Does Doctrine Matter?

Or are conflicting and contradictory doctrines acceptable within the church?

Non-Catholics, what say you?

Yes, until the Church rules definitively. Until December 8, 1854, for example, you could hold that Mary was conceived with original sin but redeemed immediately, as Aquinas held in the 1200s, or that she was redeemed at conception, as Scotus held in the same era. Now you can’t, because the Church ruled definitively that she was redeemed in the act of being conceived. On the other hand, while you must hold (since 1950) that Mary was assumed in to heaven, you are nevertheless free to believe that she died first, or that she was taken alive.

Yes. Me being Lutheran means something, as does you being Catholic. If doctrine didn’t matter, why would there be any point to having denominational divisions? Furthermore, any good theology will have been refined to a coherent system of logically consistent doctrines. This is not to say that paradox (mystery) doesn’t exist, but that theology will find and elucidate them. So no, truly confusing, contradictory, etc. theology is bad. Very bad.
In Christ,

I think Apollos interpreted your question differently, although not necessarily incorrectly.

A doctrine is a teaching; a dogma is “a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority [e.g., the Catholic Church] as incontrovertibly true” (New Oxford American Dictionary). Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., would say that both true doctrine and dogma cannot evolve such that, e.g., a doctrine or dogma today would contradict a doctrine or dogma from, e.g., the era of the Council of Trent. Contrarily, theologians of the “Nouvelle Théologie” (“New Theology”) like Fr. Henri Boulliard, who believe doctrines should evolve, says:

Since spirit evolves, an unchanging truth can only maintain itself by virtue of a simultaneous and co-relative evolution of all ideas, each proportionate to the other. A theology which is not current will be a false theology. (quoted in Garrigou-Lagrange’s excellent article “Where is the New Theology Leading Us?”)

Pope Pius XII’s encyclical Humani Generis, as quoted in Garrigou-Lagrange’s “The structure of the encyclical ‘Humani Generis’”, refutes this by noting that:

It is evident from what We have already said, that such tentatives [e.g., “that the mysteries of faith are never expressed by truly adequate concepts but only by approximate and ever changeable notions, in which the truth is to some extent expressed, but is necessarily distorted” or “that the history of dogmas consists in the reporting of the various forms in which revealed truth has been clothed, forms that have succeeded one another in accordance with the different teachings and opinions that have arisen over the course of the centuries”] not only lead to what they [e.g., the “New Theology” theologians] call dogmatic relativism, but that they actually contain it. The contempt of doctrine commonly taught and of the terms in which it is expressed strongly favor it… [T]he things that have been composed through common effort by Catholic teachers over the course of the centuries to bring about some understanding of dogma are certainly not based on any such weak foundation. These things are based on principles and notions deduced from a true knowledge of created things. In the process of deducing, this knowledge, like a star, gave enlightenment to the human mind through the Church. Hence it is not astonishing that some of these notions have not only been used by the Ecumenical Councils, but even sanctioned by them, so that it is wrong to depart from them. Hence to neglect, or to reject, or to devalue so many and such great resources which have been conceived, expressed and perfected so often by the age-old work of men endowed with no common talent and holiness, working under the vigilant supervision of the holy magisterium and with the light and leadership of the Holy Ghost in order to state the truths of the faith ever more accurately, to do this so that these things may be replaced by conjectural notions and by some formless and unstable tenets of a new philosophy, tenets which, like the flowers of the field, are in existence today and die tomorrow; this is supreme imprudence and something that would make dogma itself a reed shaken by the wind. The contempt for terms and notions habitually used by scholastic theologians leads of itself to the weakening of what they call speculative theology, a discipline which these men consider devoid of true certitude because it is based on theological reasoning.

Hopefully I have been clear in answering your excellent question about whether doctrine matters. It does matter, and contradictory doctrines endorsed by the teaching authority of the Church are unacceptable. Since objective truth exists (“Truth cannot contradict truth!”), contrary doctrines would lead to dogmatic relativism.

