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It seems that anyone who is sincere would be thrilled to hear that they can live by faith the way the early Christians did. Yet we have told millions of people that they can, with hardly any response. Are all these people insincere?

Maybe. But maybe we're just not speaking their language. Maybe we are not getting through their dogmas.

Dogmas are beliefs that people never think to question, which may affect their thinking on other issues as well. If we do not approach people in accordance with their dogmas, they may never hear us.

People spend their lives building on particular dogmas. The dogmas often cannot be changed without tearing down the whole "building". So let's examine a few dogmas.

An almost universal dogma is the "You can't live without money" one. It takes incredible effort to get people to even question it.

There are a lot of religious dogmas. Take water baptism for instance. If your dogma says people who are water baptised are the good guys and people who are not are the bad guys, then there is no way that you are going to risk eternal hellfire to listen to someone like ourselves ask questions about whether it was really water that Jesus wanted us to baptise people with and not God's Spirit.

What makes some dogmas so popular is the way they act as a blanket protection against such a wide range of uncomfortable thoughts. The "Don't judge" dogma is one of the best in this area. (Except that no one who preaches it ever really practices it.) You just don't allow yourself to think anything through to a firm conclusion, because you don't want to "judge".

The "anointed leader" dogma is another popular religious dogma. People who have been steeped in it will not listen to anything unless it comes with a stamp of approval from their leader.

The Bible supports loyalty to leaders, and even in our own group we don't take kindly to people knocking our leaders. But when this belief is followed blindly, the leader(s) replace(s) Jesus. People start believing that they will never be deceived if they follow their leaders, and that they'll always be deceived if they follow their conscience.

If we dare to say, "Your pastor might be wrong," the followers see only two options (loyalty vs rebellion), so you can guess where they'll think we are coming from.

Leaders, too, suffer spiritually from this dogma. By labelling themselves God's anointed leaders, they learn to see all opponents as God's opponents. So when someone with a genuine criticism or suggestion comes along, that person is still seen as an enemy.

Are dogmas just excuses from insincere people? If not, why doesn't God open their ears so that they can hear the truth beyond their dogmas? Unfortunately, we don't have easy answers to either of these questions. Until we do, we must do everything we can to understand each dogma and the reasoning behind it, and then to manoeuvre around it.

(See also Convenient Doctrines, Shibboleths, and System Worship.)

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