I have a question. Why is it considered so bad to question doctrine in the UPC (and associated organizations)? I don’t think that I have ever heard a preacher get up and say that it is wrong to question doctrine, but I spent over 26 years in the UPC, and the impression that I always had is that it is a horrible sin to question doctrine.
Of course, some doctrines are worse to question than others (according to the typical UPC preacher). The doctrine that is #1 on the list of taboo’d doctrines is the doctrine of the Oneness of God. Other ones are high on the list as well, such as baptism in Jesus’ Name, speaking in tongues as the evidence of receiving the Holy Ghost, and more.
But aren’t we commanded in the Scriptures to question what we are taught?
For example, look at these Scriptures:
Now these were more noble-minded…for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so (Acts 17:10-12 NASB).
The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked(1Jo 2:4-6 NASB).
I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed (Gal 1:6-9 NASB).
Here’s something that might shock some members of the UPC (it sure shocked me when I found out!): The “different gospel” that Paul was writing about was a return to the Mosaic Law!
Think about the implications of this for a moment.
You see, the UPC often uses this Scripture to tell people that anyone who preaches any doctrine other than the Oneness-Pentecostal-Holiness (a.k.a. UPC) doctrine is preaching a “different gospel,” but Paul was saying that the “different gospel” is a gospel that tells people to try to earn their salvation through acts of the Law!
But, you say, the UPC doesn’t teach the Law…or do they?
How about this:
A woman shall not wear man’s clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God (Deu 22:5 NASB).
That’s straight out of the Mosaic Law! (Remember that the Mosaic Law is not the entire Old Testament, it is only parts of Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy.)
Is this really important, though? Sure it is! Look at what Paul said here:
It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace (Gal 5:1-4 NASB).
See that? “[Y]ou who are seeking to be justified by the law [the Mosaic Law]’ you are fallen from grace.”
(Now, some of you scholars out there might be thinking that the UPC does not teach that women wearing dresses is necessary for justification. My response is that I don’t think the UPC has a clear distinction between justification and sanctification. Everything is all wrapped up together. Like a friend of mine told me the other day, “The UPC is a package deal–take it or leave it.” In my whole time in the UPC I can only remember meeting two preachers who could give definitions of justification and sanctification. I certainly never heard the topics preached.)
OK, now that I’ve satisfied the scholars, let me get back to my original question: What’s so bad about questioning what we’re taught? Paul told Timothy to “be diligent to present yourself approved to God, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15 NASB). John wrote, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1 NASB).
Read through the New Testament and you will see time and time again where people were encouraged to study Scripture. The best example of this is from the passage that I cited at the beginning of this blog:
“The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men’ (Act 17:10-12 NASB).
I hardly even need to explain this Scripture passage, but I’ll give some quick background. Paul and Silas were going around on a missionary trip, and they came across a group of Christians who were getting together in the local Jewish synagogue and “examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” What things? The things they were being taught! Did Paul and Silas condemn them for this? Did they tell the Bereans that they needed to just “listen to their pastor”? Did they preach a sermon on David and Saul to the Bereans, letting them know to “touch not God’s anointed”? No! Far from it! Paul and Silas commended them, and said that they were “more noble-minded” than some of the other groups, because they didn’t just receive the word, but they examined the word to make sure that it was correct!
Folks, don’t be afraid to question what the preacher is saying! Just because he claims to be preaching “under the anointing” does not mean that what he is preaching is correct! Just because you get goosebumps and get all excited doesn’t mean that the Spirit of God is approving of the message! Show respect for the preacher, but don’t be afraid to get into the Bible and study Scripture out for yourself! You just might be surprised at what you find when you do! :)