Loosening the Tie that Binds:
The Issue of Living Doctrinal Statements
By Bob Wilkin
In a message delivered at Hillsdale College, Charles Kesler writes concerning the Constitution, “The principle that binds our political parties together—as it binds American citizens together—is allegiance to the Constitution.”1
For years the U.S. Supreme Court has made decisions regarding what is constitutional. While some justices have concentrated on the original intent of the framers, others have been more concerned with the current climate in America.
For example, regardless of what you think about prayer in schools, the Court abolished prayer in schools on the basis of the living Constitution. That decision was not based on the original intent of the framers.
The “Community Document”
A few years ago a highly regarded theologian was asked how the faculty members at his seminary could in good conscience sign the doctrinal statement each year when it was clear that many did not hold to some of the major tenets of the statement.
The professor replied that the doctrinal statement was “a community document.” He went on to explain that each phrase in the doctrinal statement was capable of four or five different interpretations. Thus, as long as a staff member held one of those interpretations, he or she needn’t have any reservation about signing the doctrinal statement.
In our highly tolerant culture that values unity above beliefs or practices, theologians are not merely changing the meaning of doctrinal statements—they are expanding their meaning. Thus four or five different views on any particular doctrine may be permitted at any given school.
A Dangerous Stretch
The purpose of a doctrinal statement, like our nation’s constitution, is to bind likeminded people together. By broadening doctrinal statements to embrace those who hold disparate views, what was formerly a fellowship becomes a mixed multitude.
Seminaries and Bible Colleges around the world are stricken with the “community document virus.” Students are amazed to hear one professor promote inerrancy and another scoff at it. Academic freedom allows some to hold to the Free Grace gospel, others to Reformed Lordship Salvation, and still others to Arminian Lordship Salvation. It is clear to see that this approach definitely does not “bind us together.”
Holding the Line or Stretching the Truth?
At GES we are unwavering in our resolve to hold fast to the original intent of our doctrinal statement because we are convinced it accurately reflects the truth of Scripture.
The importance of holding the line on truth cannot be overemphasized in our schools and churches.
And though this might translate into fewer students in a given seminary or Bible College, or less members in a particular church, it is far better to be smaller and truly united than larger and fragmented.
1Imprimis (December 2000), 4.