When teaching doctrine, people get really huffy and start wondering what some young buck is going to come up with. Who is this guy, of thirty something years, thinking on writing anything on doctrine at all? How dare he?
And that person would be right. I don’t like doing it. I like staying close to the text, and within that context, and maybe writing what exists there with whatever application might be sifted. I don’t necessarily like doing any sort of systematic studies because I think that sometimes those systems are way too contrived.
But it has to be done. In a Biblically illiterate world that is bombarding kids with the lie of postmodernism on the one hand and the psyche out of scientific realism in the other hand, a Christian should be really concerned about the doctrine people hold on to.
So when looking at Doctrine you have to ask yourself a few questions:
What is Doctrine?
It’s something that is taught and something that is believed. When we look at the Doctrines of Christianity we’re seeing what Christianity teaches and what Christianity believes. I’m going to nuance this definition in a later post, but this is good enough for now.
Who has Doctrine?
Everybody! They may not have a well formed doctrine, they may have appropriated it through weird channels—but they all have it. And they profess it. Sometimes it’s not in words; it might just be in the way they act. But their message is clear: this is what I believe and this is why I’m acting on it.
Why is Doctrine Important?
- We want to know what we believe. It stinks to find out that you have a doctrine but you don’t know what it is you believe! But moreso, because you don’t want to be carried away by things you shouldn’t believe (Eph 4:14)
- We want to be nourished in what we believe. Or what we’re supposed to believe anyway! Paul tells Timothy that he should be pointing out sound doctrine (1 Tim 4:6)
- So that we can be ready to give answer (1 Pet 3:15). It sucks if someone comes up to you asking “what is it you believe?” and you can’t answer. Learning doctrine helps you think out the what’s and the why’s of it all.
- So that you can save the people who are listening to you. Yeah, sometimes Doctrine is used to prevent people from going over the edge into something that would destroy them (1 Tim 4:16).
- And also future proofing from error. Not that it’s so very much future. The fact is that I’ve heard speakers, even within my own churches, teach things that aren’t Christian. This stuff is going to be more and more evident and one day, people aren’t going to want to hear the truth. So we study and teach the truth while we can (2 Tim 4:3) and refute those who don’t believe it (Titus 1:9)
Are all Doctrines equal?
Sometimes people suggest that learning doctrine is important and that not holding onto one doctrine results in someone not being a Christian. There are not many people that say that, but it happens. Other folk just draw up a list of what good Christians must believe to be good. I think doctrines form a web. Some of them are out on the edge of the web that if you lose them, it’s important, and can be hurtful, but it wouldn’t affect you’re being a Christian.
But then there are other doctrines that are so important that if you lose them you can’t possibly be a Christian anymore. These doctrines lie right on the center of my web. So the Doctrine of God which states that God Exists—that’s right in the center. You can’t be a Christian and be an atheist; you have to believe in God. But you can still be a Christian and think that the Church should have priests up front doing the whole meeting. Stuff like that.
Where do we start with doctrine?
Well, we know that Christ came to reveal the Father (John 1:18) and that was exceedingly important. But we also know that God spoke in the past and finally spoke through the Son (Heb 1:1-2). So to find out what Christians (followers of Christ, the Son of God) we have to find out about Christ and God. The only way we can find out about them is by hearing how they have been revealed. So we need to start with the Doctrine of Revelation.