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When Doctrine Divides the People of God: An Evangelical Approach to Theological Diversity

, 2020
ISBN: 9781433567872


Digital list price: $19.99
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As evangelicals, we desire to be biblical—we want our doctrine to be rooted in the Bible, our lives to be guided by the Bible, and our disagreements to be resolved by the Bible. And yet, conflicts within our church communities continue to appear and seemingly multiply with time. Interpretations of the Bible and deeply held convictions often put Christians at odds. Encouraging us toward grace in disagreement and firmness in truth, Rhyne Putman reflects on how Christians can maintain the biblical call for unity despite having genuine disagreements.

Resource Experts
  • Encourage greater irenicism, humility, awareness, and wisdom
  • Examines how to show grace in disagreement and firmness in truth
  • Reflects on how Christians can maintain the biblical call for unity despite having genuine disagreements

Part 1: Why We Disagree About Doctrine

  • We Read Imperfectly: General Hermeneutics and the Clarity of Scripture
  • We Read Differently: The Contribution of Exegesis and Hermeneutics to Theological Diversity
  • We Reason Differently: The Role of Guesswork in Interpretation
  • We Feel Differently: The Role of Emotion in Theological Diversity
  • We Have Different Biases: Tradition, Belief, and Confirmation Bias

Part 2: What We Should Do About Doctrinal Disagreement

  • When Should We Change Our Minds? Insights from the Epistemology of Disagreement
  • When Should Doctrine Divide Us? On Theological Boundary-Making
  • How Then Shall We Disagree? Lessons from Whitefield and Wesley

Top Highlights

“To return to Haidt’s metaphor of tastes, it may very well be the case that we have certain emotional reactions that drive our reactions to different theological positions. But these reactions are not causes of belief; they are motives of belief trained by our minds and our wills. These moral and theological tastes are fed by choices of the mind and can be starved in the same manner. For this reason, the apostle Paul encouraged conscious dwelling or reflection on ‘excellent and praiseworthy’ things (see Phil. 4:8). Such thoughts free the believer from anxiety (v. 6) and fill him with peace and guard his heart and mind (v. 7).” (Page 142)

“Here, I will seek to answer two fundamental questions about theological diversity: First, how do Christ-followers with similar convictions about Scripture and the gospel come to such drastically different points of view in matters of faith and practice? Second, what should otherwise like-minded Christians do about the doctrines that divide them?” (Page 30)

“Rather, Bible readers should be aware of the ways in which their own motives and prejudices can keep them from a correct understanding of the Bible. Every follower of Jesus should practice a hermeneutic of submission that minimizes the role of self in interpretation and submits to the divine authority behind the text. In this way, we truly practice the authority of Scripture, by prayerfully acknowledging our weakness and asking God to correct our faulty or sinful assumptions about the content of Scripture.” (Page 56)

“Biblically speaking, ‘false doctrine’ is more than an incorrect propositional belief about some aspect of Christian doctrine. It is not a simple interpretive mistake; it is an act of volition that stems from spiritual immaturity, unbelief, arrogance, and illicit desire.” (Page 211)

Many have wondered how Christians who read the same Bible can come to such different conclusions about what it means. Rhyne Putman not only provides a thorough answer to that question; he also helps us live more peaceably and fruitfully amidst our differences. This helpful book will encourage Christians to hold their convictions with greater irenicism, humility, awareness, and wisdom.

—Gavin Ortlund, Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church of Ojai; author, Finding the Right Hills to Die On

With keen historical and philosophical insight, Rhyne Putman probes deeply the roots of Protestantism’s disputatious and division-making nature. He asks the right questions and addresses the roots of the problems that have prevented even evangelical Christians with a high view of Scripture from uniting in common causes for the sake of the gospel. Without diminishing or downplaying our differences and their consequences, he calls us to once more heed the call of Wesley in his famous ‘Catholic Spirit’ letter and reach across the theological divides and say ‘if your heart is as my heart, give me your hand’ in things we can do together for the sake of Christ. Here is a practical study of how to disagree in love, without becoming disagreeable, much less foes. Highly recommended!

—Ben Witherington III, Jean R. Amos Professor of New Testament for Doctrinal Studies, Asbury Theological Seminary

Rhyne Putman is one of the best Baptist theologians writing today, and he has given us a superb study on two themes central to Scripture: Christian unity and doctrinal diversity. Seldom have these topics been dealt with together in a more coherent way. This is an important book.

—Timothy George, Research Professor of Divinity, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University; general editor, Reformation Commentary on Scripture

In the Logos edition, this volume is enhanced by amazing functionality. Important terms link to dictionaries, encyclopedias, and a wealth of other resources in your digital library. Perform powerful searches to find exactly what you’re looking for. Take the discussion with you using tablet and mobile apps. With Logos Bible Software, the most efficient and comprehensive research tools are in one place, so you get the most out of your study.

Rhyne R. Putman (PhD, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary) is an associate professor of theology and culture at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, where he has served since 2010. He is the pastor of preaching and vision at First Baptist Church in Kenner, Louisiana, and has published multiple volumes and articles, such as The Method of Christian Theology and In Defense of Doctrine. Rhyne and his wife, Micah, currently reside in New Orleans together with their two children.


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    Digital list price: $19.99
    Save $4.00 (20%)