Lindbeck deals with three different approaches to doctrine:
This is the understanding that doctrines make truth claims about objective reality. Propositionalism finds certitude in Scripture and emphasizes the cognitive aspect of faith and religion. This has been the traditional approach of Orthodox Christian belief. Synthesizing these Scriptural truths and doctrines is also a part of this method. Thinkers in this group remain critical of post-foundational approaches.
This method, which emphasizes religious feeling, was thought to have found universal objectivity for religious truth. While it was presupposed that all religious feeling had a common core experience, it wasn't long before this proved untenable. Difficulty with this approach was found in specifying distinctive features of religious feeling, such that "the assertion of commonality becomes logically and empirically vacuous" (18).
This is Lindbeck's method. It's design is ecumenically minded but has fostered a larger discussion pertaining to its use in theological method. At the risk of sounding too reductionistic it might be said that this alternative seeks to understand religion as a culture or a semiotic language. Religion shapes the entirety of life, not just cognitive or emotional dimensions. A religion is a "comprehensive scheme or story used to structure all dimensions of existence" (21). And "its vocabulary of symbols and its syntax may be used for many purposes, only one of which is the formulation of statements about reality. Thus while a religion's truth claims are often of the utmost importance to it (as in the case of Christianity), it is, nevertheless, the conceptual vocabulary and the syntax or inner logic which determine the kinds of truth claims the religion can make" (21).
In terms of measuring religions for truth, dynamic truth is what is to be accepted, which may or may not correspond to reality (37). Truth, in this regard, is what is meaningful (34). Lindbeck uses a map metaphor in which the knowledge provided by the map is only "constitutive of a true proposition when it guides the traveler rightly" (38). This dynamic understanding of truth is not answerable to static propositional truth claims. Religion must be utilized correctly to provide ontology, or meaning (38).
The possibility of salvation as solus Christus is said to conform to this approach. "One must, in other words, learn the language of faith before one can know enough about its message knowingly to reject it and thus be lost" (45). Lindbeck has in mind here fides ex auditu and envisions a post-mortem offer of salvation.
In readdressing propositional truth, it is said that religious sentences have first-order or ontological truth or falsity only in determinate settings (54; recall the map metaphor). Understood in this way, the Cultural Linguistic approach proves to successfully supply categorical, symbolic, and propositional truths.
Rule Theory maintains that what is "abiding and doctrinally significant" about religion is not found in inner experience or their propositional truth, but "in the story it tells and in the grammar that informs the way the story is told and used" (66). In order to make sense of religious experiences they must be interpreted within an entire comprehensive framework.
Lindbeck presents a softer view of doctrine, which is less truth-claiming, and more about community rules. Doctrines, thus, may be reversible or irreversible, unconditional or conditional, temporary or permanent.