House of the Righteous
 
  What is Bible Doctrine?
  The Importance of Doctrine
  How To Approach Doctrine
  A Tendency to Devalue Doctrine
   
   
Is Doctrine Important?

 
Bible Doctrine Defined
 

The terms “doctrine” and “theology” have a negative connotation for many people in.  These terms may imply something that is boring, impractical, useless, too intellectual, or meant only for Biblical scholars and academics.  However a poor understanding of the Bible and God’s supernatural revelation to man can have serious repercussions on the way a person thinks and acts.  

“Doctrine or theology is not a cold and impotent force, but a vital element to the spiritual, moral and social being of mankind.” 
~ J. Hampton Keathly III, Theology Proper

We all have certain presupposition, beliefs, and opinions, based on our frame of reference, our culture, our background, our exposure to formal instruction, etc.  These presuppositions form our own doctrinal viewpoint or theological perspective about God, the world and man himself, and is the basis for our values and the decisions we make in life.  
Most importantly, these presuppositions, the basic way in which we look at life (our doctrinal view) will determine which god we truly worship.

The question that each Christian should ask himself or herself is, “How would I be able to discern between false doctrine and correct doctrine if I do not know what correct doctrine is?

All of Scripture is "Doctrine" and we may not interpret it as we like. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16, KJV)

The Bible is the divinely inspired Word of God, and since God does not say anything irrelevant or unworthy, all Scripture is good. The entire Bible should be viewed as ONE Doctrine in the singular form. According to Napier (2) "It is not a collection of diverse and separate 'doctrines'.


Not what men say

Bible Doctrine means understanding what the Bible teaches, and not what men say the Bible teaches. When the natural man and Satan uses the Bible to teach, it is done by intellectual manipulation and subject to frequent adjustment to maintain the appearance of harmony with Scripture. Jesus remarked on how senseless this is, "in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." (Matthew 15:9, KJV) In contrast to man's ambivalence and manipulation, God's words are pure Truth. Naper states (1) "When God speaks, what He says is automatically perfect and in harmony with everything else He has ever said. He does not need to structure what He says or check it against the whole. He is God and so everything must be immediately harmonious."

Paul instructs us to avoid the ideas and instructions of men: "Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines." (Hebrews 13:9, KJV) T Erroneous ideas and teachings occur when we start to think that we can interpret the Bible as we see fit. Just because we are Christians, does not immediately infer that we are experts on Bible doctrine. There is only ONE Truth and therefore there can only be ONE interpretation.

 
 
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Is Doctrine Important?
 

As believers, our relationship with God is the central part of our faith. The Christian faith is based on this relationship with the God of the universe. Our deep desire to know God and be in intimate relationship with Him will naturally evoke the passion in us to study His Word. The purpose of studying should not be solely as an intellectual exercise to benefit ourselves, but primarily to gain a deeper knowledge of the God who loves us so much that He gave His Son as sacrifice so that we may have everlasting life.

"Doctrine is the stuff of life and of dynamic faith. It is our source of knowledge of God Himself and the beginning of wisdom; it is what we can turn to for comfort; it provides us with the only data we can ever have on what God has said to the world. Get to grips with doctrine and apply it to your life and your soul will soar heavenward!" Napier, (2)

On many occasions, the apostle Paul warned against the teaching of false doctrines, and urging fellow Christian teachers and church members, to adhere only to sound doctrine.

Read each of the following Scriptures and summarize Paul’s instruction to Timothy regarding the importance of doctrine:

1 Timothy 1:3  -  As I urged you when I went into Macedonia—remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine

1 Timothy 4:6
  -  If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed.

1 Timothy 4:16
  -  Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.

2 Timothy 3: 10-11a
  -  But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, 11 persecutions, afflictions

2 Timothy 3:16-17
  -  All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 4:2-4
  -  Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.

The purpose of doctrine

As Christians it is important for us to study and apply the sound doctrine that God gives us through His Word, and not be confused by the doctrines of this world.

Jesus was in Galilee during the Feast of Tabernacles during which time he went to the temple to teach, “My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.”  (John 7:16-17)

To be able to distinguish between God’s Doctrine and the doctrines of this world, or false religious doctrines, we must first KNOW God, and strive to do His will.

How can we know God’s will if we do not KNOW God Himself?
The most foundational doctrine that we can learn as Christians, is the Doctrine of God Himself. 

Spiritual Growth

"As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby." (1 Peter 2:2) A new believer will yearn for the basic knowledge and teachings of the Christian faith, and so he grows in spiritual maturity. The writer of the Hebrews were trying to discuss difficult doctrinal issues with them, but he could not because they were still immature. He commented that they should have been teachers by that time, however they still needed someone to teach them the basics, "For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil." (Hebrews 5:12-14, KJV)

Biblical Doctrine is a necessary component of our Christian faith. Every person on this earth has beliefs. The beliefs that Christians hold are based on specific 'Doctrine' and if we do not understand even the mere basics of WHAT and WHY we believe what we do, we cannot know for certain that we have the correct faith.

