Some answers are definitely more satisfying than others.
One answer that I’ve heard multiple times since I’ve started digging into doctrinal issues is particularly unsatisfying to me. It goes something like this:
Doctrine X is true because this is what the majority of the church has historically believed. People much smarter / more educated / more spiritual / more historically connected to the source materials / more… “whatever” than I spent significant amounts of time wrestling with these things, and we should accept their time-tested conclusions.
I have a couple of problems with this. Historically, many things that we would now consider very wrong were once considered normal and right. Just because the majority of a group accepts something as true and good, that doesn’t guarantee its truthfulness and goodness. (Consider Apartheid or Slavery… or the idea that the earth was flat.) Also… if we consider anything outside of the Bible to be on par with its teachings–even the Bible-based teachings of others whom we respect–are we truly letting the Bible be the ultimate authority?
But even worse, this argument is usually invoked as a discussion-ender… and that makes it feel eerily similar to a favorite argument of some controlling pastors I’ve known in the past: “I’m the leader, God directs me, either you trust me or you’ll be outside of God’s will.” And maybe that’s why I resist it so much.
I have no problem with the concept of learning from the wisdom of others. But until I can see something for myself in the Scriptures, I’m not going to accept it… no matter how many dead theologians say otherwise.