From its founding the Covenant has been a biblical fellowship without entrenching particular interpretations of doctrine in its constitution.
Just as there are those who equate evangelical with exclusive, so there are those who equate biblical with doctrinaire.
We are biblical, which means:
There is a limitation on matters of doctrine. Nothing has validity in the areas of faith, doctrine, and conduct unless it accords with Scripture. We reject the notion that all "sincere religion" is on a par with what God has revealed in the Bible.
We give particular attention and prominence to what is clearly taught in the Bible, to what has been commonly taught in the Church since Pentecost, and both of these as reaffirmed in the Reformation.
We have the freedom to hear many interpretations of Scripture, and to enter into discussion when there is disagreement. We don't have to defend an "official" position.
Both clergy and laity are "Bible people." If we do not keep informed on the content and message of Scripture itself in each generation, we will have nowhere to stand.
Doctrinaire, on the other hand, means that the Bible is to be interpreted from a fixed doctrinal position. Though doctrinaire persons may have a firm belief in the Bible as the Word of God, they cannot in all cases allow the Bible to speak freely and clearly - for they have already made up their minds in these cases. Rather than allowing the Bible to test and correct their doctrine, their doctrine determines in advance what they are willing to hear from Scripture.
Ironically, believers often become doctrinaire at the least defensible points of their doctrinal systems. The clearer a biblical doctrine is, the less need there is to be doctrinaire about it, for there is common agreement as to its meaning. But as clarity and importance decrease, argument and dogmatism increase. Denominations and movements become founded on doctrinaire interpretations of a few passages of Scripture.
Sometimes people wonder if we aren't in danger of making private interpretation too important. We agree that personal opinion on the meaning of Scripture must be tested against other opinions in communal Bible study. The understandings of others who have gone before us and those who are our contemporaries must be given serious attention.
We also stand open to the accusation that we don't know where we stand. But in reply we must ask, isn't the Bible itself clear and dependable? Can it not be taken on its own terms as the Word of God? We stand where the Bible stands, wherever it stands. We don't tell the Bible what it should mean, or give confessional authority to interpretations upon which there is significant disagreement among Christians.
It is not common in church history to be biblical without being doctrinaire. That is why we dare to assert it as a distinctive.