Doctrine is our spiritual food. Just as our physical bodies need food to survive, so our spiritual health and growth depends on the Bible Doctrine we absorb and apply each day. God provides the Bible Doctrine, God the Holy Spirit helps us to understand Bible Doctrine.


How to live

Biblical Doctrine teaches us how God desires for us to live. Although our salvation is based on God's unmerited Grace through our Faith in Him and not by works, we have a natural desire to worship Him and to please Him.

 

 
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How To Approach Biblical Doctrine
 

Not for intellectual gain

There is great risk in approaching the Bible from a pure intellectual perspective. The intellectuals, and so-called experts of Scriptural interpretation, of Jesus time were the Pharicees and Sadducees. They repeatedly approached Him with trick questions. At one point He commented: "Ye do err not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God." (Matthew 22:29, KJV)


Our carnal nature

Paul warns that "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Corinthians 2:14, KJV). As Christians we do not have the right to interpret the Bible as we wish and we must guard against drawing conclusions from Biblical passages based on our own personal biases, prejudices, and preferences. Our carnal nature will have the tendency to distort verses in order to justify our ideas and the desires of our flesh.


The Holy Spirit

We must never negate the role of the Holy Spirit when we read Scriptures. He gives us our first heart-felt desire to know God and He guides us in the right direction in our study of the Word, and the consequent application thereof in our Christian walk.


Ask God

We could ask God for wisdom and understanding by praying the following prayer that Paul prayed for the Ephesians: "God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him The eyes of your understanding being enlightened ; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe." (Ephesians 1:17-19, KJV)


The writings of men

Only the Word of God is True, therefore the analysis, teachings, and opinions of any man, no matter how scholarly he may be, must be viewed with discernment. The Church has produced excellent men of faith and great understanding, who have produced doctrinal works, however, we must remember that all these men are fallable humans. Every word that does NOT come out of the mouth of God must be evaluated against Scripture.

 
 
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A Tendency To Devalue Doctrine
 
 

Forget Doctrine, Focus on Holy Living

Dr. Philip (5) writes the following statement was made at a meeting of Evangelists in his district.

"There are many among us who are known for promoting and defending fundamental doctrines. But it is not doctrine that is important, but life. Instead of wasting our time defending/teaching doctrines, we should spend time in encouraging people to live holy life." (5)


Jesus said He did not come to destroy the law or the prophets, but to fulfill it. (Matthew 5:7). Jesus was a Teacher whom many called "Rabbi". He spent much time as a child studying in the synagogue. He never taught that people should abandon the law and the prophets and just live "holy lives". But how do you know what kind of "holy life" pleases God if you don't study Biblical Doctrine? Muslims, Buddhists, Pharisees, and many others live extremely "holy lives" and yet they are lost, because it is the 'wrong' kind of "holy life". Biblical Doctrine and "holy living" are both mutually dependent on each other.

There is a famous 'Christian' minister on television that recently proclaimed that he sees himself not as a pastor, but more as an "encourager - a motivational speaker" (his exact words - I have it in video). The result is that he teaches personal empowerment based on worldly philosophies and self-help books, with an occasional bible verse thrown in to make it sound more Christian-like. He is a real-life example of the ideas of this speaker, that Dr. Philip is referring to - teaching 'holy living' without sound Biblical Doctrine.

If we abandon our fundamental Christian doctrines:
* How will we be able to discern false doctrine? (There is so much already within the christian church and on television)
* How would we know what kind of 'holy life' God desires for us to live?
* How can we evangelize and share the Gospel without an understanding of fundamental doctrines?
* How can we teach new converts how they should live if we have no doctrine to base it on?
* How can we assuage any doubts that may be a hindrance to our own faith?

I believe that fundamental Christian doctrines and the study thereof is crucial to the guarding of our faith, our spiritual growth, and our ability to strive for a holy life. But it MUST be accompanied by a personal relationship with God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit

"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15, KJV)

 


Do we need sound doctrine in the church?

Could lay Christians and pastors who lack a sound Biblical and Theological background be particularly vulnerable to deception? There is a notion within many churches today that pastors do not need seminary training.  Dr. James Emery White (4) writes that "it is increasingly common for individuals who are called to plant a church or join the staff of a church to do so without any formal theological education."

