“Under the tyranny of being ‘relevant’ many preachers in our day avoid doctrine like the plague.”- Douglas J. Moo.
Doctrine. For many this is an unpopular word. Why? A good question, one which I do not understand, as I encourage people to understand biblical doctrine. I recently heard a “megachurch” pastor say (paraphrasing here) that doctrine wasn’t the purpose of his church and that if you were an attendee at his church and wanted deeper theological preaching you need to go elsewhere. I find that very problematic.
Paul charges Timothy in 2 Timothy to teach (sound) doctrine. I would like to think that when Jesus told Peter to feed His sheep, He wasn’t talking about shallow theology and deep emotionalism in the worship services. People need to know what they believe, why they believe it and be able to explain said beliefs to others. Peter writes in 1 Peter 3:15, “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 legitimately explain to another believer or an unbeliever our beliefs when we do not think it important enough to study them and learn to articulate them. In my conversations with people, I’ve never been asked a question about salvation or baptism and it not lead to a different doctrinal subject like the church or heaven and hell. People, sincerely seeking answers, want to engage and discuss with educated, intelligent people.
For example, here is a problem with the aforementioned “megachurch” pastor’s view. If doctrine really IS NOT important (my take is that it is), how does everyone in the congregation or in conversation know which God we are talking about? Just follow me here. From this anti-doctrinal viewpoint, if we say “worship Jesus,” what is meant? Who is Jesus? Was Jesus a man? Or was He God? If He was God then who was in Heaven reigning while Christ was on earth? Ah, so there is God the Father? So is Christianity polytheistic? No? What is the trinity? How can God the Father be the Creator of the World, God the Son be the substitutionary sacrifice for sin and God the Holy Spirit indwell in believers for sanctification and good works? So break it down for me: what about creationism?; what about Jesus’s life, death and resurrection?; what is the role of the Holy Spirit? Okay so you are getting all of this information from the Bible, why should I believe it is God’s Word? How did the Bible come about? What about all of these translations? Could other religions’ literature be God’s Word too? … the questions could branch off into many other questions, too numerous to count. Does someone have ALL of the answers? No, but in this post-modern, relativistic culture, we should have SOME answers and that’s why doctrine is so important. People want to dive deep into these subjects. Believers should want to read books and listen to sermons and lectures regarding the doctrines that we adhere to. And while, yes, we can say “I don’t know,” we should at least know some things like the basics of the Gospel (sin, Christ’s death as sacrifice, His resurrection, God’s wrath, a future judgment, heaven, and hell) and be able to articulate these truths to others, especially non-believers. We live in such a time where we have so many mediums to get our hands on this kind of information and material and it seems that the church, at large, is doctrinal ignorant. Burk Parsons said (via twitter) “Much of the reason for the prevalent doctrinal ignorance in the church today is the lack of doctrinal preaching in the pulpit.” I say “amen” and “amen” here. I don’t know if it is due to trying to be relevant and “cool” as Moo’s quotes suggested but it is very problematic that solid, deep doctrine is absent from the pulpit in our churches. Parsons also said (again via twitter) “being ‘cool’ isn’t a fruit of the Spirit.” Once again, I say “amen.” We are so focused on being “cool” that we exchange substance for style (it is possible to find a balance of both but substance is far more important, eternally more so). So. We should know what we believe and why we believe it. We should rejoice in the study of Scripture and the study with aids like theology books and lectures. And after we know what we believe, we should stand firm in what we believe in a such a time where if you didn’t have strong convictions about a particular biblical truth (ex: abortion, homosexuality, the exclusivity of Christ for salvation) it would be washed away in the tide of cultural and religious pluralism. It wouldn’t seem like a far stretch to say that non-Christians who would want to do away with Christianity would hope the church remains ignorant on doctrine so the members of the church won’t be able to intelligently defend the faith, therefore helping the cause to abolish it. We should learn and be ready to engage in real, intelligent discussion with people of all different faiths and be able proclaim truth while doing so with love and kindness. Are you down on doctrine? I really hope not.. no, I pray not. We are to be representatives of Jesus Christ and as we bear witness we should be able to, as the Apostle Peter said, “be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that you have in you.. (1 Peter 3:15).” Let us study Scripture and dive into it’s wonderfully deep doctrinal riches and be strengthened, encouraged and enlightened for the sake of Christ, His Church and our souls.