If you haven’t already heard…
Members of the Satanic Temple have unveiled their design for a 7-foot-tall statue of the devil they want to locate at the Capitol building in Oklahoma, right next to a monument of the Ten Commandments that has stood since 2012.
“The monument has been designed to reflect the views of Satanists in Oklahoma City and beyond,” said Lucien Greaves, a spokesman for the group…“The statue will also have a functional purpose as a chair where people of all ages may sit on the lap of Satan for inspiration and contemplation.”
How concerned should Christians be about this display? The fact is, we should have seen this coming. Arguing for Christian symbols in the public square on the basis of historical tradition merely opens us up to the furtherance of new traditions—many traditions we won’t like. This is an example of an opening to views of a subculture of American society that despises Christianity and wishes for it to have zero influence in the wider culture. The appeal to fairness, equal access, and freedom to practice religion is protection for all worldviews in a pluralistic society like ours. We need to come to grips with that.
But in my opinion, here’s the real story. Christians are eager to respond to these types of material depictions of Satan, often more eager to do that than respond to the godless ideas that are at the foundation of these depictions. This is an indictment of the Christian mind. Christians are naturally repulsed by an image that appears to have demonic horns and loving on children. Yet how much do we understand the impact of such demonic beliefs on the lives and souls of those who follow pagan religions? This symbol in and of itself has only symbolic power, but unless Christians are capable of refuting the ideas behind this and similar imagery, what benefit is it to concern ourselves with this monument at all?
Rather than being offended by what seems to be an invasion of our space, we need to commit ourselves to a godly response to the underlying ideas that are finding a platform. The proliferation of this kind of imagery should be a warning to the Church that we’re not effectively communicating the message of sin and redemption or the intellectual superiority of Christianity over other worldviews as well as we might think.
The media isn’t fully to blame for what they report, for we need to give them a reason to say something else. What would be an exciting turn of events would be if instead of the media reporting on the offense taken by Christians over the erection of satanic monument, they could report on our purposeful, meaningful response to the ideas being furthered by groups like the Satanic Temple.
One of the greatest challenge for the 21st century Christian is that of relativism. To illustrate this point consider the following scenario: You are at Bible study. You hear someone “share” their thoughts on a passage. They don’t focus on what the author of the text says, but rather on “I feel this passage says” with the end result of an appeal to emotions rather than biblical truth or fact. Now don’t get me wrong as there is a place for sharing feelings. Yet there is a difference between sharing feelings and interpreting the Bible. The Bible is the inspired, inerrant, sufficient, and authoritative Word. When we come to the Bible only to share our thoughts about what it says, we run the risk of committing one of the most egregious errors of our age, namely to base what we believe on our feelings rather than in the timeless objective truth of God’s holy Word.
I spent a number of years when I lived in Seattle walking the streets ministering to homeless people in downtown Seattle. Now that I don’t live in Seattle, I often engage in conversations in coffee shops for the purpose of sharing Christ with people. What I have seen over the course of my time trying to reach non-Christians is they often lead with “I feel” this or that. They may not say, “I feel” or they may begin with “I think this” and then state what they believe. The problems with this are many and while everyone in a sense leads with “I feel” statements, the issue with this is Christians are not to ground their faith in feelings nor communicate that their faith is based on feelings.
Christians have an objective Word that confronts a subjective world. The Word of God provides the authoritative foundation for the Christians faith and practice. This means that their entire world is confronted by the reality of God’s presence and work in and through His Word and His Son Jesus. This is precisely why relativism is a challenge because you may hear someone state, “I feel that this means this” and nobody wants to come close to being perceived as mean-spirited by stating, “I don’t care how you feel”. This begs the question as to how Christians should respond to this challenge.
Christians should respond to the challenge of relativism by undegirding their efforts in the Word of God by proclaiming the superiority of the biblical worldview to that of relativism. Christians can engage people where they are even if they don’t have all the answers to people’s objections to biblical Christianity. When Christians minister to the lost and broken, they do so out of the conviction that they are to love God and our neighbor. What better way to show your non-Christian neighbor you love them than by engaging them as to why they have their particular worldview and how they came to that belief. Such an approach efforts to respond to relativism by treating people as created in the image of God and needing the redemption that Christ offers.
