Does Doctrine Matter
In our culture today, there seems to be a gravitation away from the idea of doctrine. Doctrine holds a connotation of strong-willed belief which is what the cultural revolution is trying to eradicate. They hold, with an ironically strong will, that to place a set of beliefs above another set of beliefs is to be uneducated, or out of touch with reality. If you are to be educated and accepted, you must think in relative terms, allowing for all beliefs, and all ideas to be accepted equally. This, they believe, is the way to escape doctrine. But it is a doctrine, it’s the doctrine of relativity. You see, you cannot escape doctrine. Even if you are to say you do not believe in doctrine, you are in fact holding to a doctrine.
Doctrine is like a belly button – everyone has one. Even though the analogy breaks down quite fast, the truth is that doctrine is part of who we are. It drives our worldview; in fact, it is the foundation of our worldview. The set of beliefs we hold and determines how we see everything around us. So doctrine matters. Our doctrine is the most important thing about us, for by it, our thoughts and actions are formed. This not only means that doctrine matters, it matters that we hold to good and correct doctrine as well.
If I build a house, the first thing to be built is the foundation. Out of the foundation, the framework is built, and you start to see a house take shape. Then the finishing work is done. The exterior is covered with aesthetical material, and the interior is furnished and cleaned up for it to be livable. All you can see is the finished product. Although the foundation is covered, the entire house is determined by it. In fact, the only reason the house looks as it does is because the foundation determines the shape, and durability of the house.
Now if I were to come over to your house, and I mentioned that a certain piece of furniture would work better in a different location, you probably wouldn’t be too offended. But if I were to say that you must move to a different house, you would immediately and adamantly say no. You have grown attached to this house, and it feels like home. It would be a different story, though, if I were to point out that your walls were rotting, and your foundation was horribly deteriorated. You might have some sense to move to a different location.
So it is with doctrine. I may be able to convince you to change beliefs of little importance, but to convince you that your total set of beliefs is wrong is incredibly difficult, if not impossible. You must realize that your doctrine is incorrect before you are willing to change. You must be able to see the inconsistencies within your worldview in order to move. To move from incorrect doctrine to correct and biblical doctrine is, as the scripture so clearly states, a work of God. Only God can open blind eyes to see the faults in their ‘homes’, only God can change our hearts.
We are in desperate need of good doctrine. Thomas Watson, in his introduction to his great work, A Body of Divinity, argues that unsettled Christians are like feathers. They are light and blown in every direction. That is why these Christians are like children who are, “fickle sometimes of one mind, sometimes of another, nothing pleases them long.” The question, then, is, how do we obtain good doctrine?
God gives us overseers in the church to teach us proper doctrine. The work of the overseer, as Ephesians 4 states, is to build up the body of Christ, “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”
The problem today in the church is that pastors are not placing much emphasis on teaching doctrine. The teaching from the catechism is rare, and most sermons are heavy laden with principles and emotional stories. There is very little emphasis on the doctrines of scripture – the doctrines we need for our Christian growth. There is very little work being done to ground Christians in doctrine.
“If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;” Colossians 1:23 KJV
Again Thomas Watson is of help to us. He proposes we must understand the fundamental beliefs of the Christian faith if we are to be grounded. He states, “Knowledge of fundamentals, is the golden key which opens the chief mysteries of true religion; it gives us a whole system and body of divinity, exactly drawn in all its lineaments and lively colors; it helps us to understand many of those difficult things which occur in the reading of the word; it helps to untie many Scripture knots.”
We need biblical doctrine, for it settles us in the faith. It settles us in an unsettled world. Just as, “the plant which is continually replanted never thrives,” being settled gives us the opportunity to grow into the image of Christ. For one to be settled, one must be grounded. If we are to be grounded in something that will never move, we must be grounded in Christ who is that solid rock, a firm foundation. So let us seek that wisdom which comes from above, and grow in our understanding and knowledge of God, that we may be grounded upon the faithful one who never changes.