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Posts Tagged: doctrine



young-hypochondriacI know we can’t expect to understand everything about the Bible and God, and that it’s best to just have faith. But over the past few days I’ve been beginning to believe that although the Bible can contain spiritual truth, it doesn’t contain all truth. I believe that because the thought of eternal damnation of people who haven’t accepted Christ clouds my view of God. 

My faith seems messy and I’m terrified that I’m getting this all wrong. I’m terrified that I’m ignorantly rejecting truth in order to help me sleep better at night - that I’m creating a faith that caters to my own needs instead of being truthful, and this makes me panicky. I know this is long, and I’m sorry, but these thoughts are like eating me alive, and I think you give great advice, so please deal with meeeee.


Unka Glen answered: Okay, breathe, I’ve you on this. Believe it or not, this is closer to being a good thing than a bad thing. Your walk is progressing beyond a mere pretending to believe a set of doctrines, and choosing to believe nothing more than what you can live with. That’s actually a good thing, as long as God Himself is in the process.

So let’s take this step by step, shall we?

“I know we can’t expect to understand everything about the Bible and God, and that it’s best to just have faith” Actually, no. When we don’t understand things, the virtue we’re looking for is wisdom, not faith. After all, you have to know what it is you’re supposed to have faith in, and how do you know, unless you ask these kinds of questions?

“The Bible…doesn’t contain all truth” Well, of course there are many more specific truths that the Lord would like to tell you, about the world, about yourself, your calling, about His great love for you specifically, etc., than what’s written in the Bible. and again, how are you to hear those things unless you engage Him in conversation?

“The thought of eternal damnation of people who haven’t accepted Christ clouds my view of God” Nobody goes to Hell because they haven’t accepted Christ, the Bible is talking about people who knowingly reject Christ. That’s a huge difference. In fact, the Bible even talks about people who never have a chance to hear the word of God, but they follow God nonetheless, because they follow the things that God puts on their conscience, and “they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts” (Romans 2:14-15).

So obviously God isn’t sending those people to Hell.

“I’m terrified that I’m ignorantly rejecting truth in order to help me sleep better at night” Well, it is a fact that one does not arrive at the truth by staring into space and deciding what’s true. Two plus two equals four. Believe it, doubt it, it’s still four. However, in this case the truth is easy enough to sleep on: Your concern that God is a) bound by a technicality of Scripture, b) less understanding that you, and c) less compassionate than you, turns out to not be the case.

“My faith seems messy and I’m terrified that I’m getting this all wrong” What’s wrong with messy? Messy is good. Messy is REAL. And what, exactly, are you terrified of? You came to a place where you weren’t willing to believe something that turns out to not be true. That’s a good thing as far as I can tell.

In fact, if I could say one last thing about all this, it would be to take these concerns and doubts, and build them into your walk with God. To present them, one at a time, and listen for His answers. (That’s what I do). 



 asked: I was talking to a friend about the importance of going to church and he questions whether or not it actually is important. I believe it is for various reasons but could you give me some good biblical evidence and your opinion on why church is important to the Christian?

Unka Glen answered: There are those who think of church buildings as being sacred and important places. But I’m pretty sure that the cathedral that God built for Himself is the the human heart. And it’s true that I’ve had more church at the jailhouse, or the drug rehab, or even preaching chapel services for professional sports teams, than I usually have when I’m in church.

As such, I’ve never really fallen prey to that almost superstitious idea that being in a building built by humans, and run by humans, is somehow making me more holy just by being in there.

However, it is vitally important that you receive all the things that a church is meant to do for you. So I’d say it’s important to be in a GOOD church, and by the same token, it’s a believers responsibility to get out of a bad church, and into some kind of scenario where their needs are being met. 

So let’s define what is meant by church, and we’ll start with the Bible, as you requested. Bible nerd powers ACTIVAAAATE! [there’s a very small puff of smoke, and an ordinary Greek dictionary appears].

The Greek word for church is ekklésia. This word is created from smooshing two smaller words together: ek and kaleó. Kaleó means those who are called, and those who have been invited in a personal way. Ek means “out of, but still pertaining to”. So ekklésia means to be called out of the world, but in a way that still impacts the world.

You might say ekklésia is about creating a space where you come away from and shut out all the distractions of the world, and you focus on God, where you meet with others who have responded to the call, to have fellowship, accountability, and to encourage one another.