People today are interested in spiritual matters but not in the same way as they were in the past. In today’s society, most people want to know you care about them on a personal level, with the understanding that your conversation with them is based on a concern about who they are and where they are at in life rather than simply trying to win them over to a certain position or belief. In my experience, what non-Christians want to see from Christians is that they truly do love God and love their neighbor. This is the very thing Jesus said sums up all of Scripture and thus to truly follow God’s Word means loving our neighbor. Demonstrating care and concern for non-Christians as people in need of God’s love is to show that we believe what Jesus has said.
Perhaps the greatest challenge to Christians today is Christians themselves. We often think that our position is the only one that matters. Jesus taught that He is the Way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), a statement that provides the framework for why Christians hang their hats on Jesus’ perfectly sufficient and finished work in His death, burial and resurrection. Yet at the same time, many Christians would rather not ask hard questions about what they believe what they do and why what they believe matters. When confronted with difficult questions, some if not most Christians tend to make excuses for why they don’t know the answers rather than be honest and transparent about what they do and do not know. By taking this approach, Christians communicate to non-Christians that they aren’t concern to know what they believe and how that belief should inform the way they live their Christian life. The Gospel is the power of God. Yet, how Christians communicate the Gospel often times undermines the very message we claim to believe. With that said, despite our foibles, God uses the foolishness of His people’s efforts for His glory to expand His Kingdom.
The Bible has much to say about how Christians are communicate their faith. For example, Christians are called to be a people who control their tongue (James 3) and who speak to one another with words seasoned by grace (Colossians 4:6). So how does that relate to the challenge of relativism? Since Christians are called to proclaim a message that confronts the “I feel” attitude, we need to be careful to proclaim what we believe and why it matters to a watching world in a way that honors God and brings Him glory. We do this by communicating the truth of God’s objective truth from His Word by saying, “This is what God has said” rather than “I feel this means this or states this because of…” The Christian is called to proclaim the authoritative Word that confronts the proud and calls sinners to become saints and rebels, servants of His grace. The sad truth is at the end of the day, many people will not be persuaded by the Gospel. Instead of coming to Christ non-Christians would rather continue living under the banner of their feelings than base their thoughts and lives on the authoritative Word of God.
Proclaiming the Gospel and confronting the challenge of relativism requires great care not only in how we handle the Word of God, but also in how the Gospel is proclaimed to the people we are preaching to. Jesus calls His people to love Him and their neighbor. I challenge you to love Jesus by grounding your whole life in the Word of God which contains the Gospel, for the purpose of loving your neighbor with the Word and the message of the Gospel. By taking this approach, you will be able to respond to the challenge of relativism with both your life and the Gospel message which are to increasingly reflect the message of the Gospel. In conclusion, the best way ultimately to deal with and respond to the challenge of relativism in the 21st century is with a life that mirrors the Word of God by the grace of God to the glory of God.
Last night with my daughter, I was watching the children’s cable channel called Nickelodeon. What was drawing our interest was a show called “The Legend of Korra”, a spin-off cartoon from the Avatar: The Last Airbender series. Now I understand most may not be familiar with these cartoons, which ultimately is the purpose of this particular post. What I saw last night was quite disturbing. Let me tell you all that completely gone are the days of Bugs Bunny, Popeye, Tom & Jerry and Woody Woodpecker. Those cartoons have been replaced with a New Age belief system that is being fed to our children. I want you to watch at least a clip from the 20 minute video provided below. I am hopeful you will pick up on subtle and not so subtle discussion of spirit possession, transcendental meditation, connecting with spirit guides, and a number of other completely New Age belief systems.
Keep in mind these themes did not just accidentally make their way into this cartoon. This is a planned and purposeful attempt to inundate children with New Age themes under the guise of it “just being a cartoon” and not real life. The idea of make believe is the cover story for the promotion of New Age ideas. For those not familiar with what these New Age beliefs are all about, I want to provide some definitions which are outlined below. I have no doubt this will shock many of you and honestly I hope it does. We cannot just let our children plop themselves in front of the television anymore, hoping that what is on is pure and edifying to their spiritual growth. Many of the definitions I will provide are from New Age websites so these definitions are from the proverbial horse’s mouth.
