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Convenient Doctrines

Most people have wondered at times at the number of strange and contradictory doctrines that circle the globe in the name of God. Religion is a mass of conflicting statements, a jungle too dense for most educated people these days to even consider seeking refuge in it. As soon as we become smart enough to examine even two churches or religions side by side, we see enough contradictions to know that they cannot both be right. And by the time that we have been through three or four, a doubt begins to grow that any of them could be right.

We assume that each of these groups is filled with sincere people who all arrived at different conclusions. If that's what religious sincerity and faith in God are all about, then one is better off to stay right away from it. Such religion is no more reliable than one's imagination.

But hold on a minute! What if they are not sincere? What if each religion is peopled with seekers after lies rather than seekers after truth? And what if the real seekers after truth all quite naturally grow progressively closer to one another?

That's what this article seeks to show.

It doesn't take much spiritual enlightenment to know that we all have certain selfish instincts. It should therefore be easy to see that these selfish instincts are often going to get in the way of our search for truth. The biggest hindrance to our search for Perfect Truth is a tendency to set up camp around some half truth. And sometimes these half-truths are distorted in ways that are quite blatantly dishonest when examined dispassionately. You don't have to be a theologian to see that they have been turned into outright lies.

Let's take a non-religious example for starters, to show how it works. We said earlier that many non-religious people conclude that religion is pointless because there are so many different religions, and because they say so many contradictory things. But these people are doing exactly what the various religions are doing. They are making valid observations about the religions, but their conclusion is ludicrous.

You don't give up looking for gold just because there are so many worthless rocks in the ground. And you don't stop seeking truth just because there are so many lies. Otherwise, you become a part of the lies. So atheism and the arguments put forward to defend it, become for the most part as much a "convenience doctrine" as are those doctrines put forward by counterfeit believers. Our selfish nature finds it inconvenient to seek out an understanding of and a relationship with our Creator, so we invent convenient teachings that say He/She/It doesn't exist, or that He/She/It is not worth bothering with. Whatever smaller truths may be built into the ideology, it doesn't take a genius to see that the fundamental argument (that there is no Creator, or that the Creator can never be known) goes against all common sense in terms of causes and effects.

No one is stupid enough to believe that a bottle of Coke could just appear on a beach one morning as the result of a lot of natural coincidences (lightning storms, waves, wind, movements of rocks, etc.) which brought together paper, ink, glass, and plastic in just the right quantities and shapes to produce the bottle, at the same time that it brought together sugar, water, cola, and other ingredients in suitable quantities to fill the bottle just before the lid went on in a freaky little cyclone that sealed it tight. So why would anyone be stupid enough to believe that life, the universe, and everything made itself in the same way... just naturally? You want to know why people believe such stuff?

Convenience. Nothing more and nothing less. Just plain old simple convenience. People got tired of looking, and created a god in their own lazy, selfish image, and called it truth. Very convenient!

And that's exactly what each of these conflicting religions has done. To be sure, there are bits of truth in all of them, and there have probably been, over time, sincere people (or at least relatively sincere people) in all of them too. But the end result is still a convenient package. Parts of the package exist for the convenience of the founders, and parts of the package exist for the convenience of the followers. And Truth suffers from both forms of convenience.

Let's look a little more closely at so-called Christian doctrines. Would anyone in their right minds conclude after reading the New Testament that a fundamental reason for Jesus Christ coming to earth was to teach people how to become rich? Not spiritually rich, mind you, but dollars and cents rich, millionaire rich, filthy lucre rich. Yet that is one of the fastest growing and most widely spread teachings of so-called Christian denominations of all sorts today. Why? Because it's so incredibly convenient. It sells like hot cakes. It fills churches. And it fills the collection plates. There are little gems of truth in what the gurus of gold teach, but the overall message is a lie.

Would anyone reading the New Testament for the first time conclude that it was saying that people should stop trying to be good, because anyone who does so is guilty of trying to work their way to heaven? And would they conclude that God hates people trying to be good more than anything else? Of course not! And yet that teaching is even more widespread than the prosperity teaching. It, too, has some convenient proof texts to justify disobedience to anything else that the Bible teaches. But it is not the result of an honest attempt to understand what the Bible really does say. It's just a convenient doctrine for lazy, selfish people who don't want to be bothered with following the rules as Christ expressed them.

There are hundreds of other doctrines that operate in exactly the same way. Christ very clearly taught, for example, that divorced people should not remarry. Every married couple can see it. But it's not a convenient doctrine for divorced people. So they just see what they want to see, and hey presto! whole books are written to say that remarriage after divorce is just fine. And as the number of divorcees continues to grow today, whole denominations are adopting the books as yet another convenient doctrine.

Someone has said that you can prove anything by the Bible. You can't really. But you can pretend to prove anything by the Bible, and if what you are teaching is really appealing (read "convenient") people won't much care whether it is in the Bible or not. Any old pretext in the form of some obscure proof text will do. But it's not because you have proven anything. It's just because what you are teaching is "convenient".

Even in very minor doctrinal differences, people will invariably agree with whatever doctrine is being taught by the church closest to their home, the church they were born in, and/or the church that their husband or wife goes to. In other words, whichever church is most convenient. They will change their beliefs to suit the situation, rather than go to the trouble of changing their situation to conform with the truth. No wonder there is so much contradiction in religion!

A few of the many convenience doctrines that have grown up over the years are teachings about Sunday church meetings, Christmas and Easter celebrations, the infallibility of the Bible, worship of statues, and the secret rapture. None of these have more than a couple of twisted proof texts or warped pieces of logic to support the claim that they represent the will of God. And yet they persist, because they are convenient, and because they are popular.

So what does a genuine truth seeker do in the midst of all this? The answer is easy. You seek the truth. You will see bits of it in all religions. But keep seeking more. If you are really lucky, you may come across others who are also genuine truth seekers. But beware! Such people are extremely rare in today's world! As long as you both keep seeking truth, there will be amazing unity in your quest. But even then you must not let the convenience of your fellowship cause you to settle down or give up your search.

Truth is not an all or nothing thing. You don't have it one day and lose it the next. Neither do you lack it entirely one day and find it perfectly the next. Instead, you either grow closer and closer to perfect truth, or you slip slowly away. In the process of slipping away, it's easy to convince yourself that you're actually finding new truths. But examined more closely, you will see that these "new truths" will be just "convenience doctrines".

"Slipping away", for an individual, comes just as it does for the big organisations. A situation arises where you are faced with an uncomfortable truth about yourself. You either embrace the truth and do what you can to conform with it, or you invent a convenient doctrine which says you are right in your stubborn refusal to change. That doctrine becomes a spiritual noose that strangles any further spiritual growth. Oh, you'll still remember everything that you learned up to that point, and you'll be able to amaze and confuse lesser people with your apparent spirituality. But your own kinky little convenience doctrine will block you from any further movement toward Perfect Truth. And because Perfect Truth is God himself, and because he is a jealous God, he will not tolerate the false god of your convenient doctrine.

The answer for those who wish to find truth is to never stop seeking more truth, and never reject whatever truth you find. The more you do this, the more you will be able to see through the smoke screen of religion, to the perfect truth which lies on the other side. It won't be as easy as it is to find the counterfeits, but it will be infinitely more satisfying.

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