“I Just Love God, not Doctrine”
In most of my conversations with other Christians the topic of doctrinal perspectives often come to the surface. There are moments where I find myself in the presence of a person that shares my views completely. There are even more moments where I am in the presence of a true brother or sister with whom I have some stark disagreements. However, quite often, I am faced with a person that will boldly proclaim their abject hatred for all doctrinal discussions.
These people come from varied denominational backgrounds. Lest one think I only affirm the Reformed, many of those that reject my doctrinal perspectives, frequently attend ostensibly Reformed Churches. So many Christians that I meet will quickly fall back from any mention of doctrine.
“I just love God not doctrine.”
“Doctrine just causes problems. Why can’t we just read the bible and love God?”
“I love people the way God wants me to. I don’t concern myself with doctrine.”
Oddly enough, each of these is a doctrinal perspective that relays on understanding a doctrine. I have encountered these comments and variations of them many times. The sad reality is that most Christians today hate doctrine. This is at their own peril and it has allowed them to be poisoned, and to poison others.
Does Doctrine Matter to God?
Does doctrine matter to God? Do doctrinal perspectives really have an impact on us in practical and tangible ways? Is the purity of the Gospel truly impacted by distinctions and doctrinal perspectives?
The answer to those questions is yes. Moreover, the answers to those questions are doctrinal in nature.
If one denies that doctrine matters to God, they in turn deny the passages that teach us about doctrine. Consider Paul’s words to Titus in chapter 2, “Teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.” Paul, an apostle, is conveying to Titus that his role as an elder on Crete, is to teach sound doctrine. Consequently, we can deduce from Paul that doctrine is to play a large role in the lives of all believers. Moreover, we are left with the conclusion that Paul was presupposing knowledge of doctrine on the part of Titus.
Any position that a Christian may take, is by nature, doctrinal. Therefore, even stating, “I don’t study doctrine,” indicates that the Christian has a doctrinal perspective. Similarly, a Christian taking a doctrinal position that stands in contradiction to established doctrine, is standing on doctrine. Every position a Christian takes, on any issue, is a result of their doctrinal perspectives.
Moreover, our doctrinal perspectives expose our views on God. So, when a Christian says that they don’t love doctrine, they are tacitly stating that they do not love God. How can I say this? Because God has stated to us in many ways that doctrine matters to Him.
All one need do is read Jude or Galatians. Familiarize yourself with the words of Christ on the topic. Consider what He said about false teachers in Matthew 7. Yes! Good doctrine matters to God. By proxy it should matter to us.
Doctrinal Perspectives and our View of Sin and Man
Let’s consider the matter of the doctrines of sin and man. These two doctrines have a profound impact on the Gospel. Furthermore, it is nearly impossible to properly preach the Gospel if your doctrinal perspectives on sin and man are wrong.
Consider the doctrine of original sin. Paul (amongst others) teaches us that we are all in Adam (our first father) and therefore we are all in sin. Furthermore, having not only Adam’s sin nature, we are also sinners in our own right and therefore rightly condemned.
Consequently, we can understand that we are without escape from sin and its deleterious effects. What do I mean without escape from sin? I mean to say that rightly understood, the doctrine of original sin makes it impossible for us to ignore the truth that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Moreover, misapprehension of this doctrinal perspective opens the floodgates of error and insists on modification of the Gospel. Consider the Pelagian view of sin. Pelagius and his disciples posited that man is left untainted from the sin of Adam. Moreover, Adam served as an example to man but not as a father, in-regard-to passing on sin. Thus, in the Pelagian view, it is not only possible, but probable for man to live without any sin.
Take note of this doctrinal position. This view, taken to its logical conclusion (Reductio ad absurdum) dismisses the need for Christ to have died. This errant view equips man with the ability to remain sinless and therefore enter heaven through their own righteousness.
Consequently, proclaiming the Gospel becomes almost impossible for the persons who would hold such a view. Generally, the committed Pelagians that I encounter are rare. However, when pressed, many professing Christians hold Pelagian views. Why? Poor doctrinal perspectives.
