Saturday, May 24, 2008

Does Anyone Care About Doctrine Anymore?

I asked a pastor friend of mine that question some time back; his answer was depressing but not surprising. He said in the early days of his pastoral ministry, when he would go calling on visitors, most people would quickly get to questions about his beliefs and the church’s doctrinal statements. Today, very few people ever give doctrine any thought. They just want to know what programs the church has for their children and how the church can “meet my needs.”

I think doctrinal error must be prevalent among most Christians in almost every church; that is just a fact of life. And most of the time it is not purposeful or deliberate. It is just born out of ignorance of Scripture and carried along by traditions and emotions.

For the most part, I think we can endure much of it with grace and gentleness. I understand when parents or Sunday school teachers tell their children that Jesus lives in their hearts. And I cringe when I hear well-meaning adults, whose hearts are sensitive to the lost, instructing people to “just invite Jesus into your life and you will be saved.” Nevertheless I have confidence in God’s sovereign ability to accomplish His work in His people with His Word for His glory regardless of the ineptness and sloppiness of our methods due to errant theology. But that doesn’t mean that we should just ignore faulty doctrine; it must be corrected.

Dennis Prager has said that naivety in children is to be expected; in adults, it is a sin. The way to correct the problem of doctrinal ignorance and error is with regular attention to preaching and teaching the Word of God. Those are both New Testament words and they should be understood by their Greek definitions.

The Greek word for preaching is Kerusso. It has a sense of formality, gravity and authority. Preaching is not a casual or flippant "how to" or “feel-good” Sunday morning talk designed to relate with the audience. Real biblical preaching occurs when the preacher brings a sense of awesome reverence, fear and respect for God and delivers the whole counsel of His Word with uncompromised authority to sinful men.

The Greek word for teaching is Didasko. It means to “instruct in doctrine.” It has the sense of one who has wisdom, understanding, and knowledge, imparting that knowledge to the students in an authoritative way. It is about transferring absolute truth and not about reaching conclusions about beliefs by group consensus or discussions about what the verse "means to me."

When churches preach the Word of God and teach right doctrine, the people are edified in the faith and equipped for the work of the ministry.

So does doctrine really matter? One preacher had this to say about it over 150 years ago:

Depend upon it, doctrinal ignorance will always make Churches weak; but where saints are fed upon the finest of the wheat, and are made to suck of the honey out of the rock, and to eat of the manna and fatness of Gospel doctrine, they will, all other things being equal, become the strongest and most valiant believers on the face of the earth. There is a tendency in these times to depreciate the value of Gospel doctrines. Oh! I beseech you, be not led astray of this error. There are in the Word of God certain things really taught.

Do not believe that the Bible is a lump of wax to be shaped just as you please. Do not imagine that “Yes” is right, and that the “No” which contradicts it is right too. The Lord has written this Book intending to teach us something, and a moderate understanding, sanctified by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, will enable you to know what the Lord does mean to teach you... Do not, I beseech you, say, “Oh, it does not much matter what doctrines I hold.”
Charles SpurgeonFrom a sermon entitled "The Love Of Jesus, What It Is, None But His Loved Ones Know," delivered June 18, 1862.


2 comments:

Anonymous said...

This article ought to be required reading for every pastor, deacon, Sunday school teacher, and church leader of any kind.

Daisy said...

I have heard many a discouraged pastor give into this thinking. They fall into the trap of assuming that because church members are ignorant of & uninterested in doctrine, that they must avoid teaching it. I am so tired of pop-culture sermons and psycho-babble sunday school classes. I actually had a pastor tell me once that church goers cannot understand anything above a 3rd grade level so one has to speak simply to them. WHAT?