One Spirit, Many Doctrines?

If all Christians have the same Holy Spirit, why do we see so many different doctrines and practices and denominations?

This is a question that has been popping in and out of my head for over a year now.

If the Spirit illuminates the Scriptures for us, then why do so many of us interpret them differently?

Yes, the Bible warns of false teachers. But if we allow that there may be whole denominations calling themselves Christian but in fact preaching a false gospel, what do we then say for disagreement on the “smaller” issues? The issues of disagreement between people who both clearly believe the gospel, but disagree on one issue.

For example, infant baptism vs believer’s baptism. Why, if we have the one Spirit, do we have Christians who believe one is right and Christians who believe the other is right?

Perhaps the answer is that some people are listening to the Spirit as they read the Bible and others are not.

But surely no Christian can claim to have perfect scriptural interpretation in every area, since we still have imperfect minds.

I recently watched the Call to Discernment series of lectures by Justin Peters, and, while he specifically calls out the Word of Faith/Prosperity Gospel preachers, I found the series particularly helpful in thinking through this question in the broader sense. Specifically, his calling attention to this passage:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

So, Jesus is saying that not everyone who claims to be a Christian, and even does miracles in his name, is a Christian.

Again, I find this a satisfactory explanation for the big differences in doctrine, where a false gospel all together is being preached. But it doesn’t resolve the issue on the smaller doctrinal differences for me.

This is a question I will be coming back to…

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5 thoughts on “One Spirit, Many Doctrines?

  1. Well to answer your first question “…why do we see so many different doctrines and practices and denominations?
    Rod shared at evening church three different approaches to understanding the Spirit. 1. Corinthian (experience, embellish & drift -from the truth), 2. Thessalonian (deny, downplay & disregard) and lastly the 3. Berean (Based on the Bible-the Spirit is the one who develops our personal relationship with God) Acts 17. These three different approaches may have something to do with the different paths we travel. If the Bible isn’t clear or there can be different interpretations I think it’s best to pray about it, research it, talk to others about it and then ask God what he wants me to do. He usually lets me know ..in time.

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  2. Hi there 🙂 I found your blog through a friend and I like this post – you seem honest and sincere. It’s a beautiful witness.

    For Catholic Christians, many of the doctrines we believe are found in the Creed – “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty …” – but there are also others which have been established over the history of Christianity. For example, there’s no mention in the Creed of Sacred Scripture. In fact, why do any of us believe that Scripture is the Word of God and inspired by the Holy Spirit? The list of books in the New Testament – the canon of Scripture – was not decided until the 4th century and was declared the inspired Word of God by the teaching of the Church.

    At first that might sound crazy or heretical – that something is doctrine because it is declared that by the Church, which is made up of men – but that’s not what I mean. God is the One Who gives doctrine to the Church; Jesus established the Church and promised that the Holy Spirit would lead it (Mt 16:18), guiding it into all the truth (Jn 16:13). I remember someone once saying, and this has always stayed with me, that Jesus became man, died for our sins, was resurrected and ascended into heaven and yet he didn’t write anything down – you would think that He must have had some pretty important things for us to remember. And yet instead He established a Church which He promised would be guided in all its teaching by the Holy Spirit. Hence the pretty amazing claim that in 2000 years the Church has never changed any of its doctrine, nor has it erred in the teaching of that doctrine. It might sound crazy but if you read a little bit of the writings of the early Church fathers in the first couple of centuries AD, you’ll find they believed the same as the Church teaches today.

    Hope you don’t mind me sharing these thoughts – God bless you in your journey.

    Jess

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  3. Your post makes a very reasonable, inherent assumption (I don’t think you said it outright), that God’s doctrines are going to be singular, unified, and non-contradictory. If Cr=hristians have contradictory doctrines, then someone (and maybe all of us) is wrong.

    One of the most foundational desires that God has for us is that we should give up man’s ways, and instead walk in His ways. This shows up worded in various ways and in a variety of places like Prov. 3:5-6, and Rom 12:2. That is a long process, though. I don’t think it’s a matter of learning only, but a matter of changing how we think and perceive. Certainly it means we change in what we know about God and man, but I think many people stop there. Following in God’s ways requires us to take our thoughts captive and change *how* we think and perceive. The outcome of renewing the mind is that we will be able to prove(test) what is the good and perfect(complete) will of God.

    What we believe necessarily changes, too. We believe things because we think they are true. Going through this renewal of the mind can be rough because it is a process of disillusionment. Many people don’t engage in renewal because it hurts. Or, they engage in a church culture and believe they *are* renewing their minds. Even a relatively good church culture is *no* substitute for renewing your mind. If we are thinking in the ways of a culture, even a culture that is close, then I don’t think we are really walking in the ways of God. (This is a big deal because of the prophecies regarding the apostasy of the church. I’m thinking about II Tim 4, the letter to the Laodiceans in Rev. 3, and the passage you mention from Matt. 7:21-23.)

    Obviously, if someone never starts (or completes) that renewal process, that person will have a limited ability to discern God’s overall will, truths, and ways. But aside from that, I think there are a couple more common obstacles to a Aside from people not starting (or completing) the renewal process, I think there are a couple other reasons that keep people from seeing God’s doctrines and ways accurately.

    The uglier reason is probably slightly less dangerous because it is more obvious. It is simply that we are responding to our sinful desires. People have an innate ability to deceive themselves if something they want desperately, or fear immensely, conflicts with what we know to be good and right. Even if it is a matter of clear matter of scripture and doctrine, human sin nature can easily avoid the truth or twist the truth (about the scripture or about ourselves). This reason seems to me a simple matter of rebellion and hiding from God.

    The prettier but more insidious and dangerous reason has to do with projecting. Projection is a common thing everyone does, especially when you meet someone new. Although we don’t really know anything about a new acquaintance, we are usually capable of talking to and learning about them. Part of what allows us to do this and be relatively comfortable, is that we “fill in the blanks”. That is, we assume certain things about them. We may project some stereotype on them, but more frequently we project things about ourselves. We assume their motives, morals, tastes, and so on, are just like ours. In a healthy person, those projected assumptions are understood to be assumptions and are replaced with facts as they become known. In some cases, as with narcissistic personality disorder, people are so focussed on self, that they project themselves onto others and never even truly *listen* to learn what this person is like, even after a long time.

    I think this is similar, if not identical to how many people deal with knowing God and His truth. They make God into their own image and never even imagine that they have replaced Him (or parts of Him) with their own selves. (Rom 1:23, Ps 50:21) These last two reasons remind me of the passage about people being lovers of self end the end times (II Tim 4, I think). And that passage is really about the church, so it makes sense that it would result in many people attributing doctrines and knowledge as being from God when they aren’t. No wonder we should take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

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