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UM Church Leader Takes Public Stands For Christian Faith and Methodist Doctrine

Sound Doctrine for the Church

American Methodism was built on the foundation of sound theology and doctrine. The Christmas Conference of 1784, where our denomination was organized, proclaimed its purpose "to reform the nation and to spread scriptural holiness throughout the land." It adopted as its doctrine the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England, though abbreviated and revised and reduced to twenty-five articles, and it embraced Wesley's General Rules, plus the theology of the first four councils of the Christian Church, which established the doctrine of the Trinity and proclaimed the divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ. The successors of the church launched in 1784 have since then been directed by the General Conferences to be true to the teachings of the church. More importantly, we are to be true to Scripture. It is not a book of human composition but God's book and a gift to us for our instruction here and for our blessedness in heaven. Therefore, we are not to change one thing in it to try to make it conform to some human interest or comfort. We are to receive it as it is written and to be instructed by it in the ways of God. St. Augustine warned against juggling and misusing Scripture to suit one's own view of the world and the spirit. He said, "If you believe what you like in the Gospel and reject what you dislike, it is not the Gospel you believe but yourselves."

Because theological speculation is interesting, some have neglected the well-established system of Christian doctrine based upon the divine revelation recorded in Scripture. They prefer a more human-centered theology, which provides no basis for redemption through the merits and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Theological teaching and preaching is not an intellectual game to be carried on for its own sake and for mental stimulation and entertainment. Our task as teachers and preachers is to train persons to be effective Christian witnesses. Our ultimate business is always the salvation of souls and the deepening of the spiritual life. The leadership of the local church must always be on alert and ready to intercede should there occur in it the teaching of a confused, reduced and un-evangelical theology. The traditional and Scriptural system of theology, which we have, form the appropriate intellectual substratum for spiritual experience and vital Christian devotion. Let us be careful never to countenance a reduced and emasculated theology and vague Christianized humanism.

Granted, there are orthodox matters in which not all evangelical Christians are agreed. e.g., the doctrine of predestination and the precise manner of the Lord's Second Advent. But our people should be encouraged to study the Scripture along with the scholars, see what is written in the Bible and what is the most reasoned exposition of Scripture. Fortunately, the fathers and mothers of Methodism have enabled us by explicating reasonable positions in such matters, and, as United Methodists, we should honor those positions or find a Christian fellowship more congenial to our individual consciences. I am aware of a United Methodist Church in another area of our conference, which asked for a pastor whose theology would accommodate the diluted and adulterated theology of a part of its influential leadership. Personally, I opposed the very idea of such an appointment. For me, I am at home within the historic, balanced, reliable and Scriptural tradition of our connection. I am uncomfortable with doctrinal pluralism, and, personally, view it as a threat and a danger to the life of our denomination.

Vance B. Mathis, D. Min.
District Superintendent Thomasville District
South Georgia Annual Conference

This originally appeared in the September Thomasville District News Letter


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