Christ, the more that will be revealed. Anyway, thanks again for sharing this lesson here. Blessings, TeresaRespond to this comment
» left by Lance Ponder(61) (3 years 222 days ago.)
Very nicely stated. There's a lot here I agree with and very little I would debate against. Good writing.Respond to this comment
» left by Marijo Phelps(134) (3 years 221 days ago.)We appreciate your comments!
Great writing Terry! I think you are on your way to having a book here. (You and Lance and Teresa - my hubby says my first book might be a cook book - I could counter with yes, and some of my other pieces could be Recipes for Life....) I think that no one denomination had it all correctly figured out and there will be many surpricses when we find out. Well thought out piece. thank you for writing this! MarijoRespond to this comment