I think it’s reasonable, given the way the early church took shape, for us to also look at church as a place where good doctrine is taught. As you’ve heard me say before, I don’t like that “eat the meat and spit out the bones” mentality. Bad theology is toxic, and there’s another church full of sweet and loving people just like this, that preach good theology.

Also, looking at the early church, I think it’s reasonable that while we should come to focus on God, that there would be elders, or deacons, or mentors, or pastors who focus on serving us. That they would give us a word that helps set us free, and helps map out a road they know so well, a road to a more intimate personal walk with God.

So look again at these elements, you’ve got the getting away from it all, the focus on and worship of God, the fellowship and accountability, and the doctrinally sound teaching and effective spiritual advice. If you’re pointing your friend to a church where all those needs are going to get met, then great, if not, well, that’s where it gets complicated.

These days, lots of people tell me that their small group (Bible study, cell group, campus fellowship, etc.) is where they get almost all of those needs met. These groups have become their church body in everything but name. And they really only go to church just for the worship, or for the fellowship, or maybe to meet just one of those elements that’s left unfulfilled.

And all that works, even if it’s not optimal. The problem comes in urging people to get to church, when their church isn’t functioning as a church. Yes, it can be easy to take a good church or body for granted, and get out of the habit of going (Heb. 10:24-25), but if your friend’s church was doing a kick-butt job of meeting his needs, he’d probably already be there.

"It’s not enough to be theologically correct. If you say stuff that’s right straight out of the Bible, but you’re a great big jerk about it, you’re still wrong. The way you say it needs to be as correct as what you say."


Unka Glen Fitzjerrell on episode 123 of Say That

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(via thebridgechicago)

Source: thebridgechicago


Let’s tell the truth, Christianity is really simple to understand. I mean yes, people can sometimes make it complicated, but only when they’re screwing it up. Otherwise, it’s simple. Grace is a simple concept a small child can understand, the same goes for salvation, baptism, and the virgin birth.

Sure, you can use fancy Latin words for points of doctrine, Sola Scriptura (if it ain’t in the Bible, then it ain’t kosher), or Sola Fides (we’re saved by faith, and not by any good deeds), but the ideas are dirt simple. I took a confirmation class when I was 13, and I haven’t learned anything new about good doctrine since.

To be sure, the implications of grace (for example) are deep, vast, and worthy of marveling over, but tellingly we don’t do much of that. Last time I checked, I noticed a lot of Christians spending time meditating on how limited grace might be. Because if we accepted grace, and all these other utterly simple points of doctrine in their simplicity, then we’d have to finally live by them.

As long as we can throw up our hands and proclaim, “who’s to say?”, then we don’t have to do anything. The jury is still out. We’ll see. Did the Apostles do this kind of endless questioning? No. By contrast, Paul often used the phrase “I am convinced”.

Christianity is simple. Really. Super simple. But LIVING it… now, that is complicated. Once we finish philosophizing about it, and playing with it, then it’s time to live it out. Practically. In the real world. 

I told you that, to tell you this: I’m betting that you’re reading these words precisely because you want to live out your Christianity in an authentic way. You’re reading these words because you’ve stepped out, and you want to hear from those who have done the same. I just want to hold a mirror up to you, and let you adjust to this new awareness of yourself. 

You haven’t become more saved, or less of a sinner, but you are suddenly becoming a useful tool in the Master’s hands. 


Anonymous asked: My boyfriend and I have been dating for almost 2 years and we are both Christians. One thing that breaks my heart is that he doesn’t seem to understand grace, that Jesus died for our sins and that we no longer have to be afraid of God’s punishment. He doesn’t seem to have a relationship with Jesus in the way that I do. He goes to church every week and prays as well, but I don’t think he sees God as a good God. I believe this is due to what his church teaches, I don’t think they’re teaching the wrong thing but maybe their focus is too much on what WE must do, instead of what Jesus has already done for us. I can’t ask him to leave his church because his parents go to that church, and he’s been going there ever since he was young, and he doesn’t seem receptive to what I’ve been trying to tell him. Does this fall into the “do not yoke yourself with unbelievers” category? Because I really love him and I just really hope that things will change. What can I do? I really want to help him and breaking up with him doesn’t seem to solve the problem. Despite what I’ve just talked about, he still loves me, respects me & cares for me in a way that no other person has ever treated me. Thanks so much Unka Glen. [edited for length]

Unka Glen answered: Well darlin’, I have to say, reading this question just broke my heart. What a tough situation. I think it’s nice of you to give the church a break on their teaching, and it’s nice for him to go to his family’s church, but of course none of that matters if he’s being led down the wrong path, right?. You CAN ask him to leave that church (if need be), because we don’t put sentiment and human obligations above our obligation to our maker. 

