by Michael Bremmer
“And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles teaching . . .” (Acts 2:42)
No statement more clearly shows the lack of Biblical thinking and discernment in Evangelical Christianity then, “I don’t believe in doctrine, I believe in Jesus.” I have heard this silly statement, and others similar to it, too often to believe that it is only the product of a few reckless individuals. Doctrine in Evangelical Christianity has become not only despised by many, but routinely mocked with seeming spiritual sounding cliches. In place of despised doctrine the Bible is shoved into our faces by these seeming pious individuals, who assert with a certain air of spiritual elitism, “We believe in just the Bible, not church dogma.”
The word doctrine, however, comes from the Greek word didache and means “teaching.” In Theology, that is, the study of who God is and what He is like, doctrine means “that which is taught as a formal truth or belief OF THE FAITH” (The Compact Dictionary of Doctrinal Words, p. 75). Christian doctrines are those doctrines of our Christian faith, which were “once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). Therefore, to present the bible as something totally antithetical to Christian doctrine is absurd. Christian doctrines are those truths taught in Scripture that are Essential to the Christian faith.
The Apostle Paul viewed doctrine much differently then many Evangelical Christians do today. Paul used the “D” word some 12 times in his Epistles. Paul considered not only the ability to “EXHORT in sound DOCTRINE” a qualification for church leadership, but also the ability “to REFUTE those who contradict. (Titus 1:9). Later in the same letter Paul writes, “But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound DOCTRINE.” (2:1). To his young friend Timothy, Paul writes, “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction [Didache].” To the believers in Rome Paul ends his epistle with these words, “Now I urge you brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching [Didache] which you have learned, and turn away from them.” Paul’s exhortation to the believers at Rome, and to us today, presupposes that one understands sound doctrine, therefore, one can discern false doctrine and turn away from those teaching it. How far Evangelical Christianity has moved from Paul’s simple exhortations! Many Evangelical Christians today pride themselves upon the fact that they do not know doctrine, “just Jesus” therefore, are unable to discern false doctrine, let alone false teachers.
If the words of the apostle Paul are not themselves enough to convince of the necessity of doctrinal teaching and understanding, then listen to the words of Jesus Christ: “And He was teaching them many things in parables and was saying to them in His teaching [Didache].” While Jesus severally condemns the pharisees, He does not condemn the teaching of doctrine, only the teaching of FALSE doctrine: “The teaching as doctrine the precepts of men.” To discern the difference between doctrine that is from the word of God from those that are merely the precepts of men, one must have a knowledge and understanding of biblical doctrine. To this end, was a large part of our Lord’s earthly ministry; so much so that He often warn that those who did not abide in his teaching would perish.
The so-called Great Commission of Christ presupposes the teaching of doctrine: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit TEACHING them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mt. 28:19-20). Christ commanded His people to disciple the nations. There is no other way to disciple one in Christianity then by the teaching of Christian doctrine.
To those who pride themselves on the fact that they have “No creed, just Christ,” or “I am just a simple Christian, I believe just the Bible” I ask: Who is Jesus? Do you believe that Jesus is God come in the flesh? Then you believe in the doctrine of the incarnation of Christ. Do you believe that Christ paid the price for your sin? Then you believe the doctrine of the atonement. Do you believe that Jesus rose again from the dead? Then you believe the doctrine of the resurrection. Do you believe that we are saved by faith alone? Then you believe in the doctrine of justification by faith.
Considering the emphasis Scripture places on the importance of teaching and understanding Christian doctrine, What should be the response of the Christian? The Christian should not take pride in doctrinal ignorance, but rather study and learn carefully the doctrines of the Christian faith, so that he or she may not be led astray by false doctrine.