Now that we have laid some pretty important stones to our foundation here at CCM let's look at how we interpret, discern, or understand those stones. Everything that we have shared so far are bedrock or cornerstones in the foundation of our ministry. How we distinguish doctrines, dogma, opinions, & preferences then becomes a big part of how we actually function as a body of believers connected to the HeartLink Network of Cornerstone Churches. I am hopeful that as you read Pastor Geralds thoughts you will find yourself connecting spiritually to how we want to live out our faith here at CCM.
Foundations Material - Doctrine & Dogma - Pastor Gerald Martin
Doctrine and Dogma
The key is recognizing that our unity is in acknowledging Jesus as Lord. If our unity was based on doctrine then only those who interpreted the Bible the way we do could be part of the church. But since agreeing on our particular understanding is not a requirement for going to heaven we have chosen not to make it a requirement for belonging to the church. Does this mean that doctrine is not important? On the contrary, it is very important.
We have a clearly defined doctrinal understanding that we teach and preach. There are even some things that we are dogmatic about. We refer to those things as dogma. Dogma has to do with those foundational core beliefs that most evangelical Bible believing Christians across denominational lines are in agreement with.These beliefs are summarized in the Apostles’ Creed and include belief in one God, the creator of all things, Jesus as the only Son, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of a virgin, crucified, raised from the dead, ascended into heaven and is again, the Holy Spirit, the universal church, forgiveness of sins and life everlasting.
We make no apology for being dogmatic about the dogma. However, when it comes to doctrinal issues we have chosen to allow room for differences. Doctrine has to do with beliefs based on Scripture that evangelical, Bible believing Christians may not agree with.While different denominations may have distinctive doctrines that set them apart from each other, they are all still considered part of the universal church of Jesus Christ. A Baptist or Presbyterian distinctive is their understanding of eternal security. A Mennonite distinctive is their understanding of peace and non-resistance. The Pentecostals have a distinct understanding of the baptism in the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues. A Nazarene distinctive is their understanding of holiness and perfection.
There are many examples that could be sited. However, the point is that doctrine differs from dogma in that there can be honest differences of interpretation while still being faithful to the truth of Scripture.Coming out at different places on doctrinal issues doesn’t exclude one from the Kingdom of God. Therefore, we have chosen not to be dogmatic about doctrine and to not allow doctrinal differences to be divisive issues in the church.
Opinions or Preferences
There is a third level of beliefs that I should mention yet. We refer to this level as opinions or preferences. In this area we give even more latitude for differences. This has to do with such things as style and personal preferences in worship, order and length of services, use or non-use of instruments, dress codes, hair styles, wearing of jewelry, posture in prayer, clapping, dancing and raising hands in worship and so on.While Scriptures may be found that refer to these things and while there may be times when the church should set certain guidelines, in general we leave such things up to the individual. However, we do preach and teach what the Bible says about appropriate behavior and appearance. We are just not dogmatic about it.
Understanding the difference between dogma, doctrine and opinions will help you understand how we can have people in our church from many different denominational backgrounds with differing Biblical interpretations and contrasting lifestyles and yet experience unity in the Spirit. It’s not that way in all churches. In fact many churches are confused at this very point. Both Liberal and Fundamentalist churches can be very dogmatic but tend to end up being dogmatic about the wrong things.
Liberal churches tend to reduce the dogma to the level of opinion while Fundamentalist churches tend to raise opinions to the level of dogma.As a result both end up in serious error unable to effectively advance the Kingdom of God. To take what the Bible clearly spells out as truth and make it optional or to take what the Bible gives latitude on and make it mandatory results in a distorted representation of the gospel leading to spiritual bondage and death. That’s the reason you never see a healthy, growing, vibrant, life giving Liberal or Fundamentalist church.
What are the dogmatic belief statements for us here at CCM?
In One God revealed to us as Father, Son, & Holy Spirit.
In God the Father who made the heavens and the earth and governs them according to His will and purpose.
In God the Son who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of a virgin, died on a cross, was buried and raised from the dead in order to provide the way for us to regain right and true relationship with God the Father.
In God the Holy Spirit who prompts us to repent and live according to the principles of the Kingdom of God, producing the fruit and imparting the gifts of the Spirit for successful living and serving in a Godly manner.
In the Church universal made up of all those who have been called out of darkness into light, have placed their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation, and who live under His Lordship.
In the Bible as the only written Word of God and the ultimate authority for what we are to believe, and for the way we are to live in this world.
In the visible return of the Lord Jesus Christ in great glory and power to receive into heaven all those who have personally accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord and to judge all those who have not personally accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord.
These statements represent dogmatic statements for us here at CCM. These are unquestionable truths that we will not compromise on for any reason. Even though much in this world has been and is still trying to create alternate doctrines around these statements based upon opinion and interpretation these for us are the bedrock foundation for everything we do here at CCM.
I invite you to read them again and allow the Holy Spirit to settle these biblically dogmatic truths in your spirit and heart.
Then ask yourself:
Do I agree or disagree with these statements?
Do I have an alternate opinion or interpretation of these statements?
Does that cause me to come into conflict, or struggle with the way ministry is done at CCM?
If you find yourself struggling with, or not understanding any of these statement call me soon. Let's talk. Let's make sure we are on the same page so that we can live together in the body of believers in a healthy, vibrant manner so that the Kingdom of God will be preached, expanded, and fulfilled here at CCM.