I recently heard a woman say about a church she attends, “They don’t care about religion. They don’t care about doctrine. They just love Jesus, and want other people to love Jesus.”
Before I go any further, I want to affirm the last part of her statement. Yes, loving Jesus and seeing others come to know and love the Author of all life is what we as the Church are about. The ultimate goal of mission is to take the Gospel of Christ to the ends of the earth, so that He alone is worshipped in every people group and ethnicity on the planet. Amen.
However, the first part of this woman’s statement troubles me, as this line of thinking is so prevalent in so many American evangelical congregations. Somehow the idea that doctrine is a “bad thing” has crept into the mind of the modern believer (and no doubt the modern preacher, in some cases) and that it somehow only divides people. Does doctrine divide? Absolutely. It divides truth from falsehood. It divides orthodoxy from heresy. It divides true belief from apostasy. The grand themes of the Bible like “kingdom”, “redemption”, “faith”, and “sanctification” would lose their meaning apart from sound, biblical definitions applied to them. The reading of the scriptures to draw out foundations and logic of these infinite truths helps our finite minds begin to comprehend the greatness and grace of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Doctrine is an essential part of the history of Christian thought and mission. The grand themes of Biblical Christianity must be coalesced into teachable points: What does a follower of Christ believe? How should a follower of Christ react to society? Doctrine is how the people of God define and work out their faith in their day-to-day lives, and pass on the truths of Christ to the next generation. It is essential.