Editor’s note: The purpose of this series is to write on “Issues in the Church” that either aren’t talked about, ignored entirely, or that we want to contribute to the discussion on. Our goal with this series is to help our readers think through these issues from a biblical worldview with lots of practical gospel-application.

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.

Is Doctrine important?

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. But here’s the truth: 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 post-modern perspective. If doctrine is what we believe to be the ground of truth, then even 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. And 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.

Why bother?

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 in 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 the 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.

What we need is a posture of humility toward God’s Word.

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.

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