There’s a growing disinterest in “doctrine” in churches today it seems. Many feel that theological and doctrinal studies and conversations are only for scholars or people interested in minutiae. Others shy away from doctrine because they feel it will be too “divisive” and will cause conflict. Some see religion in purely subjective terms (e.g. “What will this do for me?” or “How does this make me feel?”) and have little interest in objective, propositional truth. Others are simply unwilling to engage in the discipline necessary to thoughtfully and carefully consider what they should believe and the implications of that belief. They are content with emotions and experiences.
So why should we care about doctrine? First of all, let me define what I mean by doctrine. Doctrine is simply the teaching of the church – what we consider to be revealed truth and the foundation of our faith. Let me share with you several reasons why studying doctrine (truth) is necessary for every believer:
- Correct doctrine leads people to Jesus. (John 14:6) The truth we proclaim is OBJECTIVE, not SUBJECTIVE. We don’t call people to have faith in faith. We call people to believe in a Person who IS truth. To put your faith in Jesus requires an understanding of who He is and what He has done.
- Correct doctrine leads to correct living. (2 Corinthians 4:13) Behaviors always follow beliefs. That is, people ultimately act on what they believe to be true. If our beliefs about God and His Word are flawed, inevitably our actions will be as well.
- Correct doctrine protects us from wandering off into myth and error. (2 Timothy 4:2-3). Many Christians today lack any sort of “filter” when it comes to all the false teaching (supposedly Christian) that permeates TV, radio, the internet, etc.
- Correct doctrine promotes unity and health among God’s people. (1 Timothy 6:3-4). Those who fear division over truth should in actuality fear the division that comes from error springing up within a church.
- Correct doctrine protects us from God’s judgment and protects those I share it with. (1 Timothy 4:1-6) In the last days, the Bible foretells that people will turn from the truth and have no interest in it. Our holding to and telling the truth is mankind’s only hope.
- Correct doctrine is necessary for perseverance. (1 Timothy 4:16) God’s truth is timeless. His laws are as immutable as physical laws. When I am challenged, persecuted, or suffer, it is truth that will sustain me.
- Correct doctrine keeps us connected to the timeless teachings that orthodox Christians have always believed. (Jude 1:3) Throughout history, it is the propositional truth statements of our creeds and confessions that have either prevented theological drift, or corrected it.
- Correct doctrine supports, encourages, and protects the mission of the church. (2 Peter 2:1-3). If we lose our understanding of and commitment to the truth, over time we will lose our commitment to the Gospel and our willingness to share it at any cost.
- Correct doctrine is essential for discipleship. (Matthew 28:20) The making of true disciples of Jesus requires more than evangelism. It requires the careful teaching of “all that I commanded you”. Without doctrine, we will raise up rootless and fruitless Christians. (John 15)
- Correct doctrine is necessary for correct worship. (Matthew 15:9). Biblically acceptable worship of God is not arbitrary and man-centered. Real worship is the response of man to the revelation of God (e.g. the truth about God). God tells us and demonstrates to us Who He is and what He has done, and we honor in response.
Doctrine does matter.