Another point to consider is the quality and purity of the theological training that pastors receive.  Many seminaries are accused of being out-of-date, out-of-touch, cost prohibitive, and/or prone to indoctrination by professors with their own theological and methodological biases. Drs. Philip and Cherian (3) report that many Evangelical seminaries worldwide, are actually Neo-Evangelical in theology in that they teach a Theistic Evolution and normative revelation. The dangers of the Neo-Evangelical view is that they are more open and inclusivistic toward liberalism, and has become ecumenical, promoting religious unity, throughout the world. When unity of the church is proclaimed above truth and doctrinal purity, the truth always suffers. An inclusivistic approach aims to find justification for carnality, sensuality, and other non-Christian worldviews.

God certainly calls people from all walks of life into the ministry and it would be elitist to require a seminary degree from every church leader.  However, seminary or no seminary training, it is essential for any church leader to continuously engage in the study of the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith.   Continuous study, reflection and practical application lead to greater spiritual maturity, facilitate the skill of discernment, and assist us in guarding against deception. 

The Scriptures reveal that the "Holy Spirit teaches all things" (John 14:26), and unfortunately many church leaders and lay Christians today, use this passage to justify their disinterest in fundamental theological study.  The question is, can the Holy Spirit effectively 'teach' us the deep doctrines of our faith without us having even the slightest interest in the original biblical languages (i.e ancient Hebrew and Greek)¸ the cultural and historical background of the Bible, and the theological thoughts of past and current great men of faith?  As we engage in a continuous study of the Bible and fundamental Theology, the Holy Spirit is better able to clarify and guide us to a deeper understanding and practical application of Godly wisdom.

 

Anti-Intellectualism

A spirit of anti-intellectualism exist in some of the modern Christian churches, in which intellectual pursuits of any kind are frowned upon. Many Christians believe that in order to perceive the things of the spirit one must suppress the flesh, including the mind, therefore intellectual pursuits are discouraged (5).  They assert that a person cannot understand what God is doing with an analytical mind, citing that the natural mind "receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God"  (1 Corinthians 2:14, KJV).  However, the passage actually reads "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God."  This is another example of a biblical truth taken out of context and attached to a worldly philosophy. It is a common cultic practice to disengage the mind from the spirit in order to achieve greater 'spiritual enlightenment. This idea can also be found in Gnosticism which holds that God communicates directly with the spirit, bypassing the mind.

If we just read a bit further in this passage in 1 Corinthians 2, we learn that "we have the mind of Christ" (v.16).  God does not instruct us to suppress our mind, or separate it from our being.  Jesus taught, "thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy mind and with all thy strength"  (Mark 12:30, KJV).   The preachers that hold this belief assert that the mind cannot understand the things of the Spirit, however, how can we understand spiritual things without it?  "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge"  (Hosea 4:6, KJV).  A relationship with God requires thinking, not feelings and other experiential (supernatural) sensations.

Growing in spiritual maturity is a continuous journey in which the heart, sould, mind, and body are engaged. The Bible teaches, "be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."  (Romans 12:2, KJV, emphasis added).   Developing the discipline of continuous study of the Word under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, is essential to spiritual growth and maturity.

realize some of the dangers facing the Christian faith today, and the importance of being knowledgeable in the doctrinal theology of Christianity in order to discern misleading and/or false teachings.  God warns us in scripture, "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ." (Colossians 2:8, KJV)

I am certain that I'm only scratching the surface of this subject and that more scholarly minds would be able to expound in much greater detail. However, this exercise has been a valuable step in my spiritual journey to greater discernment and developing an apologetic mindset.

 
 
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Scripture References
 
Topic Reference  
  2 Timothy 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. (KJV)
     
     
 
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Reference Books and Resources
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

     
 
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Bibliography
 

1. Napier, K. Barry. Doctrine - What Is It? Wales, United Kingdom: Bible Theology Ministries. Posted April 2000. [Cited 24 December 2010.] http://www.christiandoctrine.net/doctrine.htm
2. Napier, K. Barry. Doctrine - Introduction. United Kingdom: Bible Theology Ministries: Posted April 2000. [Cited 24 December 2010.] http://www.christiandoctrine.net/doctrine/articles/article_00081_doctrine_web.htm
3. Philip, Dr. Johnson C., Cherian, Dr. Saneesh. The Pre-suppositions and Classificaiton of Christian Apologetics. Calvin Research Group Academic Resource, Module 002A1.
4. White, Dr. James Emery. Why People Aren'te Going To Seminary. Crosswalk.com. [Online] November 1, 2010. [Cited: December 12, 2010.] http://www.crosswalk.com/pastors/11640351/
5. Philip, Dr. Johnson C. Is It Time To Abandon Bible And Doctrines? (Dr Johnson's Notes: Facebook). Posted 13 December 2010. [Cited 14 December 2010.] http://www.facebook.com/notes/drjohnson-c-philip/is-it-time-to-abandon-bible-and-doctrines/169478323092535

 

 

 

 

 
 
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