Is error in doctrine always sin?

This is how Tim Challies started a blog post a couple of months ago, and it captured my attention. 

When we first started attending our church, and first came to understand, and agree with Reformed teaching; I found myself to be a complete zealot.  I KNEW that what I believed was an absolute truth, and any wavering from that doctrine was false, and if it wasn’t sinful, it was definitely leading someone down the path.  I was constantly arguing with friends who believed a few things different from me.  I browbeat people with scripture and old Spurgeon and Luther quotes.  I think I actually enjoyed it.  It made me feel superior, it made me feel special, as if I had been revealed some secret knowledge that others weren’t privy to. 

Over the years, though, as I’ve matured in my faith, I’ve been able to have a much better understanding of God’s grace for his people.  Don’t get me wrong, I still believe all that Calvinist (“TULIP”) doctrine, I do believe it is correct theology.  But, I am also much more humble in that belief.  After all, as any good Calvinist would say, whatever grace God has lavished upon me, I have done absolutely nothing to deserve it, and in fact deserve eternal separation from him.  So, how can I be proud of that? 

Someone actually said to me recently, that I may be too lenient towards some in my acquaintance that believe some slightly different secondary doctrine.  How awesome is that?  Maybe I’m not so much of a jerk anymore…well, that might be going too far!  At the very least though, God has worked some subtle changes in my heart and for that I’m thankful. 

As for that Challies post, here’s some of his analysis:

Now it is obvious that there are times when differences in doctrine reflect sin. A person who preaches that Jesus Christ is something other than divine is teaching an awful and divisive heresy and that error is sinful, pure and simple. A person who teaches that homosexuality is a legitimate lifestyle that the Bible condones is likewise teaching grievous error and error that can be easily proven so from the Bible. But what happens when the error deals with issues of lesser consequence? What happens when one teacher preaches a sermon defending the baptism of believers while another preaches a sermon defending the baptism of children? Obviously one of the two men must be wrong. But is one of them being sinful in teaching what is wrong? Or think of an issue like eschatology where two very fine and godly men may have completely different understandings of the end times. When they teach their differing conclusions, is one of them actually being sinful?

He has identified three principles that he believes are useful when thinking about this subject.  Please click over to his site to check them out.  Maybe they’ll be helpful to you too.

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1 Response to “Is error in doctrine always sin?”


  1. 1 Chris June 19, 2010 at 6:28 PM

    I agree with this post as I too used to be a zealot for perfect righteousness.

    The crazy thing is that I knew that I was not perfect, but i felt as if I was working it out harder than others. I looked to hard at the teacher James when he said,

    “But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.”

    I felt like this was my licence to try hard and to look down at others who did not try as hard as me.

    I should have looked harder at the words of the Paul when he reminds us that,”

    For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-

    God is awesome for what he gives to us, and then works through us.


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