Archive for April 2009

Defining the Question

April 9, 2009

by Jay Guin

I deeply appreciate Phil’s, Greg’s, and Todd’s participation in this conversation, because I think it’s desperately needed. I mean, just look at all the comments! We’ve barely cleared our throats, and we have comments in the hundreds. I am more convinced than ever that this is needed.

In fairness to our readers, I want to spend some time trying to narrow the question to something that can be profitably discussed.

I’ll start by explaining what the question is not. (more…)


Clarifying Our Discussion

April 9, 2009

by Greg Tidwell

“Are all doctrinal errors fatal?” my friend asks. It seems to be a straightforward question. Yet, within the wording of this question is a paralogism, guaranteed to get us off track if we don’t weed it out early in our discussion. It is found in the simple word “all.”

The dangers of over generalization are seen in one of the classic paradoxes of all time. Epimenides, a native of Cnossus, the capital of Crete, is quoted as saying, “All Cretans are liars.” So here we have a Cretan saying that all Cretans are liars. Since Epimenides is a liar, all Cretans must be truthful…and round we go. (The apostle Paul was in on the joke, and referenced this quote in his letter to Titus.)

The word “all,” without qualification, leads into the pedantic fallacy of the liar’s paradox, and the word “all,” without qualification leads us into doctrinal fallacy as well.

When we say, “all Cretans are liars,” we do not mean that all Cretans lie all of the time. Reality is more nuanced than our simple statement indicates.

And so it is with the question, “are all doctrinal errors fatal?”

Just as all Cretans have the potential to be liars but are not always lying, so all doctrinal error has the potential to condemn but does not always do so.

Catching Up

April 8, 2009

by Greg Tidwell

Jay has, rightly, called me to task in a private note for my lack of diligence in posting. I hope to make amends with a few thoughts.

Legalistic Checklists and Loving Relationships

I cherish my relationship with my wife. To honor and to love her, I have devised a weekly checklist of what she has a right to expect of me and what I will bring to our marriage. I have posted this list on our refrigerator door. Once all these required items are crossed off, she has no other claim on me and my time for the week. After all, not everything is a “divorce issue.”

Obviously, I am not serious about reducing my love for my wife to a checklist. This template, however, is often in evidence in our scholastic attempts to distinguish how much error it takes to condemn a soul to hell. (more…)

Are All Doctrinal Errors Fatal?

April 4, 2009

by Todd Deaver

In my first post allow me briefly to thank Jay for initiating this discussion and inviting me to be part of it, and also Phil and Greg for their willingness to participate. I have great respect for all three of these gentlemen, and I trust that–having recently gotten acquainted over lunch–we’re all on a first-name basis here.

To begin with, I share Phil’s concern for the importance of biblical doctrine or teaching, as well as his desire to be as doctrinally accurate as possible. We do have an obligation to study the scriptures diligently and carefully (Acts 17:11; 2 Timothy 2:15), and that duty must not be taken lightly. No one should imagine that doctrine is no big deal or–like a congregation I recently heard about–decide that it can be dispensed with in favor of an exclusive emphasis on love and grace (which are, in reality, doctrines themselves).

Nor do I disagree with the proposition Phil set forth: “The New Testament makes it abundantly clear that doctrinal error can lead to eternal damnation.” I believe that some doctrinal errors are, in fact, spiritually fatal. However, Phil’s elaboration and defense of this thesis seems to suggest that any and every doctrinal mistake, if not corrected, leads to the loss of salvation. (more…)


April 2, 2009

Please help us publicize this conversation as widely as possible within the Churches of Christ — among all elements of the Churches.

If you participate in a Christian forum or maintain a blog, please post a notice iniviting readers to read and comment. For this sort of dialogue to truly work well, it needs the broadest circulation possible.



Proposition One: Doctrinal error can lead to eternal damnation, by Phil Sanders

April 2, 2009

I am grateful to discuss the Bible with anyone, but I am grieved that this controversy has created confusion among us. It appears some are questioning whether or not we should dismiss the threat of false beliefs and practices, since the grace of God is abundant. The abundance of grace, however, must never be an inducement to ignore or continue in sin. True hope must ground itself on the eternal words of God (Col. 2:6-8), and we find no promise attached to the false hopes of humanly constructed doctrines.

We are not here in this discussion to replace God. We do not know how far the grace of God will extend to those who are unwittingly mistaken. Our task is to proclaim what God says about false doctrines and strange practices that go beyond the teaching of the Lord in the New Testament. God has spoken for himself on these matters. Our second task is to remain as free from error as possible and to lead others to remain free. We have no desire to be cruel to others by leaving them with false hope that they may remain in error.

Proposition 1: The New Testament makes it abundantly clear that doctrinal error can lead to eternal damnation. (more…)

On Subscribing to the Blog

April 1, 2009

google_sm.gifFor readers who are new to blogging, I thought I’d point out a few ways to subscribe to the blog, to help you get all the posts as soon as they are available.

You really should subscribe either by an RSS reader, such as Google Reader, or by email, because the posts on this blog will pop up unpredictably as the parties have time to respond to each other.

The link to subscribe by email is shown to the right. (more…)