Paul addresses his famous three “Lookouts” or “Bewares” in Philippians 3. The reference is likely to Judaizers; those who pollute the law of Yahweh and make the commandments of God unbearable and burdensome. But something else came to my attention as I thought about this text in light of my experiences in Reformedom. And that is that we have built a haven for dogmatic dogs. These dogs are well within the pale of orthodoxy. Their creedal credentials are not at stake. What is at stake is what they add to their creedal credentials.
Let me be honest. I love a good dose of postmillennial, paedo-life, psalmic, and predestinarian theology for breakfast…and lunch, and supper. So I am not discouraging the pursuit and passionate embrace of these doctrines. At the same time, there are some who wear these as fervently as St. Nick’s commitment to the deity of Christ witnessed by many when he slapped a heretic over it. These dogmatic dogs would receive the same rebuke from Paul today. In those days, they would have been wearing their Apollos t-shirts to the marketplace. And here is where things get messy: they truly believe they have a high calling to be apologists for the kingdom of God–that really small faction that intends to take over the world one blog post at a time.
Ladies, watch out!
I love the idea and the application of courtships in my congregation and elsewhere. But what needs to be included in this courtship process is not just whether a young man loves Jesus or contemplates deeply the mysteries of God, but whether this young man contemplates unity as the foundation for loving Jesus and understanding the mysteries of God.
Dogmatic Dogs don’t want unity. They perpetuate the myth that unity is for ecumenical liberals. Their strong and rhetorical vision for a united Christendom involves dogs that bark just like them. Ladies, look out! These are the types of men who will go from job to job, and if they are pursuing pastoral ministry they will go from church to church.
If you are a young lady contemplating sacred marriage and a young man has asked your father permission to court you and get to know you, here are some questions to ponder:
First, what is his on-line track record? Is he known as a contentious dog barking everywhere only to get the world to see his point of view?
Second, is he so dogmatic that his parents–who happen to be on opposite ends theologically–cannot bear to hear the words “theology” or “God” for fear of the conversation that will ensue?
Third, does he have friends from different theological traditions? If not, press him on why not?
Fourth, does he only read 16th century authors? Does he think contemporary theological writing is corrupt?
Fifth, is he able to teach you the Bible without making you feel like a theological infant?
Sixth, has he ever read a story? Tolkien, Lewis, McDonald, Rowling? Or are Systematic Theologies his favorite past time?
Seventh, can he engage in any other type of conversation outside theology? I know, I know, all of life is theological, but you get my point.
Eighth, does he consider human emotions a sign of weakness?
Ninth, does he honor and submit to his pastor when he receives counsel? Or does he always think he has a better way?
Finally, how does he worship? Does he treasure gathering with the saints? Does he treasure singing, feasting, loving, submitting, serving, and sacrificing for the saints?
Ladies, watch out for the dogmatic dogs! There is always the possibility they will see the errors of their own ways and change when they get married, but don’t count on it. Pray that they are able to show you a gentle dogmatism that translates to love, patience, and mercy to fellow brothers and sisters before marriage. Pray that they will repent of their vicious dogmatism and re-orient their words and actions to benefit the body and the unity of the saints. If we treasure our Christian faith, we may have at times failed to answer these questions rightly at one time or another, but the real question is whether we have learned to make our dogma attractive, rather than repulsive.