“If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching (didaskalia) that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of great gain” (1 Tim. 6:3-5). Paul’s words to Timothy struck a chord then and continue to reverberate in our day.
Doctrine has always divided people, sometimes rightly so. But other times, doctrine creates unnecessary division because people are unable to humble themselves and hear and opposing position. Rhyne R. Putman develops these themes in his recent book, When Doctrine Divides the People of God.
Part One: Why We Disagree About Doctrine
Part one focuses on foundational matters that are hermeneutical in nature. The author helps readers understand various approaches to hermeneutics and discusses how texts and doctrines are handled on the basis of tradition and belief. Readers who do not have a background in hermeneutics may be intimidated and struggle to put the pertinent pieces together.
Part Two: What We Should Do About Doctrinal Disagreement
Part two is more reader-friendly as the author offers practical suggestions for moving forward with doctrinal disagreement. His counsel is solid, measured, and biblical.
Chapter seven was the most valuable chapter for me, personally. Putman zeroes in on heresy and provides practical help with moving forward in an age marked by theological compromise. Additionally, various tests are offered that helps Christians navigate the “choppy theological waters” that characterize our age.
In the end, When Doctrine Divides reminds us that doctrine matters. Indeed, Spurgeon said, “Those who do away with doctrine … are the worst enemies of Christian living.” Our challenge is to determine where the lines need to be drawn. Putman helps draw those lines.