Different Understandings of
the Same Doctrine
NCW, January 1992
Q. How is it possible that two people can believe the same doctrine but have two totally different understandings of it?
A. Here you strike at the root of doctrinal controversy! Simply having a correct doctrine is not sufficient because doctrine is not simply the result of a mental process. I used to attend lectures at Oxford University given by professors of the Department of Theology. Some of them were intellectually quite brilliant and I found myself saying in my mind: "That's exactly right!" Yet when I tried to feel after the professor's spirit all I could find was a void.
The reason, or reasons, that two people can believe the same doctrine but have two totally different understandings is because one may be born again in the Holy Spirit, and the other one not. And then there are different degrees of being "born again". Now I know this from practical experience. I have watched as people intellectually reason their way through the scriptures constructing an intellectual edifice much as students are taught to construct theories on the basis of the Scientific Method. As a scientist myself I teach this method to my students. It is a method based on whether or not something is testable. If it is not testable in the laboratory then it is not a valid scientific theory.
As a materialistic approach to the quest of knowledge this method has much validity. It is also used by liberal theologians. In my experience it has some value in an intellectual study of the scriptures and of history, but is limited. It will not bring forth spiritusal fruits. That is why 99% of professors of theology remain unconverted.
The Christian must not only use his mind but he must also use his heart. He must be able to feel if something is right or wrong. But that approach also, as we know, is full of pitfalls, because, as the Bible teaches, the heart is most deceptive! There is a third ingredient that we must use, and that is, of course, the spirit.
You can't rationalise the Spirit. You cannot discern it with your mind or with your heart, but only with your spirit. And since we in the materialistic West are taught to primarily discern with reason and, to a lesser extent, with the heart, the discipline of discerning with the spirit is not automatically learned.
This "spiritual education" is given by God Himself through the application of the Holy Spirit. This spiritual discernment comes through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit of God. Once present, it quickens the mind to think in God's way, and the heart to feel in God's way. But before it is there thinking and feeling are necessarily patterned after the world.
Having said that, I am not saying that the natural mind is useless. One can, for example, study the scriptural accounts of the resurrection using the Socratic method  and conclude that the witnesses were not lying, and that the probability is overwhelming in favour of the accounts being true. But that is as far as the natural mind can go -- it can only come to a statistical conclusion -- a probable conclusion. Thereafter a leap of faith must be made. The investigator must say in his mind and in his heart: "I believe! And I will believe until I receive an unmistakable testimony from the Holy Spirit that it is absolutely true."
Now because the natural mind can only deal with probability, and because it is only the spirit that deals with absolute truth, the natural mind can be no more than a stepping stone. But once animated by the Spirit of God, the natural mind becomes the mind of God, having God's thoughts. The natural heart becomes God's heart, having God's feelings. And everyone who has been indwelt by the Holy Spirit will testify to you that God's thoughts and God's feelings are radically different to the thoughts and feelings of the natural mind and heart. Hence God told the prophet Isaiah that His thoughts and ways were not the same as man's. Needless to say this is not an instantaneous transformation but is usually a gradual process.
Another important thing to realise (because it is connected up with human security and pride) is that our inward theological buildings, based on human reason, are inevitably knocked down when the Holy Spirit comes. I had a dream recently in which I was standing in my "theological castle" which represented my view of everything. It was by the seashore and the tide was coming in. I hurriedly went around the building to see if it was strong enough to withstand the waves. I found two or three pillars holding up an important segment of the building that looked very weak indeed and I doubted they had the strength to resist the sea. I began hurriedly evacuating that part of the building feeling sure that it was about to tumble.
Well, the tide came in and those pillars gave way before the waves, and a part of my "theological building" came tumbling down. I was afraid that the whole building was finished but after the tide had gone out again I saw that it was only one wall that was affected. The rest of the building remained dry and intact. It turned out to be an "extra" wall that had been built some time ago so the sea didn't come into the house at all. It was the remains of my old "theological world" which I hadn't entirely dismantled. The sea of experience through the Holy Spirit did the job for me.
