Doctrines of Men

My pastor recently cleared up the meaning of II Thessalonians 2:15, which somewhat confused me even though I knew it wasn't a license for pastors to make up their own doctrine. Paul told the Thessalonians to "hold the traditions which [they had] been taught, whether by word, or [their] epistle." "Tradition" here has a broader meaning that includes biblical laws. Some of God's commandments were verbally given to the early Christians, and some were written in letters that became books of the Bible, such as Paul's second letter to the Thessalonians. Even though they're called traditions here, these laws are from God.

Other Scriptures clearly confirm that II Thessalonians 2:15 doesn't give pastors the authority to treat man-made standards as biblical doctrine. The Bible forbids anyone to add to God's commandments (Deut. 4:2), and Jesus condemned the Pharisees for "teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Mark 7:7). There are people who, when asked a question about whether or not a behavior or practice is permitted by God, will tell the person to ask his or her pastor what to do. Never mind that the Bible alone should tell us how to live. Sure, pastors rightly give advice on an individual basis regarding some things, but what they say about doctrine should come for the Bible alone.

Facial hair is a topic I've written about before, but I'll bring it up again here. In certain cultures, particularly in America during the 1960s, facial hair was associated with rebellion. Therefore some very judgmental and ignorant pastors actually preach against it. News flash, personal opinion in a certain age or culture does not sway God's views on what is and isn't sinful! Considering Jesus had a beard (Isa. 50:6), I'd say it's borderline blasphemy to teach that facial hair is sinful. If Jesus returned today with a beard as He did during His first coming, would they reject Him? Just as ignorant as the ones who preach against facial hair are people who expect men to have it. They allege that clean-shaven men look feminine and might even question their sexuality. Both views are radical and unbiblical.

I think I've already made a good case for why II Thessalonians 2:15 doesn't give pastors the right to enforce standards based on their personal views, but I'd still like you to think about the chaos it could cause if pastors did have that authority. There would be mass confusion due to different churches teaching different doctrines. Where's the unity in that? And what about when the doctrines of different churches contradict each other? Getting back to facial hair, men in some churches are told they need facial hair to look heterosexual, while they are forbidden to have it in another church where it's seen as rebellious. All true Christians, no matter what church they attend, need to look to the Bible alone for doctrine.

There should be no disunity among Christians due to conflict between churches. It's something Paul addressed in his first letter to the Corinthians, telling them they "all speak the same thing, and that there [should] be no divisions among [them]; but that [they] be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." (I Cor. 1:10). That can only be achieved if pastors stick to the Bible alone when teaching doctrine. No one has the authority to teach doctrine that isn't derived from the Bible.

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