Nice People and False Doctrine

Is it okay to attend a church where you like the people, even if that church is teaching false doctrine, with which you disagree?  I’m not talking about the Presbyterian Church (USA) that I attend, but rather a post that Teresa Beem wrote on her blog, It’s Okay NOT to be a Seventh-day Adventist.  Her post is entitled NICE PEOPLE, and she criticizes progressive Adventists who do not take seriously Adventism’s end-times scenarios, Ellen White, the Investigative Judgment, etc., but they remain within Adventism because they like the people.  And they do so, even after Teresa shows them that the Investigative Judgment is not Scriptural!

Personally, I can attend a church even if it teaches “false doctrine”—-as in doctrine that does not line up with every single teaching of the Bible.  It’s abusive doctrine that I cannot stand.  If a church teaches me that I am loved by God and that I should be loving and compassionate towards others, then I am satisfied with that church’s teaching, and (provided that the people are somewhat friendly), I can go there, even if some of their doctrines are off.  In my opinion, the notion that a doctrine can be “biblical” or “unbiblical” is rather illusory, for the Bible is a diverse document, and it can be interpreted in so many different ways. Plus, even churches that are the loudest about adhering to the Bible do not follow the Bible entirely.  How many of them believe that God punishes sons for the sins of their parents?

Take the Investigative Judgment, the Adventist idea that Christ in 1844 entered the Holy of Holies in heaven and is now going over our records.  Is this view biblical?  There are arguments against it, and arguments for it.  Arguments against it are that there are passages about Christ being in the holiest place—-right beside God the Father—-long before 1844.  In addition, I interpret that passage in Daniel about the sanctuary being cleansed in reference to the Maccabees, not 1844—-though I can understand how interpreters who are not sensitive to the historical contexts of biblical books (i.e., William Miller) can arrive at 1844 from the Book of Daniel.  The argument for it is that there are passages about Christ coming with his reward for the saints in his hands, which implies that he has judged their works before his Second Advent.

What concerns me is not whether or not the Investigative Judgment conforms technically to the Bible.  Rather, what concerns me is whether or not it makes people feel more secure or less secure.  Do they envision Christ in heaven nitpicking their every move and removing them from the Book of Life, or do they picture Christ lovingly forgiving their flaws?  If the spiritual effect of a doctrine makes a person feel insecure and worried all of the time, then there’s a problem.

But I can fellowship with people who have odd doctrines.  I tend to avoid Adventism because I find it to be overly-dogmatic, but my point is that I am open to fellowship with groups that have nice people.  As long as the teaching of the group promotes the notion that God is loving and wants us to be loving, I can eat the meat and spit out the bones.  But if there are too many bones—-bones that make me feel spiritually insecure—-then I’d have second thoughts about being in the group.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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