When new revelation comes along we start building new walls and rooms to accommodate the Spirit when it comes. There is usually a transition phase. I know of very few people who are able to knock down their old theological structures in one day. Usually there is a time whilst the new grows up alongside the old. This is often a time of confusion and great soul searching because the person knows that the two systems of thought are incompatible . It is often at this stage that people make the fatal mistake of believing that this confusion is a testimony from God that the old is right and the new wrong, when in fact the feelings engendered are simply the new system challenging our security. So much of "spiritual" testimony is simply the natural man reacting to change. And change we must if we are to receive God's mind and heart.
Change is painful but necessary. A special kind of person -- fearless and committed to seeking out the truth -- is needed to accept change. Having to change a theological position can provoke many reactions: embarrassment at having been wrong and therefore losing (real or imaginary) prestige in others' eyes -- this reaction always stems from pride. It can provoke desperation because we wonder if our previous years of believing a false system of thought have been a total waste of time and energy. And it can provoke a different kind of insecurity too, that of not knowing what the future holds. A false doctrinal system errects all kinds of gods in our minds which become our objects of worship -- our life's goals. When these are smashed we often find ourselves listless, not knowing where we are going. And that is a most uncomfortable feeling.
But being "open-ended" is, actually, not so bad after all, because it means that we must redefine our lives so that they take more account of reality. Once you realise that your goals are leading you down a dark alley that goes nowhere, you soon want to turn back and find reality. Illusion can only satisfy for so long, but in the end it leaves only emptiness.
Often you will find people accepting the revelations eagerly and then trying to "add" them onto their own existing theological system. But after a while they soon come to appreciate that this is not what the Lord wants at all. Coming into the New Covenant is not just adding a few more rooms onto our old spiritual houses but involves wholesale demolition of the old! When the Lord says we must be born again that's exactly what he means. All the old has to go out of the window so that the new can come in. That's not to say that many of the principles we previously believed in were wrong but rather that they have to be refitted into a completely different pattern or picture.
I recently bought a house, as some of you will know. Not so long ago the old cellar was converted into rooms and modernised. So the house is actually old on the top and new underneath. There is work that needs doing upstairs. Already there has been a leak in an old pipe that flooded the downstairs bathroom and ruined the ceiling. The upstairs french window also leaks and this has caused the downstairs french window to leak also. I have learned that unless the old is rennovated it will spoil the new.
So it is with our thoughts and feelings. You can't "add" the new onto the old. Jesus taught this when he said you can't put new wine into old wineskins. You can't put the Holy Spirit into an old theological house.
In a revelation received by Tommy Vågen not so long ago, the Lord uses a slightly different figurative picture where we are to be seen as cuttings from a tree. The old mental and emotional nourishment will not feed the new sapling and it must be transported into new soil. That means it must develop new roots, or new ways of receiving spiritual nourishment. The old roots are no good.
Recently an investigator got very upset with me over a particular doctrine and was quoting this scripture and that from the Covenants & Commandments. He was most upset when I came to a different conclusion to him since he believed the same scriptures as I did. He got extremely angry and started accusing me of priestcraft, arrogance, conceit, and many other things. As a result of seeing his behaviour I came to a sure testimony that he had not been born again in Christ, and that so long as he reasoned with his natural mind, he would never comprehend the revelations we both believed in. I have not seen him since and neither do I expect to, unless he comes to a spiritual vision and repents of his flesh-centredness.
God's true doctrine -- the doctrine that actually saves a soul -- is not received by mentally absorbing facts and principles from a piece of paper and storing them in one's mind. All the doctrine and all the teaching of this Church is quite meaningless in the eternal sense until one has been born again in the Lord Jesus Christ, having accepted Him as one's personal Saviour and committed one's self to life long service to Him. Doctrine is otherwise no more than mental titilation, a pleasant sensation in the head. It becomes no more than a series of intellectual propositions without life. And that is the flaw of so many Churches who insist the FIRST you must accept the doctrine. No, brethren and sisters, this is not the right way. We are NOT to go out into the world to convert people to a series of doctrinal beliefs. We are to go out into the world and convert people to the living reality of the Lord Jesus Christ and to get them to supernaturally receive and experience Him. Only THEN has doctrine any meaning -- only then has doctrine any purpose.