Spirit Guides – Spirit guides are incorporeal beings that are assigned to us before we are born that help nudge and guide us through life. They’re responsible for helping us fulfill the spiritual contract we make with ourselves before we incarnate. Your higher self helps select these guides, who help us while we are living out our incarnation. Spirit guides can see what’s going on in our lives, and when it’s time for them to actually guide and/or intervene they have several ways they can accomplish this.[i]
Transcendental Meditation – The Transcendental Meditation technique allows your mind to settle inward beyond thought to experience the source of thought — pure awareness, also known as transcendental consciousness. This is the most silent and peaceful level of consciousness — your innermost Self. In this state of restful alertness, your brain functions with significantly greater coherence and your body gains deep rest.[ii]
Spirit possession – Spiritual possession is a phenomenon in which a stray being from the Spirit World constantly or temporarily possesses and exerts negative influence on a person living on earth. Most commonly they are known as ‘evil spirits’ and, although many people may scoff at the idea, it is a real and undeniable fact that they exist and influence our lives. Spiritual possession can be the cause of illnesses, mental disorders or even crimes, but this phenomenon is not being treated appropriately since modern medicine and science do not recognize the existence of spiritual possession. Fact is though the phenomenon of spiritual possession is a common occurrence and to prevent or counter it people must have accurate spiritual knowledge – they must know the Truth.[iii]
Let me first ask you if any of the three New Age beliefs mentioned above are promoted anywhere in Scripture as something believers should be involved in or to be anywhere near. The answer is a resounding no.
Let’s examine a few scriptures.
“Do not turn to mediums or necromancers; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them: I am the Lord your God.”(Lev. 19:31)
‘A man or a woman who is a medium, or who has familiar spirits, shall surely be put to death; they shall stone them with stones. Their blood shall be upon them.’ ” (Lev. 20:27)
“for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you.” (Deut. 18:12)
“So Saul died for his breach of faith. He broke faith with the Lord in that he did not keep the command of the Lord, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance.” (I Chron. 10:13)
“And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.” (2 Cor. 11:14-15)
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (I John 4:1)
Ultimately, we are told to flee such things as they are nothing more than attempts by the enemy to lure people aware from the true God to being led by what are essentially evil spirits. As mentioned earlier, these are not simple children’s cartoons. They are overt attempts to make that which God has declared to be an abomination as something that is acceptable in our society. Be cognizant of what your children are watching. Be diligent parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, and friends by taking careful note of what is on television, movies, books, and all forms of secular media. Even within what appears to be nothing more than an afternoon cartoon is in fact a clear deception from the enemy, an attempt to lure our children into practices that God has declared are disgusting in His sight. May we declare the words of the Psalmist in such matters: “I will not allow before my eyes any shameful thing. I hate those who act crookedly; what they do does not attract me.” (Ps. 101:3) Remember what is taking place, something the Apostle Paul warned believers about: “For we are not struggling against human beings, but against the rulers, authorities and cosmic powers governing this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm”(Eph. 6:12). After watching that rather wicked (and I don’t mean cool wicked but rather wicked in the biblical sense) cartoon called “The Legend of Korra”, I am further reminded of the urgency and facticity of Paul’s words.
One of the more controversial verses in the New Testament in recent days is Romans 1:26-27. While Matthew 7:1-2 may be the most used verse even by non-Christians, Romans 1:26-27 is quickly becoming the go-to passage for those seeking to qualify the truth of scripture for their own means. According to one website that promotes a homosexually friendly reading of Romans 1:26-27, “Romans 1 has nothing to do with homosexuality because gays and lesbians are never mentioned in Romans 1.”[i] Noted Bible scholar Dr. Thomas Schreiner, commenting on Romans 1:24-32 rightly rejects that approach asserting, “Idolatry is “unnatural in the sense that it is contrary to God’s intention for human beings. To worship corruptible animals and human beings instead of the incorruptible God is to turn the created order upside down. Human beings were intended to have sexual relations with those of the opposite sex. Just as idolatry is a violation and perversion of what God intended, so too homosexual relations are contrary to what God planned when he created man and woman.”[ii]