I suggest reading Humani Generis in its entirety; it is a very good encyclical.

yes doctrines matter.

how much diversity is acceptable in the Catholic Church depends on the individual issue. Hope this helps.

I’m bringing in this discussion from this thread because it is on the topic of the OP. Hope y’all don’t mind. :slight_smile:

I’d like to hear how EWTN is “bigoted” in your opinion. Is it “bigotry” to point out that a Protestant church teaches an unbiblical doctrine?

This morning (early) I was watching as some Catholic historian was giving a strongly biased (distorted) interpretation of medieval and Reformation-era history.

Well, the facts are that the Protestants started a bunch of wars. You hail from a country that is a daughter of Great Britain; the British version of history taught there is Protestant and so you missed out on a lot of the evidence.

The bitterness toward Protestantism seems so deep on EWTN that it drives people like me away, people firmly committed to ecumenical, pan-Christian unity.

I’m afraid that ecumenism as you imagine it will work only if doctrines do not matter, when the Bible says in no uncertain terms that they do:

[BIBLEDRB]2 Thessalonians 3:6[/BIBLEDRB]

** As you can probably see, I’ve had a big problem with Catholicism because of what seems to be its narrowness.** I find few Catholics reflect this attitude. They seem pleased to work together with Protestants without assailing their faith. They embrace the idea of agreeing to disagree. I embrace that same idea.

Is the Bible a “narrow” book because it says women are to be subordinate to men in ministry; marriage is to be between a man and a woman; abortion and contraception are evil; etc.?

** It strikes me that there is a war on for the Catholic soul**.There are those who insist that it continue on, quoting ancient and medieval writers and papal encyclicals as though these are authoritative forever.

The Bible is an ancient writing; is it not authoritative forever?

I’ve read many of these same tomes and pronouncements and many of them belong to another age.

Is the Bible one of them? If not, why do you treat the Bible as special versus all of the “ancient and medieval writers?”

The church needs to move on in light of new knowledge and discoveries. Otherwise it will increasingly become a relic of the past and someday will be regarded much as we now regard astrology.

New discoveries such as what? Science? The Catholic Church invented that. The Big Bang? That was discovered by a Catholic priest.

The Catholic Church has been here for 2,000 years and she isn’t going anywhere.

** As for disputing church membership **and such, both Catholicism and Protestantism are under attack and we are wasting our energy by battling one another. I returned to my grandparents’ birthplace in Quebec this past summer. The large Catholic church there, which used to dominate, is now up for sale. Only a few old people were attending mass. I was reading not long ago that the Catholic population in Connecticut has dropped from 47% to 38% over the past few years. When in France and Italy not long ago, I found churches nearly empty for mass, though the situation was somewhat better in Ireland and much better in Poland. But even in those two countries Catholicism has lost much of its clout.

The Church is growing worldwide.

Not long ago Spain voted to permit same-sex marriage!

Is that a good thing or a bad thing? By answering either way you are asserting doctrine.

Of course doctrine matters, both in Catholicism and Protestantism. Often, it is doctrinal difference which result in the creation of new denominations.

There is something even more important which is the foundation called love. Does doctrine matter? Yes. But more important even is that love be present.

How does Love relate to Doctrine mattering [or not]?


It was just a remainder of something even more important than doctrine.

Good doctrine devoid of love is useless for it lacks the good foundation.


Nothing is more important than loving Jesus. But He says that if you love Him you will keep His commandments. If you knowingly disobey Him then you do not love Him.

And of course the importance of Love is a doctrine of the Church. So which came first the Doctrine or the Love? :smiley:

First define “doctrine”.

The commandments of the Lord and of His Apostles and of their successors.

Doctrine - any truth taught by the Church as necessary for acceptance by the faithful.

Therefore doctrine is the one that puts love in action, but there first must be love, doesn’t it?

[FONT=Arial]I don’t know, how does one know what constitutes love without doctrine? i.e. Until God reveals what constitutes good and bad, how do we know if our actions are loving?

