Monday, March 12, 2012

"Doctrine" Does Not Equal "Truth"

I have learned through the totality of my experiences, in all aspects of my life, that rules, commandments, laws, doctrine, etc. are absoltuley necessary for group survival - but also that they only can be general guidelines that apply to the majority of the people in the group. Often, they apply to the VAST majority - even 99+% in some cases, but, still, they are generalities - not absolutes.  (I believe that conclusion is supported fully by our canonized scriptures.) 

The danger in this recognition is that it is easy after that realization to start rationalizing one's superiority to the rules, commandments, laws and doctrine. There is a fundamental place in any organization / group for sacrifice of self-determined individual idealism for the practical good of the collective whole. Many rules, commandments, laws and doctrines are true, good and right for the community without having to be so for every individual if s/he were isolated from that community. It is a truism in the legal world that nobody can set themselves above the law - but it also says in Romans 2:14 that those who don't know the law but live the spirit of it anyway become a "law unto themselves". Even without "doctrine", those who live righteously can become "doctrine unto themselves". Again, however, the danger is that this recognition can lead people to cut themselves off and/or set themselves apart from the community that in all other ways can provide tremendous blessings. 

Therefore, to me, "doctrine" is whatever the prevailing wisdom outlines as the best collective vision for the group at the time. I simply don't equate "doctrine" always with "truth" - and that makes all the difference to me. In the end, I'm willing to accept a lot of "group doctrine" that doesn't match my own "individual understanding" - for two reasons:

1) My own understanding might be wrong, so I like to keep an open-mind;

2) I don't live alone. What works for the group (my tribe, if you will) is very important - and I have a social and familial responsibility to support and care for and protect my tribe. I won't do so in ways that I feel are destructive (careful choice of words) to others outside my tribe, but I will do so in ways that others might not understand easily.  

Much of life is a balancing act of competing demands - a practical application of the idea that there MUST be opposition in ALL things. I think that applies to "doctrine" as well - and that only can be if doctrine does not equal Truth.

I'm totally fine with that.


chococatania said...

I love this because I have experienced it to a degree. Often, people say that If you go to the temple or pray often with your spouse, then your marriage will stay intact. While it is great advice - to go to the temple, it doesn't guarantee that both parties are going worthily. We can't be guaranteed that going to the temple will "save" our marriage.

Instead, I think that we have to look at the doctrine, and then the truth that backs it up.

If I attend the temple often - with or without my spouse, and I'm attending there with an honest heart, learning, and open to the Spirit, then the Lord won't fail me. Even if my marriage does fail me, I am not left alone. I have the Lord's promise still.

Yes, temple attendance, prayer, and the many other things that we are encouraged to do will help safeguard us from problems, but the only thing that will not fail is Christ's pure love.

Anyways - this is just my initial reaction to your post. Thanks.

Howard said...

I love these deconflating posts they help put things in perspective.

Bonnie said...

EXACTLY! I was thinking along these lines too over at my blog
For me, truth is the dark matter between the things we can see and control, and it tends to come when we're DOING something, especially something hard. I suppose that is why the principle of sacrifice is so deeply entwined into our doctrine. So glad I found your thoughts.

Richard Alger said...