Many who support homosexual behavior have a problem with this interpretation. With that said, the idea that the context doesn’t support what Schreiner saliently noted flies in the face of Paul’s larger point in the context of this passage. Romans 1:18-32 makes a clear distinction between the Creator and the creature. Paul focuses on God and His invisible attributes (Romans 1:20). Dr. Schreiner further elaborates that “Modern controversy over homosexuality has led to a reevaluation of this text. Some scholars argue that Paul does not condemn all forms of homosexuality but only homosexual acts practiced by people who are “naturally” heterosexual (e.g. Boswell 1980: 109-12). According to this interpretation, to act contrary to nature involves engaging in sexual activity that is contrary to the personal nature or character of the individual. Thus Paul should not be understood as implying that all homosexuality is contrary to what God intended from creation. He speaks only against homosexual acts that are practiced by those who are heterosexuals by nature.”[iii]
John Boswell, in attempting to reinterpret Paul’s words, attempts to claim that “The persons Paul condemns are manifestly not homosexual: what he derogates are homosexual acts committed by apparently heterosexual persons. The whole point of Romans 1, in fact, is to stigmatize persons who have rejected their calling, gotten off the true path they were once on.”[iv] Dr. Schreiner notes, “This interpretation must be rejected since there is no evidence that Paul understood the “nature” of human beings in the individual and psychological sense that is familiar to people in the 21st century.”[v] Biblical scholars Richard Hays and David Malick note that, “Paul rejects homosexuality as contrary to the created order—homosexuality is a violation of what god intended when he created men and women.” (Hays 1986:192-94; Malick 1993:335). The Jewish historian Josephus (Ag. Ap. 2.24), declares that the marriage of a man is according to nature and proceeds to say that the Old Testament law demands the death penalty for intercourse between males. Both Philo (Spec. Laws 3.7; Abr. 26) and Josephus (AG. Ap. 2.35) specifically criticize homosexual relations. Schreiner affirms “there is no evidence that Paul reverses the unanimous Jewish conviction that homosexuality was sinful” (Gen. 19:1-28; Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Deut. 23:17-18).[vi]
When one considers the context of Romans 1:18-32 is Romans 1:16-17, verses that focus on the righteousness of God and then Paul’s teaching on the Creator and the creature, it becomes evident that the interpretation of the homosexual community lacks warrant. Paul first gives the Gospel then emphasizes God’s character to sinners, exposing their need for Jesus. John Calvin stated that the natural world is a theater of God’s glory. Romans 1:18-32 deals with the fact that God has made Himself known to humanity but man rejected and replaced Him with other objects of worship. God delivered two judgments in response to this: one of homosexual behavior and another of an immoral mind, each which demonstrate His abandonment and wrath toward humanity’s rebellion.
The argument advanced by homosexuals that Romans 1:26-27 isn’t talking about homosexuality is ultimately found wanting. Paul’s argument begins in verse 19 where he declares that in the same way people naturally know God by instinct with creation itself demonstrating God’s existence through what He’s made, people naturally and instinctively know right sexual practice because of how the human body was made.
Ultimately, when one considers both the context and what Romans 1:26-27 means, it becomes clear Romans 1 does talk about homosexuality. What matters is not what we think the passage means but rather what the passage says. Homosexual behavior in the eyes of God is sin. Whether you believe that or whether you reject it is a matter of utmost importance and urgency. Paul notes in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” All that matters is what God has said. When God who created man in His image and likeness speaks, man must heed what He has said. To not heed what He has declared is to reject Him.
Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 6:11, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” Here’s the good news. God as the Creator has the right to insist and demand what He wills of His creation. He can take away our lives or continue to sustain them. That is His right. Yet God in His mercy reaches out to man through the finished work of Christ. Paul, before his discussion on the Creator-creature distinction, provides the message of the Gospel in Romans 1:16-17, namely when he talks about the righteousness of God. The righteousness of God refers to God satisfying His justice by putting the penalty of man’s sin on Christ. It is “revealed” to those who confess faith in Christ so that they might live faithfully. This means that while the homosexual community rejects the clear teaching of Romans 1, God still reaches out to them calling them to turn from their idolatry to Himself through Jesus who promises to credit sinners with His righteousness.
At the end of the day, homosexuals aren’t the worse of all sinners. Paul makes clear that all have sinned (Romans 3:23; 6:23) which means everyone is in need of the righteousness of God. Only Jesus can save and He does through His finished and sufficient work. Look to Jesus, abandon your life of idolatry, and fall in love with a Savior who is superior in every way to the idol of sexual perversion. Jesus can and does redeem people from sexual sin and makes them whole through His finished and sufficient work.
[ii] Thomas Schreiner, Romans BECT (Grand Rapids, Baker Academic, 1998), 54.
[iv] John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), Pg. 335.
[v] Thomas Schreiner, Romans BECT (Grand Rapids, Baker Academic, 1998), 96.
