The failure of doctrine to change people

Written by on July 15, 2009 in Faith and Spiritual Life, Notes By The Way with 2 Comments

I looked up an article by Kenneth Minogue in which he discussed “politicized compassion.” Consider this quote (italics mine):

It is a politicised virtue, which means that it is focused not on real individuals but on some current image of a whole category of people. Correspondingly, it invokes hostility towards those believed to have caused the pain and misery of others. Public discussion thus turns into melodrama…. Further, our sympathy for the oppressed is a demonstration to ourselves of our own benevolence. The fact is, of course, that political exponents of niceness may or may not be personally generous and benevolent. Doctrine is not character.

That last line got me. You have liberals and conservatives advocating compassion and justice who are not generous in their own lives. Then you have things like “born again Christians” having a 27 percent divorce rate, compared with 21 percent among professed atheists. Doctrine is not character; it doesn’t change a person. Change comes from the inside out. Love, though, can really change people.

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About the Author

About the Author: Andy Gray is a writer and photographer living in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and working with Alongsiders International. You can find him puttering around the streets of Phnom Penh on his Suzuki Viva 125, running stoplights and driving on the wrong side of the road or on the sidewalks like a local. If you see him in a coffee shop, he'll be the one typing and deleting the same line over and over again. .


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  • Thanks for the doctrine, er, I mean, encouragement. Now I’ll go and try to apply your doctrine to my life. See how that works?

  • Here’s how I see it. Something within resonates when you encounter truth, in whatever form, and so you respond. I think the response and change come from within where the Spirit of God is residing and changing us.

    In Jesus’ parable, the same seeds bear fruit in one person but not in another. Or, in another place, Jesus said, Don’t throw pearls to pigs (because they won’t appreciate them the same way you do).

    I hope this really was encouraging. Lately, at least for the last two days, I’ve been reminding myself to enjoy life and not be so serious all the time. 😉