Doctrinal Gumbo

As we try and develop our doctrinal views, somewhere along the line we pick up a notion or two. If we toss that notion into our pot and stir on it long enough, we start seeing all sorts of verses that suddenly start supporting that view. So we throw that into the mix as well, and before too long, we’ve got a whole pot briming, full of ‘supporting verses’ for our particular view. The view slowly morphs from an “isolated verse” to “recurring theme”, and with a few more verses, becomes a “doctrinal distinction”. It’s a spicy concotion that turns some people on and turns others off. Or maybe it’s a matter of taste.

As we step across cultural lines, we get to see that quite a lot. A particular culture will have their own particular process for handling Scripture, and will apply their own “cultural distinctives” to the mix and make up their own particular doctrinal gumbo soup, full of all sorts of verses that – with a little earnest stirring – makes the gumbo into a savory and spicy meal. …for some.

But all stews are not created equal. Sometimes ‘different’ is just that: different. But sometimes, it’s flat-out wrong, and is doctrinal poison (heresy). Having the discernment to differentiate between ‘different’ and ‘wrong’ can sometimes be tricker than one might think, especially if there’s a personal or cultural spin applied to the mix and the view comes with one verse (or more) in hand to support it. (and there are heretical views that do have a verse or two to support them)

An even greater challenge awaits us should we try to sort out our own self-motivated gumbo mix. Are we introspective enough and honest enough to critically examine how we interpret verses the way we do? Do we know enough of the Bible to even begin to evaluate the gumbo we cherish – or do we just accept that a particular concoction is valid because it came from (what we believe is) a valid source?

I find that the more I study the Bible, the more I change my views from those I’ve heard most my life. They’re usually not grand changes, just subtle (albeit critical) tweaks to a mostly correct way of handling the Scriptures. Oftentimes, the incorrect views were based on someone else’s ideas, other times, they were based on someone’s misunderstanding of Scripture. Sadly, most often, those incorrect views were based on someone’s pure ignorance – but they managed to make it sound like it was Biblical, so they were accepted. All the more reason to be a Berean.

But …even Bereans have their own cultural distinctives, and hence, their own gumbo stew. As they evaluated new teaching, they were comparing it to what *they* believed their existing teaching meant. Attempt that w/o a clear head, and you get circular pretty quickly. Not good.

How often do you taste-test your own gumbo stew?
How do you safeguard yourself against pet theories running wild?
How willing are you to throw out your gumbo if you don’t find Biblical support for it?
How do you handle a personal view that has verses both for it and against it?

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