The first thing I’d look at, would be to talk to the pastor at your boyfriend’s church and see if he’s part of the problem or not. You can even call the pastor anonymously and tell him your situation: “I have a boyfriend who goes to your church, and he does not have a basic understanding of being saved by grace, and I need you to sit down with the two of us, and make sure he knows that he is saved by grace alone, and not by any good works, and that he is totally saved, and should have no fear of punishment.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

If the pastor hesitates to help you, then you know that he’s part of the problem, if he’s open to helping, then maybe you’ve solved this thing in one stroke. If that doesn’t work, perhaps there’s someone outside his church that he respects, maybe a campus ministry leader, or maybe even someone from your church. One way or the other, it’s going to come down to a choice he has to make. 

The truth is right there in scripture to be read over and over, indeed none of the New Testament makes sense without grace. And the truth is appealing, as in, what is it about eternal life, in paradise, as a free gift, that you don’t like? But the lies are appealing in their own odd way. There’s something that feels so right about saying that God is always mad at us, and we have to do what we can to keep Him from squashing us, (oh, the drama) and we have to look down on ourselves, and punish ourselves, to keep God from having to bother with punishing us. 

Sure, none of those lies make any sense if you just sit and think hard about it for awhile, but these lies FEEL true, and that’s the dilemma that your boyfriend needs to face. Your question is a smart and brave one— what if he doesn’t come around to believing in grace? Are you unequally yoked? The answer is yes, yes you are. However, I think his love and his care and concern for you should be taken into account. I think he has more than earned some extra time and consideration. I think it’s right for you to be patient with him on this thing, and give him plenty of time.

All of us who are reading your story will keep you and your boyfriend in prayer. 


followandreblog asked: There’s this pastor / church I really like listening to, but I think a lot of other pastors are saying he’s a false prophet (twisting the Bible, not using Biblical Truth, preaching about himself rather than Jesus, etc.) but I do enjoy listening to his messages and feel blessed by them. Is there a way of choosing “the right Church for you” apart from feeling God’s presence, power, and love though their messages? Well, is there such thing as a right / wrong Church?

Unka Glen answered: This is one of those tricky situations. On one extreme, a person could easily begin to be more and more picky about smaller and smaller points of doctrine, and end up rejecting nearly everything they hear. But on the other extreme, you could end up taking on some point of bad doctrine, and really damage the health of your relationship with God.

No wonder 1 Timothy 4:16 says, “watch your life and doctrine closely.”

Paul preached the Gospel in a place called Berea, and they did an odd thing, they went and examined the Old Testament scrolls to confirm that the things Paul was preaching actually lined up with Old Testament prophecy. They didn’t just take Paul’s word for it. 

The Bible doesn’t criticize them for having this sceptisicm, it says that the Bereans were “of noble character”. Which is a pretty cool thing to say about anyone. The Bible also says, about the Bereans, that “as a result, many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men” (Acts 17). 

This process of going to God and getting wisdom to see right from wrong, good from bad, and healthy from unhealthy is what we call discernment. And we are called to be discerning. Some people avoid using good discernment because it sounds like being judgmental. However, being judgmental is about condemning people that you’ve decided on your own to be worthy of condemnation (Romans 14:4).

So what we’re left with, is that it’s good to be wise and discerning about what we listen to, as long as we keep in mind that this insight isn’t for condemning others, it’s for knowing the truth and being set free by the truth. So far so good. But how do you know whether you’re hearing bad doctrine or good? How do you determine what church is the right fit for you?

Know good doctrine. The best way to recognize bad doctrine is to learn good doctrine, and the best way to learn good doctrine is to get into scripture, and stay in it. Find ways of studying it on your own. Test and verify everything you read (even this blog). Jesus said His sheep recognize His voice, and because of that, they don’t follow strangers.

— Avoid manipulation. The moment someone uses manipulation, it’s time to change the channel. Period. Anyone who passes by the power of the Word itself to play to your emotions is, at best, clueless in what they’re doing. And at worst, they’re trying to get something out of you. Watch out for emotional manipulations involving fear, shame, and guilt; also manipulations that involve physical rewards such as healing, power, or money. 

— Know what you need. Some people really need a lively word preached in a lively way. Some need something deep, something sweet, and something gently restorative. Others might need something more teaching-oriented. You name it. In most cases, when we hear what we need to hear, the way we need to hear it, we’re attracted to it. So don’t be afraid to follow your sense of taste. Just make sure the doctrine is solid.