Doctrinal Perspectives and the Godhead
Perhaps no doctrinal position is as fundamental to the Christian faith as that of the Godhead. Everything from the deity of Christ to the Triune nature of God are essential doctrines for Christians. If you allow even one of the core elements of the Godhead to be peeled away, you attack the nature of God.
Furthermore, when the nature of God is peeled away, you whittle away at the basis of everything that we understand about creation. Consider the eternality and the aseity of God. God by His nature must be both eternal and self-existent. If God has a cause outside of Himself that means one more powerful than He exists. Moreover, if this true, we can no longer trust the Word He has given us. Accordingly, when we lose our ability to rely on His Word, we have no basis at all for any knowledge we claim to have.
Now take-into-account how certain Christian cults view the Godhead. Jehovah’s Witnesses teach Christ is not God Incarnate but merely Michael the archangel. Mormons teach the Jesus is not only a created being but that He is a brother to Lucifer. Furthermore, Mormons teach that God the Father, Elohim, was not God from eternity past, but became a god. These doctrinal perspectives make preaching the Gospel all-but-impossible.
Even within what many would consider “orthodox” Christianity, there are aberrant views of the Trinity. Oneness Pentecostalism teaches Sabellianism or Modalism. This view is that the nature of God is not three persons but three modes of existence. So that while Christ was on earth, there was no God in heaven.
All these errant views are fundamental fatal flaws that preclude one from being Christian. These doctrinal perspectives are vital. It is of utmost importance that we understand why these doctrines are so important.
Doctrinal Perspectives and the Road to the Gospel
When we consider just the small cross-section of what I have discussed thus far, we are forced to make conclusions. We cannot allow those we love and the Christians we meet to ignore the importance of doctrine. Doctrine is vitally important, and for may reason. However, no reason is more fundamental than how we bring the Gospel to bear on the world.
If we start with a flawed view of the Godhead, we cannot arrive at the Gospel. Any variance in our understanding of the sinful nature of mankind and that we have inherited it from Adam is error. That error means we cannot preach the Gospel as it was intended to be preached.
While the preaching of the Gospel is not meant to be a doctrinal thesis statement, preaching the Gospel requires doctrine. Moreover, the Gospel itself is a doctrine. When we meet Christians that insist that we not concern ourselves with the study of doctrine we remain steadfast. It is incumbent upon us to instruct them in sound doctrine. Why? Because without sound doctrine we cannot preach the true Gospel.
I do not mean to say that a non-Reformed type cannot preach the Gospel. Furthermore, I will not suggest that only Calvinist have all the theological ducks lined up. On any given day any one of us may be in error as it regards doctrinal perspectives.
Therefore, when pursuing the lost with the Gospel, it behooves us to ensure we are doing so with accuracy. We must bring our doctrinal perspectives into submission to Christ’s Word. This is the only way we can pave the road to the Gospel with any confidence.
Do not let yourself be conned into the mindset that doctrine is optional. Furthermore, do not ever believe that doctrine is only for theology nerds, Neo-Reformed hipsters and modern Pharisees. Doctrine is for every believer. It isn’t just for the religious types and this video shows how far gone the study of doctrine is.
Doctrine simply means teaching. Granted the word doctrine has taken on a weighted meaning today, but that weight comes from Holy Writ. Scripture is replete with commands and admonitions to pursue sound doctrine. Moreover, every believer is expected to not only know sound doctrine, but also teach it to others. We do this formally and informally. The Church takes part in this through singing and organized teaching. Mothers teach children. Husbands teach wives. Older women teach younger women and older men teach younger men.
Elders teach the local church. Accordingly, older saints take younger elders under the wing and walk with them to ensure sound teaching. Consequently, the entire local body is to be Berean and hold the elders accountable for what they teach.
Yes, my beloved reader, doctrine matters. Moreover, doctrinal perspectives not only impact how we live and function, but also affect the preaching of the Gospel.
Moreover, I will not allow the Gospel to be divorced from doctrine. Instead, may I stand out of the way and allow the understanding of Gospel as doctrine to drive my pursuit of the lost.
In the next few weeks I will be offering several articles about specific doctrines and how they relate to advancing the Gospel.
Soli Deo Gloria!