Having said that none should assume that they can forget doctrine altogether, that experience is the only important thing. Absolutely not. Jesus told His disciples that they had to know His doctrine. It is true, of course, that everyone needs to know some basic doctrine in order to be saved. People need to know that Jesus is the very and only Son of God and not just some good teacher or avatar. They need to know that He physicallt arose from the dead and that He promised the same physical resurrection to those who believe in Him. They need to know that God is a Personal Being, that He is approachable, that He is our Heavenly Father. People need to know a basic doctrine that will bring them into direct reletionship with Him. They need to know the doctrines of SALVATION as opposed to the doctrines of EXALTATION which come later. They need to know that Jesus is the one and only true Messiah before they start trying to figure out where or what His true Church is. There is an order or line of doctrinal progression which, if I may attempt to summarise it, would be something like this:
This is by no means an exhaustive list and could possibly be presented in other ways. The golden line that runs right through it is to be born in Christ and to stay in grace. Doctrine, as you will see, is interspersed in the life of a Christian, being an essential component of the Gospel, but it never supercedes the relationship every believer must have with God.
- 1. Find out what the doctrine of the person of Jesus is, which is basically summed up in the Apostles' Creed;
- 2. Accept Jesus as personal Saviour and get born again, entering into a personal relationship with Him;
- 3. Seek out God's Covenant People and the doctrine of the Church (its organisation, structure, priesthood, etc.);
- 4. Be baptised into the Church and be obedient to the ordinances thereof;
- 5. Seek the Church of the Firstborn and the doctrines of exaltation and be obedient to the ordinances of the Firstborn ordinances.
There will always be those who are attracted to us out of an intellectual curiosity but who have no intention of ever living the Gospel for itself. They don't really want to know about Christ but don't want to know Him because of the committment required. They don't want to be born again because it would mean having to lay aside the man of sin at the foot of the Cross of Calvary.
Then there will be those who are only partially committed, who will go so far, but then stop. They will either wander out of the Church or deliberately try to force the Church to change to their way of being. Such will always end up forced out of the Church, for with the same force they try to change the Church, they themselves will be forced out.
The restored Church of Jesus Christ has a perfect pattern. It has a functional organisation that, given sufficient numbers of workers, allows for every soul to be catered for. Since it understands human nature so well because of the hundreds of spiritual keys received through the revelations that have been incarnated in its ministry, who themselves have been through the fire, the Church is in a unique position to be a blessing to mankind. It doesn't focus on one or even several principles of the Gospel but on all of them. The map it gives the disciple is of a strait and narrow road. It begins broad but very rapidly narrows. It is the doctrine that narrows that road for it sets out very accurately what the path to salvation and exaltation is. The walk of a disciple is a bit like a funnel that narrows for each degree entered, of which there are thirty altogether. It is this perfect pattern which the New Covenant Church of God offers Christianity.
 The method used by lawyers
 In the New Covenant Church this spiritual reeducation takes place in what are called Priesthood Cycles. The changeover from our old thinking to the new usually requires a good four years (assuming the candidate is true to his covenants). It is during this "Zadokian Cycle" that the new theological house is errected alongside the old and the old is progressively knocked down in the light of experience in the Holy Spirit. By the time the disciple has come to the veil that divides the Zadokian from the Enochian Priesthood Orders the old structures are gone and the new soiritual house is firmly in place. The disciple then enters the "Enochian Cycle" which usually lasts seven years (if he is true to his covenants) in which his spiritual house is built up in the Lord and he is able to approach the Patriarchal Veil. He thereafter commences the last part of his journey which is into the very presence of the Father (a journey of up to 12 years).
This page was created on 5 July 1998
Last updated on 5 July 1998
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