— Don’t take the bad with the good. You ever hear that expression, “eat the meat and spit out the bones”? The idea being, if somebody preaches something good, accept it, if they preach something wrong, ignore it. Problem #1: this assumes that you know the meat from the bones. Problem #2: there are plenty of churches and pastors that preach good doctrine, so why not go where there’s no spitting required? Problem #3: this pick-and-choose approach is not really advocated in scripture.

— Get challenged and equipped. Wherever you go to receive the Word, you should be challenged and encouraged to pursue your personal calling, and you should be equipped (in the basics) to pursue that calling as well. Most churches are pretty good at either challenging or equipping, but you need both to get where you’re going.

Here’s the bottom line: God expects you to monitor your spiritual health, and make sure that you have your spiritual needs met. Please believe me, God has big plans for your life, so you need good spiritual nourishment… don’t settle for junk food, no matter how good it tastes.



musicthatspeaksnow asked: What do you think is the context behind the verse in the book of Timothy where Paul says women should not teach, but instead learn in a submissive manner? I’m just asking out of curiosity because it has been interpreted to me in many different ways.


Unka Glen answered: You’re showing your spiritual maturity by asking for the context of this verse. As you may already realize, most bad doctrine is not as a result of tossing out the Bible, it’s from quoting the Bible out of context. After all, that’s what Satan did with Jesus.

Here is the verse in question: “Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.” (1 Timothy 2:11-12). Sounds pretty cut and dried, but let’s take a look at the context.

Paul is talking with Timothy about the Ephesians. There was a some bad doctrine and some false teachings that were springing up in Ephesus, and Paul is explaining to Timothy how to deal with that. The first, and indeed the most telling part of this verse, is the part most often ignored. “Let a woman learn” is actually a pretty significant statement. Jewish tradition didn’t generally involve letting women be involved in the learning process.

But Paul is saying that these ladies were being led astray by bad doctrine, so they should be brought in and allowed to learn, so that they wouldn’t be led astray, and thus lead the men astray. And that’s what the “have authority over a man” bit is all about. The Greek word used there is only used once in the Bible, which doesn’t help, but most scholars agree that this is a negative term. It’s to take authority in a sort of criminal way, to usurp power, to steal authority away.

So Paul is telling Timothy to take the time to teach these Ephesian women alongside their men, lest these women take over and teach the men wrong and bad stuff. The big giant question is: did Paul mean for this to apply to all women everywhere, for all time, or for this specific kind of situation? Does Paul mean that women who want to bring in their own weird teaching and grab power should be silent, or that all women, no matter how much good doctrine they’ve learned, should be silent?

I’ll leave it to you to ask God for the answer, but it must be said, even a casual reading of both the Old and New Testaments will yield plenty of stories about women deeply involved in the work of the Kingdom. Beyond that, I personally think we need all the help we can get beyond the four walls of the church.


Anonymous asked: I was wondering what kind of advice would you give to a woman who is in love with a man who believes in the foundational truths of Christianity, but does not want to go to church. He has issues with the church and feels that going to church does not help him as a person, but rather hinders his individuality.

Unka Glen answered: Well he may have a point there. Part of my job is looking for churches that would be suitable for receiving the men and women that we work with in our inner-city ministry. And if I’m going to be honest, I have to kiss a lot of frogs before I find my prince on that deal. Furthermore, there are a lot of people who’ve been burned by the church, and they aren’t looking to sign up for any more of that. I’m betting that this is the real issue with this dude. Sold-out and committed Christians don’t want to be around lukewarm people who are “playing church”, but they DO want to be around people who are as down for the Lord as they are.

When I see this problem, it’s often a woman who will settle for a church in which she isn’t getting fed, in which the doctrine may be a little shady, and/or where they’re up to some kinda funny stuff with money. And the man is willing to settle for no church at all, rather than do the work of finding a decent church. Both sides of that are wrong, by the way.

This is years of experience talking now: make a list of ten churches… You’ll help yourself immensely by starting with churches that have under 300 people in a service, odds are you’re WAY more likely to find a good church that way. Then make sure all of these churches aren’t on something weird. All of them need to be good, solid, salt of the earth kind of places. Then you get both of them to commit to visiting all ten of those churches, and pick from there. It may be grueling and unpleasant, but if they do that, I’ll bet they’ll both find a church that they will totally fall in love with.