When Doctrine Divides the People of God: An Evangelical Approach to Theological Diversity

When Doctrine Divides the People of God: An Evangelical Approach to Theological Diversity

by Rhyne R. Putman


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Doctrine is important, but when is it important enough for Christians to diverge? When Doctrine Divides the People of God affirms the need for grace in disagreement and unity in diversity.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781433567872
Publisher: Crossway
Publication date: 05/19/2020
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.82(d)

About the Author

Rhyne R. Putman (PhD, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary) is an associate professor of theology and culture at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, where he has served since 2010. He is the pastor of preaching and vision at First Baptist Church in Kenner, Louisiana, and has published multiple volumes and articles, such as The Method of Christian Theology and In Defense of Doctrine. Rhyne and his wife, Micah, currently reside in New Orleans together with their two children.

Table of Contents

Foreword David S. Dockery 11

Abbreviations 17

Introduction: When Doctrine Divides the People of God 19

Part 1 Why We Disagree about Doctrine

1 We Read Imperfectly 37

General Hermeneutics and the Clarity of Scripture

2 We Read Differently 67

The Contribution of Exegesis and Hermeneutics to Theological Diversity

3 We Reason Differently 95

The Role of Guesswork in Interpretation

4 We Feel Differently 121

The Role of Emotions in Theological Diversity

5 We Have Different Biases 151

Tradition, Belief, and Confirmation Bias

Part 2 What We Should Do about Doctrinal Disagreement

6 When Should We Change Our Minds? 175

Insights from the Epistemology of Disagreement

7 When Should Doctrine Divide Us? 201

On Theological Boundary-Making

8 How Then Shall We Disagree? 241

Lessons from Whitefield and Wesley

Acknowledgments 267

Bibliography 271

General Index 299

Scripture Index 307

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“Many have wondered how Christians who read the same Bible can come to such different conclusions about what it means. Rhyne Putman not only provides a thorough answer to that question; he also helps us live more peaceably and fruitfully amidst our differences. This helpful book will encourage Christians to hold their convictions with greater irenicism, humility, awareness, and wisdom.”
Gavin Ortlund, Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church of Ojai; author, Finding the Right Hills to Die On

“With keen historical and philosophical insight, Rhyne Putman probes deeply the roots of Protestantism’s disputatious and division-making nature. He asks the right questions and addresses the roots of the problems that have prevented even evangelical Christians with a high view of Scripture from uniting in common causes for the sake of the gospel. Without diminishing or downplaying our differences and their consequences, he calls us to once more heed the call of Wesley in his famous ‘Catholic Spirit’ letter and reach across the theological divides and say ‘if your heart is as my heart, give me your hand’ in things we can do together for the sake of Christ. Here is a practical study of how to disagree in love, without becoming disagreeable, much less foes. Highly recommended!”
Ben Witherington III, Jean R. Amos Professor of New Testament for Doctrinal Studies, Asbury Theological Seminary

“Rhyne Putman is one of the best Baptist theologians writing today, and he has given us a superb study on two themes central to Scripture: Christian unity and doctrinal diversity. Seldom have these topics been dealt with together in a more coherent way. This is an important book.”
Timothy George, Research Professor of Divinity, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University; general editor, Reformation Commentary on Scripture

“This book by Rhyne Putman is superbly done. I will be quick to commend it to others who want to understand how to navigate Christian differences with conviction and compassion, with both a love for truth and a heart of love. The chapter on Wesley and Whitefield and their complicated relationship alone makes the book worth the price! Buy it and be blessed.”
Daniel L. Akin, President, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

When Doctrine Divides the People of God is one of the most important books written since the turn of the twenty-first century. Biblically faithful, wise, and humane in his reflections, Putman addresses two of the most important questions of our time: First, how can faithful evangelical Christians come to such drastically different conclusions on matters of doctrine? Second, how should we handle those disagreements? Given that evangelical Christians will likely experience increased attacks from the antagonists of our secular age, we should take Putman’s advice to heart, uniting whenever and however we can, to bear witness to the gospel once for all delivered to the saints. Recommended highly and without reservation.”
Bruce Riley Ashford, Provost and Professor of Theology and Culture, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; coauthor, The Gospel of Our King

“In this fascinating book, Rhyne Putman models not only erudition and breadth of study but also a necessary concern for the union of doctrine and practice. This work needs to be read by evangelicals and nonevangelicals alike. It teaches and models epistemic humility in the face of scriptural authority, thus showing how we can foster both confessional commitment and unity in the gospel across confessional lines.”
Matthew Pinson, President and Professor of Theology, Welch College

“If evangelicals share a commitment to the gospel and a high view of Scripture, then why isn’t there more agreement on theological matters? This is the thorny question that Rhyne Putman takes on and answers so ably in When Doctrine Divides the People of God. I wish I had read this book when I was a seminarian who thought he had all the answers! Like Putman, I long for a deeper sense of catholicity and a greater spirit of cooperation with fellow believers in other traditions. This book will help pastors, theologians, and other leaders work toward a greater embodiment of Jesus’s high priestly prayer of John 17 with conviction and civility.”
Nathan A. Finn, Provost and Dean of the University Faculty, North Greenville University

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