“Doctrine” Is Not a Curse Word: Why Your Doctrine and Theology are Important

The main purpose of my blog is not so much to teach the Bible. It is more so to teach (or encourage) a love for the Bible. It may sound silly to encourage a love for a book but it’s really not all that silly when that book is the word of God. If you’re a regular reader you’ll notice that I haven’t really posted any articles that expound on any particular passages or teachings. The only ones that come close to this are my Starting at the Cross articles in which I give very brief expositions of Philippians 2:5-7. The only reason I wrote those articles expounding on that passage is because I believe that passage gives us key attitudes which are necessary for building sound doctrine.

I preach because I love to teach the word of God. But here in my writing on this blog, I’ve sat down and tried to write articles expounding on passages and Bible doctrine but there always seems to be a block for me. I can’t help but to keep coming back to key issues that hinder us from being able to develop sound doctrine. A strong negative connotation with the word doctrine itself is one of those.

Doctrine is Not a Curse Word

For the average Christian, the word doctrine carries with it a very strong weight of negative thoughts. So does the word theology. It seems as though most people think that to bother ourselves with doctrine and theology is to try to put God in a box or figure out things that don’t need to be figured out. Based on most people’s reactions when they hear these words I imagine that they think of people who are too smart for their own good, with too much time on their hands, sitting around philosophizing about God and tearing the Bible apart.

However, when you look at church history you see that the development of sound doctrine and theology which guides us today was never brought about by people with too much time on their hands. If anything, they didn’t have enough. It was always brought about in the battlefield, in the trenches, under the line of fire, by holy men of God who loved God and people.

Some golden mouth preacher would rise up from within the church, amass a large following, and then begin to lead them away from God and truth through teachings that were contrary to those which had been historically taught in the church. This would force sincere men of God to get down into the nitty-gritty of the Scriptures to clarify and defend the truths which had been handed down from the apostles and left to us in their writings.

The word doctrine itself actually means right belief or right teaching. So a “doctrine” should, in the ideal world, be that which is a right belief or right teaching of the Bible. Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world so there are a lot of doctrines that are from being right. The phrase sound doctrine is really like a double adjective. “Sound” is a picturesque word depicting something with a solid foundation. Sound doctrine is right belief that serves as a solid foundation for life and godliness.

Theology is Not a Curse Word

Theology is likewise a good thing. If it is right theology of course. The word theology simply the “study of God.” Of course, you cannot literally study God like you some inanimate object in a science lab. But we can study Him like we would our spouse to learn what makes him/her tick, what are their likes and dislikes, what brings them joy or makes them sad, why they do or don’t do certain things. We do this with our spouse and others so that we can have a healthy relationship with them. It is no different with God. Theology is about building a healthy and intimate relationship with God. The reality is that both words are good words and good doctrine and good theology strengthen your relationship with God and others.

Everyone Has Their Own Theology

Whether you like the words or not everyone has their own doctrinal and theological belief system that shapes their lives, their relationship with God and their relationships with other people. I’ll use a few extreme examples to illustrate this point.

If you believe that abortion is ok that’s a product of your theology  (what you believe another God and life). If you feel like you can be a good godly man or woman without going to church or reading your Bible that’s a product of your theology. If you feel like you have to be in church every time the doors open to be a good Christian that’s a product of your theology. And if you flip these, the alternate beliefs are likewise a product of what you believe about God and life.

We can also take a list of controversial Bible topics and see how everyone has a doctrinal and theological framework for life that they’re not even really aware of. Look at the following list of theological statements:

  • Speaking in tongues is still a gift for today.
  • Speaking in tongues is not a gift for today.
  • Baptism is essential for salvation.
  • Baptism is not essential for salvation.
  • Heaven is real.
  • Heaven is not real.
  • Hell is real.
  • Hell is not real.
  • God predestined people to salvation.
  • God did not predestine people to salvation.
  • Jesus is God.
  • Jesus is not God.
  • God is a Trinity.
  • God is not a Trinity.
  • Jesus was born of a virgin.
  • Jesus was not born of a virgin.
  • The miracles in the Bible are literal real miracles.
  • The miracles in the Bible are not literal real miracles but only good stories meant to illustrate moral points.

I picked out some of the most extreme examples because as you’re reading through that list you’re immediately thinking one of three things: (a) I disagree with that; (b) I agree with that; or (c ) I don’t know what that is. All of these things are individual doctrines. Put a couple of them together and now you’ve got a theology.

Now, take everything off that list that you agree with and put it in one pile, put everything you do agree with in another, and everything you don’t know in another and you’ve got a little glimpse of what your theological framework looks like. So you see that you already have your own theological belief system shaped by certain doctrines you either agree or disagree with.

Doctrine and Theology Shape Your Life

Here’s the thing about it. Most of this stuff (these doctrines) you’ve chosen to either believe or disbelieve without too much thought or investigation into their truthfulness. When you look at the list it is impossible that all of them be true. For example, if Jesus is God then He cannot also not be God. Either one or the other is true.

What if the things you’ve chosen to believe without any real investigation are not true? Then you’re belief system, how you see God and people, is shaped by lies. Or maybe it’s not shaped entirely by lies. Maybe just some of the things you’ve chosen to believe are not true. Then there’s a little lie poking in here and there but they still affect the way you see God and people. And the way you see God and people affect the way you relate to them.

Therefore, the doctrines you hold true, in turn, shapes your theology, which in turn shapes your relationship with God and others. This is why they are so important and I emphasize so much about reading and studying your Bible for yourself. Sound doctrine will draw you deeper and deeper into the heart of God and fill you with a love, joy, and peace that is overflowing. Your belief system really does serve as a solid foundation for life and godliness. If it is composed of the right stuff.

Sound Doctrine Transforms You

More than that, God calls us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Check out Romans 12:2,

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

This is an imperative in the Greek. Which means it’s a command. How can you be transformed by the renewing of your mind if you are not challenging the things you hold to be true which shape the way you think, feel and relate? You can’t. If your mind is full of lies because the doctrines you believe are not true then it is not being renewed and you’re not being transformed.

In effect, not only are you being disobedient but you’re also missing out. Check out the part in that verse where Paul says, “So that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” What does he mean by prove? The Amplified Bible (AMP) translates that phrase “prove for yourself” which is a little closer to what the Greek means.

You ever been to buy a car? You’re looking around the lot, see one that catches your eye and the salesman starts telling you all the good things about it. “Yeah. That’s one of our best selling models. It’s fast, comfortable, rides like you’re rolling on air, got heated seats,” and then he says, “Let’s take it for a test drive so you can see for yourself.”

That is kind of what Paul is saying here. He’s saying the will of God is good, acceptable and perfect. And if you will be transformed by the renewing of your mind then you will experience that for yourself and you will be able to prove for yourself that God’s will is good, acceptable and perfect.

Copyright © Lawrence Joseph Sterling 2017. All rights reserved.