One of the biggest problems with the sect is the extremes they’ve gone to in “teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (in good old King James English). There have been no areas of life untouched by the rules and regulations of fallible men in the 40+ years of existence of this sect, from whether you can have a glass of wine with your dinner, to whether you can go on a family vacation, what you can do on that vacation, and who you can enjoy your recreation with. The rules (a.k.a. judgments) of the church have reached all the way into the sacred bedroom of a married couple, regulating such things as sexual positions (face to face), distance apart (6 to 12 inches), how often is “too much” (I’m not making this up), and which days of the week you can’t come together (Saturday and Sunday, apparently). Reading Song of Solomon would probably be a shock to their human-educated consciences.
The Pharisees in Jesus’ day set themselves up as interpreters of the law. So when the law said “Don’t work on the Sabbath,” the people would come to the Teachers to find out “What exactly can’t I do on the Sabbath?” Was it okay to rescue your ox from a ditch on the Sabbath? What’s the maximum distance you could walk on the Sabbath before it became “work?” Was it necessary to tithe your spices (mint, rue, and cumin), or just your money and your food staples like wheat and cattle?
These questions and many more were brought to the Pharisees–the self-proclaimed Teachers of the law–to get their judgments, and they happily obliged. When a new situation arose that didn’t fit the previous “rulings,” these Teachers of the Law would simply make up new rules to fill the gaps on where God simply wasn’t clear enough. In this way, Jewish tradition in Jesus’ day was composed of layer upon layer of these “judgments” that just became too burdensome for anyone to bear.

Does anyone not see the parallel? How many times will members of the church be forced (or counseled under the unspoken threat of withdrawal if they don’t comply) to follow the doctrines of men legislated at a May Meeting, or the personal opinion (a.k.a. “counsel”) of a fallible modern day Teacher of the Law?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the line that the church hasn’t ever changed it’s doctrines, only it’s judgements or understandings. What is the difference? Do you not teach what you currently understand or “judge” to be true? And when do our understandings ever stop changing so we know we now have the final word? Answer: Never. Because we’re human and should never stop growing in our understanding. Trying to tell me the church doctrines have never changed is like trying to tell me the sky is purple when we can both look up and see otherwise.

To insist that church doctrines haven’t changed is fundamentally dishonest, although I believe it is primarily self-deception through semantical word games. The word “doctrine” simply means anything that is taught, no matter whether it’s from the pulpit or on a private phone call with a Teacher. If the Bible doesn’t provide clear rules for us, let it be up to an individual’s conscience to grow into an understanding of the truth on that subject.

Sure, teachers can offer their thoughts based on their experience and Biblical insight. But don’t bind those opinions on people–because that’s exactly what they are, opinions. Instead of teaching layer upon layer of doctrines of men, we should resolve to speak only where the Bible speaks, and be silent–completely–where the Bible is silent.

Matthew 15:9 – “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”