Saving Dogma

Magnificent post from Joel at the BHT.

The Boar’s Head Tavern

“Forget the checklists. Dogma doesn’t get us in.

Dogma keep us away from the ditches. They are the chewed up skid marks along grassy shoulders and rubber- and blood-smeared concrete medians that mark places of past carnage. Dogma aren’t bad–they are truly beneficial to us as signs of where to steer away from danger–but we make a fundamental mistake when we make them the road itself. We make “right beliefs” the Sacraments of the Church. We actually do believe in the Real Presence…the Real Presence of Saving Dogma. Christ-likeness and holy living thus is mediated by our faculty of understanding and whatever native power our conceptual thinking may have. But even if correct, when I treat my doctrine as icons (I can redescribe the process of transposing the gospel to the register of dogma as this: the veneration of my ideas), even right belief about X becomes a barrier to knowing only Christ and him crucified. We make these logismoi the essence of the gospel kerygma and our spiritual life rather than the disciplined take-up-your-cross life Jesus embodied and taught, that the apostles continually call us to in the NT, and that the early Church fathers emphasized. What difference does my assent to Romans 1-11 and Galatians 1-5:12 make if Romans 12-16 and Galatians 5:13-6 isn’t the real fruit in my actions, passions, and will?

We are trying to understand God and figure out how he does what he does. We accept these logismoi as profitable substitutes to the life of prayer. And we convince ourselves that this is Christ-honoring because it has the appearance of piety. Instead of doing love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, etc., i.e., walking by the Spirit, we think and analyze doctrine. If my thoughts about the truth of the atonement are of special concern to me, I must be exhibiting righteousness, right? So we convince ourselves that discernment is beneficial therapy for our souls. But it is nothing of the kind. It is talking about the cure rather than taking the medicine. Analysis and discernment is pseudo-therapeutic because it is content to read the prescription on the bottle rather than ingest its contents.

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