1 Peter 3:15 declares “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…”
As I’ve been meditating and reflecting on this verse over the past few weeks, a few things have stood out to me that I think are often missed. Before I get to that it is important to note that 1 Peter was written to Christians who were scattered because of persecution (1 Peter 1:2-3). He writes to address their hope in Christ as well as how they are to be holy and reflect the holiness of God to people as they witness for the Gospel (1 Peter 1:3-25). He instructs them in how they are a particular people and priests unto God (1 Peter 2:1-12). He then explains how they are a people under authority and how to live under that authority and honor God (1 Peter 2:13-25). He exhorts wives and husbands on how to live with one another (1 Peter 3:1-7). In the context surrounding 1Peter 3:15, Peter is instructing believers how to suffer and speak for the gospel (1 Peter 3:8-22), with I Peter 3:14 stating “but even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled…” Moreover, in the following chapter, Peter looks at how Christians are to be stewards of God’s grace (1 Peter 4:1-11), suffer as a Christian (1 Peter 4:12-19), how pastors are to shepherd the flock of God (1 Peter 5:1-11), concluding the book with greetings to several people (1 Peter 5:12-14).
This quick overview of 1 Peter gives us a sense of what the overall thrust of the book is about. Understanding the context of 1 Peter 3:15 will help Christians understand that 1 Peter 3:15 is not the only verse in the book. I often get the feeling that we are so focused on the task of Apologetics from this specific verse, that we miss out on the rest of what the great epistle of 1 Peter has to say to us. Peter is talking in 1 Peter 3:15 not only about how Christians must make a defense and give a reason for the hope they have, he is noting how their entire life must testify to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Remember that Peter is writing to “elect exiles” (1 Peter 1:2), a people who were in exile because of persecution. He was writing to encourage them in the hope they have in Christ (1 Peter 1:3-25). These were men and women were suffering for the sake of the Gospel in the fires of affliction. It was to these people that Peter spoke the words of 1Peter 3:15.
As I read books on Apologetics I get the sense that we are so focused on methodology that we have missed out on how Apologetics relates to the Christian life. The task of Apologetics can in no way be divorced from our Christian lives, but rather must testify of the fact we are Christians. By that I mean Peter emphasizes this by stating “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy” (1 Peter 3:15), a statement that goes back to what he said in 1 Peter 1:13, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Let me try to explain why this is important so you can see some of the weight of what Peter is saying here so we can begin to see that Apologetics is more than just a task Christians perform. Conversely, it is essential to the daily Christian life and ministry of the people of God.
My experience growing up in the Church as a child and in Bible college and seminary has taught me that Apologetics often emphasizes more on “how” we are to reach certain people. It is often assumed those engaging in the task have a biblical worldview when researchers at Lifeway Research Group among others teach us that we cannot assume people in the Church have a biblical worldview or even read their Bibles. Yet what Peter does in 1 Peter is set forth the Christian worldview, that of the hope believers have in God because of the finished work of Jesus and how that is to impact our ongoing growth in sanctification (1 Peter 1:3-25). Since Peter has said that his readers are to “prepare your minds for action” (1 Peter 1:13) that builds upon his premise in 1 Peter 3:15 that if we are to honor Christ the Lord as holy, we first must know the hope we have.
The biblical authors always build upon their thought in order to help their readers understand the topic. Peter is the same way as the rest of the Apostles in this regard. His argument then in 1 Peter 3:15 is that in order to defend and commend the Christian faith, we must understand that what is all important is Christians grounding their worldview in the Word of God and the Gospel of God. Only through that lens can our defense of the faith commend the faith, or in the words of Peter “honor Christ the Lord as holy”. The only reason any of us can do this is because the wrath of God no longer burns against our sin because we have been given a new heart, with new desires and affections for the person and work of Christ. This means the Christian life is a lifeview and our Apologetic efforts must spring from that lifeview. The formation of a biblical worldview begins with understanding the hope we have now in Christ by understanding how Christ has saved us and how He wants to grow His people in His grace. By understanding that foundational point, we will come to see that apologetics is more than just offering defenses and commending the Christian faith. Instead, we will understand that apologetics is a lifeview rooted in holding fast to the authority of the Word of God and declaring the excellencies of the Gospel.
As I’ve meditated on 1 Peter 3:15, what God is teaching me is a bigger vision than just giving an answer to why I believe what I believe. Apologetics is not only giving answers for the reason for my hope in Christ but also how my life testifies of Him. The New Testament has much to say about how we are to know, live, enjoy, and minister for God. When we take all that into account along with 1 Peter 3:15, I don’t know about you but I’m struck with wonder at the God who no longer calls me His enemy but rather calls me His friend. While I believe firmly in apologetics, I think we first need to be Christians, grounding our thinking and methodology in the Word of God. The outflow of that will be ministry to God and a defense of the Christian faith that is first and foremost concerned not with the latest apologetic approach, but rather with what God has said in His Word as the ultimate standard for life.
