When opinions become doctrines

Arminian Baptist Roger Olson has written a lengthy (as is his usual approach) post about the differences between dogmas, doctrines, and opinions.

The post includes Olson’s own story of growing up in Pentecostalism and being “invited” to leave during his young adult years. He includes a brief mention of “charismatic United Methodist” Oral Roberts.

The point of the post is an appeal for Christian denominations to stop elevating things that should be matters of opinion into doctrines that must be believed by all who wish to be in fellowship together.

I call on all denominations to go through their doctrines and weed out those that 1) have no clear biblical foundation and 2) are historically peculiar in terms of evangelical tradition, and 3) do not really serve any important purpose in terms of strengthening spiritual life. Demote these to opinion status. It doesn’t mean they can’t be taught by pastors and others, but they should not be tests of fellowship.

This is a very Wesleyan thing to desire.

I wonder if we United Methodists (speaking of vows) have doctrines that should be opinions. My first impulse is to say that we barely have doctrine that we all agree on, so it is hard to imagine we have any that has been elevated too high. (Before jumping to sex issues, this comment by Olson that distinguishes between polity issues and doctrine might be useful.)

The more likely place where we have this problem might be at level of the local congregation. Don’t we often have lots of doctrines in the local church that should be matters of opinion?


2 thoughts on “When opinions become doctrines

  1. Thank you for this post, John. I agree that Methodism has more problem coming up with our dogma than we have too much dogma. One area that gets a lot of emphasis is “inclusiveness.” That is definitely a distinctive in the UMC and probably a doctrine. I think a person would have trouble being ordained in the UMC today without articulating a strong theology of inclusiveness. At times, I think inclusiveness has almost become an end in itself, rather than a means of sharing the Gospel and the love of Christ with all people.

    1. Tom, thank you for coming by to comment. I hear the echoes of “Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors.” in your comment.

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