In Matthew 15, Jesus denounced the religious for upholding practices that were obstacles to obeying the Bible. When Jesus saw the intense focus of the traditional mindset, this proved to him that their hearts were "far from God." With so many people stating that they stand apart from one group due to doctrine issues, or stay with another group since the dividing issues are only a matter of opinion, there is a need to help identify the difference between the two. What are some questions to ask when trying to identify if an opinion is hindering doctrine? -- Dave & A. Lee

If I understand the question correctly, you are looking for a way to distinguish harmful doctrines--where human opinion hinders biblical obedience. In Matthew 15, it is not the principle of financial giving to the Temple which Jesus repudiates, rather the mindset which allows this to replace loving service to one's parents. Here are two questions I might ask if I were evaluating a practice or tradition:

* Does the emphasis placed on this doctrine/practice jibe with the relative stress placed on it in the New Testament? For example, many churches heavily stress evangelism. While this is vital to the Holy Spirit and the very future of the church of Christ, the N.T. scriptures themselves place relatively little emphasis on evangelism. Look through the letters; in 21 epistles there are only a handful of verses on evangelism, but many on grace, holiness, and relationships. Love of neighbor, on the other hand, is a more basic and primary emphasis, and will naturally lead us to share the gospel with others. Yet if we misplace the emphasis, a "checklist" mentality easily develops.

* Are church members being evaluated as to their spirituality--or even their salvation--on the basis of how faithfully they are living up to the human standard? For example, if someone is giving less than 10% of his gross income to the church, is he made to feel selfish, or even vilified as a non-believer? (This has happened throughout church history.) While the N.T. emphasizes sacrificial, joyful giving, nowhere is a precise amount specified. We need to look at the heart, not just outward observance.

Eleven years later a brother asked a question related to this entry. It's Q&A 1358.

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