At the heart of Christian discipleship is the need to hear, heed, and obey what God has commanded. Apologetics is surely at the heart of that but first we must ground our hope in Christ and grow in Him. The outflow from that growth will be ministry that glories in the Gospel of grace and marvels that He calls His people to the task of commending and defending the faith once and for all delivered to the saints. Lastly, understanding apologetics in this way will enable us to heed Peter’s words in 1 Peter 3:15 and hear them as he means then, namely, “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” (1 Peter 3:15).
I don’t know about you but understanding apologetics through the lens I’ve described is less burdensome and more joyful. It is also more hope-filled because it isn’t grounded in our methodology, but rather in the unchanging and inspired Word of God. God calls His people to be a people of His Word and to testify of its Truth. Let the people of God know and declare the excellencies of Jesus in gentleness and respect to the glory of God.
One of the greatest concerns that I have about modern evangelicalism is a tendency to be theological without being explicitly grounded in sound biblical doctrine. The word “doctrine” comes from the Greek word “”didaskolos” and means “teaching.” Doctrine helps Christians know who God is, what He has done, what the Trinity is, the deity of Christ, His resurrection, salvation, justification, and much more. Doctrine defines the Who and the what of Christianity.
We are living in a time when many people would rather focus on felt needs or view their faith in private terms rather than making it known publicly. The truth is that everyone has doctrine. Even the person who believes that they are the center of the universe has doctrine as they view themselves to be the source of truth in a true post-modern perspective. Those who believe in evolution or other such ideas have doctrine. The key to having sound biblical doctrine is to be grounded in the Word of God. The outgrowth of our doctrinal understanding is theology, the study of God. The goal of Christian theology is to learn about God, His nature, His will, and how they apply to our lives. While doctrine is interested in what we believe from God’s Word, theology is concerned with the application of that truth to our lives and the construction of a biblically based worldview.
For example, it is a doctrinal statement that you are a sinner (Rom.3:23; 6:23). The Bible declares that Jesus bore our sin in His body on the cross (1 Peter 2:24) so that we could be justified by faith (Rom.5:1) and escape the righteous wrath of God (John 3:36). Doctrine is vital to our relationship with God and our salvation. Biblical doctrine anchors Christians in truth to alleviate them from drifting into false teaching.
Sadly, many Christians today would rather not bother with doctrine. The attitude is often “Doctrine is for academics, not for me because it doesn’t meet my felt-needs”. When people take the “felt need approach”, they think that God’s Word is designed only to help them feel better. When everyone is concerned with what they “feel” rather than what God has said in His Word we encounter a problem, namely that Truth doesn’t always make us feel good. This is why people would rather ignore the Truth of God’s Word. The Bible warns us about this attitude in 2 Timothy 4:3, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,” and to guard and examine ourselves to make sure we are in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5).
Some people focus on felt-needs. For such people, feeling their way through the Bible means asking such questions as, “What does this verse mean to you?” Yet, there is a fundamental flaw to this question because it focuses not on what the text says, but rather on what we feel. Rather than asking, “What does that verse mean to you?” we should ask, “What does this verse say?” Biblical examination is concerned with what the Bible teaches which once known, requires us to conform to its truth. The felt-needs approach to biblical interpretation is dangerous. To examine what the Bible teaches is to engage in sound principles, doctrinal clarity, and conforming to the Truth of God’s Word.
Doctrine is the lifeblood of the Christian life. When coming to the Bible, don’t treat it as a book that is only meant to make you feel good or to provide the path to riches. True Bible study is centered on both mastering and letting the Word of God master you. You learn doctrine in order to be anchored in the Truth of God’s inspired, inerrant, sufficient, and authoritative Word. This is why you need to learn the basics of doctrine such as Jesus is God in flesh, salvation is by grace, the Trinity, and there will be a future resurrection. Also, in order to grow in the things of God and His Word, it is important to learn more advanced doctrine such as God’s covenant system throughout history, the priesthood of Christ, the difference between justification and sanctification, the righteousness of God, and so much more.
Rather than focusing on felt-needs and viewing the Christian faith as some privatized part of life, come to the Bible with an attitude of humility and view it as it is, God’s Word to you. Do not be deceived by man-centered expectations and wants but rather hear, heed, and obey the Word of God by accepting its doctrinal teaching as formative for all of life. Then conform yourself to the Word by the renewing of your mind. This is what the Lord tells us to do: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect,” (Romans 12:2). Finally, in a world that is tossed to and fro, biblical doctrine provides the Christian a solid foundation for their life in Christ and ministry for Christ to the glory of God.