Wednesday, December 12, 2007

importance of doctrine

For a long time now I have held what I consider to be a high view of the importance of right doctrine in the life of the believer and the Church. I am one of those people who really believes that right actions flow from right thinking. I believe that ideas matter. They shape the world we live in. They shape the mundane decisions we make day to day that determine our paths and our character.

For all that, I am also convinced that correct doctrine is not the be all end all of the Christian life. I have seen and experienced (yes and led out in) too many bitter disputes over doctrinal issues. I have seen people with fine theology whose spiritual lives are cold. I have talked with too many people hurt by those who see their calling as policing everyone else's doctrine. Even worse, I see in Scripture that correct doctrine, while important, does not a vital Christian life make. How else do you explain James 2:19, "You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!"

I've recently discovered a wonderful article by Francis Schaeffer on this issue called "The Secret of Power and the Enjoyment of the Lord." In a couple short pages Schaeffer helpfully connects the critical role of pure and correct doctrine with a motive of love as a key component of true Christian spirituality. He says, "Purity of self and purity of the church are not ends in themselves. It will not even do to pursue these merely as loyalty to principle. Purity of self and the purity of the church are only worth while when they are based upon love and lead to love." This type of life is a "battle against flesh all the way" according to Schaeffer.

I continue to believe in the importance of ideas and especially doctrine. At the same time, we cannot disconnect our doctrine from its fruit and motive. If the Gospel is the life-transforming news of God's love for the world expressed through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, then love must flow forth from our lives--especially those for whom doctrine matters. After all, Jesus Himself told us (and the world around us!) "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:35)


Michael said...

I wholeheartedly agree with you Pastor Steve. I think that every Christian should strive to have correct doctrine. Everyone needs to be a theologian. In reality, everyone is a theologian – of one sort or another. When Paul uses the phrase "sound doctrine" in passages like 2 Tim 4:3, & Titus 1:9 I believe he is referring to a healthy doctrine. This healthy doctrine is always expected to result in holy living, which is something to strive for. I have always been taught that our ultimate goal as Christians should be to conform to the image of Christ and live to glorify Him. I believe Francis Schaeffer has the right idea too. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this issue. I enjoyed reading what you had to say. Looking forward to getting to know you and your family better this year at Grace. I enjoyed what little time I had getting to know you and your family at the college retreat too.

Dalyn (AKA The Queen of Quite Alot) said...

the link to Schaeffer's article isn't working...I am just itching to read it! I ve been searching online all day...any help? Please *U*