Monday, May 4, 2009

Loveless Intellectualism... or is it?

Greetings to all!

I write to you this evening from the zenith of the internet, with the wisdom found at the base of a coffee cup. For when the mind is energized, the body too will become so, and indeed the hands are soon to follow. It is with hope that I approach my first of many (Lord willing) blog posts. Hope that the mental energy (read: caffeine) captured in the dark, swirling bitter of coffee will find its way from mind, to body, to hands, and finally through keyboard and out to you.

Although I should probably do the obligatory autobiographical first post, I, in this case, will take the road less traveled. Let us pray it makes all the difference. (Thanks, Rob Frost). I will instead dive right into a stick that has been firmly planted in my crawl for several years now.

There is a perception in popular Christian culture that doctrine and theology is for the intellectual Christian. That the “deep bible stuff” is best left to the theologians and biblical scholars, but not for the “common” believer. Nothing could be further from the truth. I believe these thoughts stem from two misunderstandings. The first and most basic is a misunderstanding of the word doctrine. The second is a lack of understanding of the practical application of theological principals, and what the bible actually says about doctrine itself. It is important to overcome these issues, because when one gains a more through understanding of scripture their walk with God (and life in general) is only ever enhanced.

“Just give me Jesus. You can take your loveless intellectualism elsewhere!”

If you disagree with my next statement your gut reaction might be to stop reading or head right for the comment section and blast me into oblivion, but please bear with me. Jesus loves doctrine, and if you love Jesus you too will love doctrine. Jesus was full of doctrine, so much so that it poured out of Him. During His earthly ministry Jesus was constantly giving us doctrine.

“Alright I get it! So why do you say that Jesus loved doctrine?”

At this point I’ll turn to Merriam-Webster for some insight.


1. Teaching; instruction.
2. That which is taught; what is held, put forth as true, and supported by a teacher, a school, or a sect; a principle or position, or the body of principles, in any branch of knowledge; any tenet or dogma; a principle of faith; as, the doctrine of atoms; the doctrine of chances.

Doctrine is teaching! Jesus taught us things, He gave us doctrine… constantly. What I’m saying is, any time Jesus opened His mouth to teach us something He was providing us with doctrine. The Bible itself is a book of teaching, a book of doctrine. When you say, “Jesus loves me” you are expressing doctrine, the doctrine (teaching) of God’s love for His elect.

Jesus said of the Pharisees, "Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:
"Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men."
–Mark 7:6-8 ~ NASB

In other words, Jesus is saying the Pharisees worship God in vain because they are teaching the precepts of men as if they were the commandments of God. Jesus is equating the commandments of God to doctrine, and the precepts of men to hypocrisy.

“Ok so doctrine is teaching, I’ll give you that one. But what I’m talking about is all that other stuff you guys get all worked up about. Like dispensationalist or covenant theology, infusion or imputation, you know that kind of stuff. Who cares!? Does it change my relationship with God at all?”

You already know what I’m going to say, so this time I’ll spare you the dramatic build-up. The answer is yes, those things (and many others) vastly change our relationship with God. In fact believing one way or the other on some of these issues is the difference between being a heretic and a true child of God.

“If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.”
–1 John 1:8 ~ NASB

If you don’t believe in the doctrine of Original Sin (Adam sinned, and sin is passed to all men from Adam, therefore all sin) the truth is not in you. If you read the context of the verse it’s very clear here that “truth is not in us” means you are not covered by the blood of the Lamb of God, you are not saved. But, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” –1 John 1:9 ~ NASB

To confess your sin you first have to believe you are a sinner. What you believe, and why you believe it, is of massive importance.

“But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus,”
–2 Timothy 2:16-17 ~ NASB

What gangrene is leading to further ungodliness?

“men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place…”
–2 Timothy 2:18a ~ NASB

They were changing the doctrine of the resurrection so that they were able to say it had already taken place. As I’ve already pointed out, this is called gangrenes and ungodly! Is it not the believer’s goal to be more Godly?

“… holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.”
–Titus 1:9 ~ NASB

This is instruction to the elders of the church. Sound doctrine is to exhort believers, and refute those who contradict the doctrine.

“Ah ha! Back to my original point. This doctrine stuff is for the elders of the church!”

Keep reading a little further down:

“But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine.”
–Titus 2:1 ~ NASB

If you read the rest of the qualifications for elders in Titus chapter 1 you might notice something interesting. These are qualities we expect to see in all Christians, not just the “super” Christians.

God’s doctrine is important for all Christians to understand. All 10 commandments are doctrine. Salvation by grace through faith in Christ Jesus alone is doctrine. I guess my point is “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” –2 Timothy 3:16-17 ~ NASB

With empty mug in hand,

1 comment:

  1. Scott,

    Very encouraging thoughts, brother. You and I have had similar church upbringings ... at least for much of our childhood, and I am chuckling as I recall some of the conversations we've had, the sermons we've heard, and the songs we've sung. I can more firmly say amen to your thoughts.