Can doctrine be considered to be an idol? Probably not but when one considers how various people treat 'their' doctrines, it really is not that difficult to see doctrine as an idol. Put another way, when people make Salvation dependent upon theology, Salvation by faith through the grace of God is nullified, and replaced with a 'Salvation through theology'.
When one puts their faith in, relies upon, trusts in, believes in, adheres to and worships something other than God himself, they are putting their trust in idols or false gods.
We have probably all encountered street preachers who call for us to repent and be saved but have you ever tried to tell one that you are 'saved'? Invariably the preacher will begin to question your foundational doctrines. They most probably mean well, but at the end of the day, what they are doing is trying to find some point of doctrinal difference that will disqualify you from receiving the grace of God.
Take the issue of baptism for instance. There are those who baptize infants; those who baptize adults by sprinkling water on their heads; those who baptize by full immersion in water; those who baptize in the name of the Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit; and of course those who Baptize in the name of Jesus only.
One wonders how a 'new convert' feels when confronted by someone who says 'but you have not been baptized correctly so you are not really saved'.
A person can come to Christ, repent of their sins, believe that Jesus is their Lord and Savior, and then be told by someone worshipping theology that all that counts for nothing because some 'essential step' has been left out.
There are those who believe in the 'Pentecostal blessing' of speaking in tongues, who will tell you that if you don't speak in tongues that you are not saved. There are those who will say that if you spoke in tongues before you were water baptized then you really did not receive the Spirit of God. And of course there are those who say that if you speak in tongues you are possessed of a devil.
I remember when I was much younger, encountering those who said that if you wore makeup, danced, went to movies, played cards, drank alcohol, smoked cigarettes, cussed or engaged in any form of gambling then you weren't saved.
I remember as a child those who said that only Roman Catholics would go to heaven and those who said Roman Catholics were idolaters who wouldn't go to heaven.
There are those who say that you must go to church on Saturday or else go to hell!
There was a time in my life when I often heard people say that it was not good enough to go to church on Sunday, you also had to attend the Wednesday night bible study AND the Friday night prayer meeting.
I have met many a distressed convert who has been told that in one way or another, they don't measure up; their salvation is not legitimate or worse, that they have lost their salvation and all because they did not receive some person's 'doctrinal approval'.
For many, even if doctrinally they could never accept it as true, their doctrine of Salvation is one of 'Salvation by Theology'.
From the very beginning of the Christian Church, there have been many doctrinal disputes and many councils have met to sort through all the problems. From Day one to today two thousand years later, groups of people have differed doctrinally whilst all claiming to follow Christ in accordance with the Scriptures.
But we must remember the basic truth of Scripture....
God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. -- Ephesians 2:4-10
When people do their utmost to live their lives uprightly within the parameters of the doctrines that they have received, and they do this with full faith in the Person and Work of Christ, who then are we to deny them Salvation? Who are we to limit their salvation to doctrinal beliefs?
When we put 'Doctrine' before 'The Grace, Spirit and Power of God', we rob God of his Divinity and set up a new god - an idol called 'Doctrine'.
Recently I was sent 'a joke' about Heaven but it is not perhaps a joke. Let me share it with you.
I was shocked, confused, bewildered
As I entered Heaven's door,
Not by the beauty of it all,
Nor the lights or its decor.
But it was the folks in Heaven
Who made me sputter and gasp--
The thieves, the liars, the sinners,
The alcoholics and the trash.
There stood the kid from seventh grade
Who swiped my lunch money twice.
Next to him was my old neighbor
Who never said anything nice.
Bob, who I always thought
Was rotting away in hell,
Was sitting pretty on cloud nine,
Looking incredibly well.
I nudged Jesus, 'What's the deal?
I would love to hear Your take.
How'd all these sinners get up here?
God must've made a mistake.
'And why is everyone so quiet,
So somber - give me a clue.'
'Hush, child,' He said,
'they're all in shock.
No one thought they'd be seeing you.'
Those who replace the glorious work of Christ as the basis for salvation, with a doctrine of 'theological works' may one day find themselves at a destination at which they never thought to arrive.
Hebrews 12:1,2 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Isaiah 28:13 But the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.
Hebrews 13:9-17 Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; ... We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle. By him (Christ) therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.
M. Wallace Johnson
Articles by M. Wallace Johnson
Introducing M. Wallace Johnson
Holy, Wholly or Holey SERIES
Idols in Ministry SERIES