"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." - Jerome

Monday, February 15, 2010

Doctrine? What's that good for?

Why Study Doctrine?

Doctrine literally means “teaching.” It comes from the Greek "διδάσκω” which is where we get the word didactic. Jaroslav Pelikan describes doctrine this way: “What the church of Jesus Christ believes, teaches, and confesses on the basis of the word of God: this is Christian doctrine”

Doctrine deals with the intellectual teaching about the faith. Typically, when Doctrine is addressed, one of these objections comes up:

1. It is better to be concerned about godly living.

2. It is better to be focused on evangelism

3. Doctrine is Divisive

But How does Scripture treat doctrine? A few things to consider:

Romans 16:17 - I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.

Paul tells us that it is wrong doctrine that divides, not true doctrine. Bad doctrine causes division. This also may tell us the basis for unity: good doctrine. And Good doctrine creates the right kind of unity. According to Scripture, doctrine unites, it does not divide.

1 Peter 3:15 - but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,

How can we answer if we do not know?

“defense” here is apologia. (and ‘reason’ is logos) This is where we get the word Apologetics, the defense of the faith to the unbeliever. Paul uses this word in reference to answering a charge in a law court. Such a defense, typically, had to be well reasoned, able to communicate to another party in understandable language. Never did “apologia” in the eight times it appears in the New Testament refer to: “just a feeling” or “my personal experience” which unfortunately is how Christianity is often explained to an unbeliever: As an unexplainable, irrational feeling that you can only feel, but not think. According to Scripture, doctrine is necessary for evangelism, not against it.

1 Timothy 4:6-8 - If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

6:3-4 - If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the doctrine that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing

For Paul, good doctrine is the root of godliness. Bad doctrine is against godliness. To shun doctrine for “godliness” is to shun godliness. According to Scripture, one cannot be godly without doctrine. To assert otherwise is arrogance, not piety.

Thus we study doctrine for the purpose of Unity, Evangelism, and Godliness. To refuse to study doctrine is to be disobedient to those commands to be one, to evangelize and to be godly.

Yet, this does not mean that doctrine is an end of itself:

“Doctrine is not the only, not even the primary, activity of the church. The church worships God and serves mankind, it works for the transformation of this world and awaits the consummation of its hope in the next. The church is more than a school...but the church cannot be less than a school.” -Jaroslav Pelikan

IOW – We study doctrine to know God, in order to properly worship and serve.

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