The Fear of Doctrine

The Fear of Doctrine


3 min read

Doctrine (from Latin: doctrina, meaning "teaching, instruction") is a codification of beliefs or a body of teachings or instructions, taught principles or positions, as the essence of teachings in a given branch of knowledge or in a belief system. [wikipedia]

About two billion people (i.e. 1 in every 4 humans on this planet) are gearing up to celebrate Easter this coming Sunday, in some shape or form. This is the most profound feast on the Christian calendar and, whether they like it or not, is indelibly embedded in the psyche of those who have been raised within the backdrop of a Christian belief system.

I do not use the phrase "indelibly" with flippancy. The source of creation, human mortality, and existence beyond the earthly one are crucial themes at the core of this feast. So, whether it be indulging in divinely rich chocolate eggs, or chasing after a bunny, or gathering for food and fellowship, or climaxing your abstinence and adoration, or a combination thereof, the memorial of this story (this event) touches many.


Most of us scowl at the thought of being coerced into the adherence to some particular discipline, be it theological, health related, work related, etc. We don't like the idea of becoming another little disciple. In today's world, we are conditioned to "prioritize" self...

  • I can be whoever and whatever I want to be!

  • I know what's best for me and what works for me!

  • I control my own destiny!

  • And you can too!

Now, if you'll indulge me, I'll ask you to reread the above exclamations...

Do they sound like they are being uttered by a self-centered brat or by an ethically empowered woke [sic] individual who wants to solve World Peace?

Okay, that's such an unfair/loaded question - let's park it and leave it as a rhetorical (eh, or, if you like, feel free to use the comment box below ;-)).

The point I will try to make here is that it's almost impossible to deny the paradox that exists in this realm; structure, order, and consistency (prime ingredients for being disciplined) are so often considered the recipe for a stifling culture, notwithstanding the fact that we humans are creatures of habit and most of us would concur that we collaborate more effectively when we're all on the same page.

As always, the trick is to strike a compromise... a good compromise between the art of being disciplined and our innate propensity for disruption.


Earlier this evening, I reprised my role as Pontius Pilate in a presentation of the Good Friday Passion at our local Catholic church. This political leader exudes one of the most underestimated of human flaws in the telling: indifference. And, more often than not, as we have here, the perpetrator of indifference goes into it with the awareness that this action (or inaction) will result in some form of personal gain.

We see these characteristics in many different professional walks of life.

In software development we have amassed a huge body of knowledge and experience in how we build and maintain systems that add some sort of value to humanity. In addition to the continuous development of better technologies and patterns for communicating with computers, the industry has a bunch of well known sets of processes, or disciplines, which development organizations selectively follow.

We talk about schemaless data models, object oriented analysis and design, asynchronous programming, machine learning, test-driven development, the Agile philosophy, and so on and so forth. Like all doctrines, they are there to be explored and to be utilized appropriately and wholeheartedly. Some are more complex and contentious than others - open to (mis)interpretation and prone to poor implementation. But, ultimately, they are there to help us to do our thing and to continuously strive to do that same thing, and to do other more interesting things, even better the next time!