Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Doctrine is the Cure for Loss of Faith

The common denominator[with people who deconvert]concerns one’s knowledge and relationship to the doctrines of the church. Nearly all my friends who were naturally interested in doctrine remain faithful members in churches to this day, and those who were not have “moved on” from Christianity, as if it were an intermediary step on their greater “spiritual journey.” [Wait needs to get out more. I can introduce him to hundreds of one-time faithful Christians — including pastors, missionaries, and professors — who were “naturally interested in doctrine” and are now atheists/agnostics/unbelievers.]

The “spiritual journey” narrative so common among the de-converted is indicative of what was prioritized in their (and so many of our) church experiences. Formal doctrine was held in less esteem than authentic spiritual experience. Doctrine was impractical; community life was practical. Theology was for the intellectuals in the church, but the average member just needed to be loved. Doctrine was less essential for the youth than the need to attend a purity conference. In short, the church was largely a pragmatic, life-enhancing place to encourage individuals on their own “spiritual journeys.” [Wait seems to have a point to make, so he dispenses with facts. He takes a subcategory of former Christians and makes them representative of all ex-Christians.]

This low view of doctrine and high view of personal spirituality is often the first step for those at the precipice of de-converting. They begin to frame the church and its teachings merely as products of a distant time and culture, irrelevant to one’s personal spiritual experiences. At best, such teachings help some express their faith (mostly people in the past); at worst, they are man-made rules and tools of manipulation and oppression.

….

If the church is to not only retain its members but also disciple them in everything Jesus commanded (Matt. 28:20), we must invite our members outside of their individual “spiritual journeys” and into the thrilling story of orthodoxy, where God is recreating and consecrating an entire people. We must show, in our teaching and worship and discipleship, how this bigger story is more beautiful and compelling than our individual subplots. Jake Meador says it well: “Any response to our moment that focuses more on the individual story of lost faith and less on a fairly dramatic shift in our approach to liturgy, catechesis, and repentance will be inadequate to the demands of the day.” 

To scrutinize and focus on an individual’s de-conversion story—only to ask “what happened to them?”—is to isolate their story from the community they are leaving. Our strategy must not be to dilute our doctrine or distill it to what’s culturally acceptable, nor should it be to downplay the importance of story. Rather, our strategy must be to recast the beauty of orthodoxy and catechesis—not just as concepts to be believed, but as truth to be lived, from one century to the next, by the storied people of God.

— Caleb Wait, The Gospel Coalition, A Common Denominator in De-Conversions, September 9, 2019

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7 Comments

  1. ObstacleChick

    In fundamentalist Christian school I was indoctrinated with catechism from Bob Jones University – I guess this guy would say it was the “wrong doctrine” or some such excuse for my eventual atheism. (By the way, as a kid I was freaked out that we were learning catechism because I thought catechism was a Catholic thing, and we good Baptists all knew that Catholicism was idolatry-based faux Christianity – but I wasn’t sure who I could ask without somehow getting into trouble).

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  2. Brunetto Latini

    What he’s maybe saying is that he is clinging to doctrine to keep himself engaged with the faith. And since it’s his newest pet method for doing so, he’s talking it up for everyone. I’ve done that enough in my life to think I can recognize it. It’s why I’ve spent an ungodly amount of money (that I wish I could recover) filling my bookshelves with theology books over the years.

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  3. Brian Vanderlip

    The main point this fine young Christian makes is that the message, the doctrine must not be diluted. Who could argue with that? Knock yourself out young fella! Buy up Brunetto’s library and disappear into it. Just stay well clear of me, thanks.

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  4. maryg

    wow, this kid is delusional. he is grasping at straws to figure out why his peers are moving on. late father in law was constantly spouting off about doctrine. in fact he used it to control and demean other church members into staying in his cult. all of us finally got out and he faded quickly. he spent his last years driving over an hour each way to a church he considered doctrinally pure. said church did not care when he got sick and passed. in fact they charged $400 facility fee and kept all meal leftovers for themselves at his memorial service. pastor also asked for a fee for the service and was not able to speak about his life or remember his name. he kept making jokes about not knowing his name until he finally quit talking. but mil insisted on having the service at their church. she still does not realize that no one there cares about her. what a bunch of phonies. I could go on but we found out thru experience that all this doctrine is just another way of making people feel like they are so special. especially when their beliefs are out of the mainstream.

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  5. fivehundredpoundpeep

    Damn I was really into doctrinal purity so much so I was KJv Only and didn’t celebrate Christmas and Easter because they were pagan and I had the endless useless waste of time arguments over “once saved always saved” and all that other doctrinal crap and it didn’t keep me in. I don’t believe in any of their doctrines now!

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  6. Trenton

    Doctrine is only a homeopathic drug, evidence would be a cure. Problem is too many homeopathic drugs for anything that ails your faith but not enough evidence to back up the drugs claims. Anyone shocked people are leaving in droves? Lets not forget that most younger Americans have had nothing but a bunch of advertisements thrown at them their whole lives now have the biggest bullshit detectors. Good luck getting them back unless they have been thoroughly indoctrinated beforehand. If he thinks doctrine is the best way to get people back, he is mistaken. We have heard it all before and no longer care.

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  7. Goyo

    Doctrine is the cure? I’m sure this guy is Protestant, right?
    Catholics have the most doctrine, in my opinion…following his thesis, he should be a catholic. They even have a name for it…magisterium!
    Caleb, are you Roman Catholic?

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