The New Testament uses the word "doctrine" or "doctrines" over 50 times. Sometimes it refers specifically to the "doctrines of men." Sometimes it refers to false or perverse doctrine. And sometimes it refers to religious truth.
The word simply means "teaching." Just as there are false teachings and harmful teachings and dangerous teachings, there are also true, wholesome and beneficial teachings.
Doctrine gets a totally bad rap nowadays. If I say I am going to indoctrinate the children, people assume that's a bad thing when in fact, I plan to instruct them in the teachings of Holy Scripture.
It's similar with the word "Creed." A creed is simply a statement of one's beliefs. When someone says "no creed but the bible," they are being overly simplistic. If you say, "Jesus Christ is Lord." That is more than a bible quote. It is your creed, your belief. It's a doctrine.
Even worse is when someone says, "Deeds, not creeds." That's like saying, "deeds, not beliefs." Is Christianity really just about deeds? About improving your behavior? About what you do?
I realize that Christianity is more than a set of correct propositions and more than just true information. It is a relationship with the true and living God accessed through faith in Jesus Christ. But to have a relationship with Christ, one must KNOW him.
It matters WHAT you believe, friends. You can't just say, "I love Jesus." Nearly everyone says that from Mormons to Muslims. "Who do men say I am?" WHO is Jesus? WHAT did he do?
If you say that God is not going to judge you according to your doctrine, be careful because it sounds like you are suggesting that your relationship to God is not related to what you believe.
According to St. Paul:
If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing. (1Timothy 6)In this passage, the apostle equates the word "doctrine" with "godly teaching." Who is the arrogant party, the one who teaches falsely or the one who condemns the one who teaches falsely?
Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers (1Timothy 4).And here Paul suggests that false doctrine (as much as immoral living) will harm the teacher as well as his hearers. How many in the church today can be said to be watching their doctrine closely?
I realize that for a lot of Christians today, this is horrifying. Doctrinal indifference is equated with love. But according to St. Paul, if you want to save people, correct doctrine is necessary. Those who dismiss doctrinal purity are like those who go to sow seed but pay no attention to the health or condition of the seeds themselves.
P.S. Friends, I do also realize that it is possible for the pendulum to swing too far the other direction. I'm not in favor of a Doctrine Gestapo. But it just seems to me that the majority of contemporary American Christianity is plagued with indifference to correct teaching. Flannery O'Conner once said that to the hard of hearing, you shout. So forgive me if my tone seems too intense. I'm actually a pretty wonderful guy.
Re-reading my post here, I want to also point out that faith is not a mere rational enterprise. Scripture shows that infants (even unborn) can have faith. Like John the Baptist leaping "for joy" when he overheard the voice of his Savior's mother. And an infant's faith is not based on cognitive data. This remains a mystery. Ultimately, faith is the product of the Holy Spirit's work. It is not something we drum up inside ourselves. To a rationalist I will emphasize the mystery of faith (fides qua creditur). But to someone who goes to the other extreme, I will emphasize the propositional nature of the faith (fides quae creditur). Sphere: Related Content