To use a biblical example Eve giving Adam the fruit would appear to me to be a loving act absent the “doctrine” that it was forbidden that made it a sinful act.


If you truly love someone you will marry him/her. In so doing you will take on certain obligations, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.

The same is true of your relationship with Jesus Christ. The Church is His Bride.

There has to be a reasonable answer to this question. Here is one answer, which I hope is reasonable.

 **Some Christians, certainly 'orthodox Catholics'. put a great deal of emphasis upon correct doctrine.** Who sets that doctrine? The magisterium, of course. Now, if you believe that the magisterium can make no mistakes, that the Holy Spirit will keep it from error, that makes it easy. Just follow the catechism and you're absolutely right. Your beliefs reflect the will of God.

** Now, there are an increasingly number of Christians, among them millions of mass-going Catholics, who hold a different view.** They love the church, may attend church every weekend, share in the sacraments of the church, etc. But they have come to the point of doubting or even rejecting some basic teachings of the church. For example, I saw a poll - I believe it was in US Catholic, one of my favorite magazines - that found that 43% of US Catholics do not believe in transubstantiation. No small matter since that is a cornerstone of the faith.

 **Evangelical Protestants generally** seem to have the same mindset as orthodox Catholics. There is one absolute truth and they have found it - in the Bible, in their case. That has led, of course, to countless evangelical denominations. 

 **Millions of mainstream Protestants** have a mindset like that of a growing number of Catholics. They can respect those who believe in a traditional fashion, but they can't do that honestly themselves. 

** In the case of these Protestants,** their churches - Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, United Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, some Lutherans, etc. - usually practice an 'open Christianity'. In a few words, you are welcome into the fellowship, whatever your doubts and misgivings, as long as you sincerely seek to love God and love one another. 

** As for such doctrinal and/or scriptural questions **as the sinless life of Mary, the story of Jesus transferring demons into pigs which then rushed into the sea, Noah and the ark, God commanding Joshua to murder the inhabitants of Jericho, the feeding of the 5000

  • yes, even the virgin birth of Christ - individual church members are free to come to their own conclusions. There is no pressure to conform.

** Bible studies in such churches often come alive discussing and debating** certain passages on which Christians may disagree. There is considerable respect for individual thinking, something likely encouraged by our American tradition of democracy where free expression flourishes. And among ‘big tent’ Protestants, of course, there is no Pope, no sola scriptura, but a blend of Bible, tradition, reason, historical knowledge, and simple common sense. There is strong resistance to be told what to believe as well as to accept what many see as relics of medievalism, pagan influences from Greco-Roman religions, and superstitions once believable perhaps, but no longer.

 **The main point is that we're not 'saved' by doctrine or by church affiliation** but by having a simple faith in God and earnestly seeking to live like Jesus as much as this is possible. And when it comes to 'salvation', there is considerable freedom to interpet that in different ways, also. A physical heaven? A spiritual eternity? A union with God in some fashion? A reincarnation or transmigration of souls? Really, now, do any of us know for sure?

** For me, it’s easy to live by faith and not by knowledge.** One great hymn begins: “I trust in God wherever I may be, upon the land or on the rolling sea. So, come what may, from day to day, my heavenly Father watches over me.” That was sung at the funeral of Dr. King and is one source of strength whenever confronting the special challenges that life inevitably brings.

 **Now, doctrine obviously matters when doctrine becomes badly warped and leads to hatred and even violence**. The obvious example today involves Islam. Those Muslims who align themselves with bin Laden and his extremists are badly misled by false doctrine. Unfortunately there are some Christians and Jews who share this sort of embittered hostility toward those outside their faith and it led to enormous crimes over the centuries. It is rare today, although the ultra-Orthodox in Israel (like the Hamas) continue to make reconciliation and peace in the Holy Land nearly impossible to achieve.

  Sorry for this long spiel. God bless people of every creed, color and country. May religion become a bridge rather than a barrier.

While denying that we are saved by doctrine you just listed two doctrines by which you profess we are saved.


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