Greg Gilbert: In recent years, a number of books have been published that urge Christians to rethink a traditional understanding of “doctrine.” The discussions surrounding this question are many and varied, and they take place on every level of theological sophistication. At the highest levels, the questions probe whether doctrine is even possible given postmodern ways of thinking: How capable are we of formulating any objective statements at all, given that we are all products of a culture? Is the idea of propositional truth even valid? Does the Bible contain doctrine as we have defined doctrine in the past? These types of questions have begun to filter down into more popular works as well, so that they are becoming a part of the collective evangelical consciousness. At the more popular level, though, they are not articulated in terms of whether objective, propositional doctrines can exist in a postmodern world. They are stated like this: if I want a Christianity that
J.C. Ryle: One plague of our age is this widespread dislike to distinct biblical doctrine. In the place of it, the idol of the day is a kind of jellyfish Christianity – a Christianity without bone, or muscle, or sinew, without any distinct teaching about the atonement or the work of the Spirit, or justification, or the way of peace with God – a vague, foggy, misty Christianity, of which the only watchwords seem to be, “You must be liberal and kind. You must condemn no man’s doctrinal views. You must consider everybody is right and nobody is wrong.” And this creedless kind of religion, we are told, is to give us peace of conscience! And not to be satisfied with it in a sorrowful, dying world, is a proof that you are very narrow-minded! Satisfied, indeed! Such a religion might possibly do for unfallen angels! But to tell sinful, dying men and women, with the blood of our father
Gavin Ortlund: For various reasons I’ve been thinking about how Christians should relate to each other around secondary doctrines. What partnerships and alliances are appropriate among Christians of different denominations, networks, or tribes? What kind of feelings and practices should characterize our attitude to those in the body of Christ with whom we have significant theological disagreements? What does it look like to handle—with integrity and transparency—personal differences of conviction that may arise with your church, boss, or institution? These kinds of questions have been a significant part of my own denominational and theological journey over the last decade, and it is a practical issue that will always be with us. So I thought it might be helpful to share two convictions that have been brewing in me while I’ve struggled my way through it all. At the broadest level I see two opposite dangers: doctrinal minimalism and doctrinal separatism. Danger #1: Doctrinal Minimalism The overall trajectory of our culture seems
Erik Raymond: Theology often gets a bad rap. Pitted against application, doctrine is painted as stuffy and out of step. But so often when we read the Bible we find that it is the theology that drives the devotion. Orthodoxy gets pressed down into the crevices of our lives to make us grow. Like an expert mason with his trowel, the Lord uses trials to press the mortar of doctrine into the deepest parts of our lives. One story that brings this out in a refreshing way is the time when Rebekah was pregnant with twins. Like us, Rebekah was not promised an easy life on the road of blessing. She experienced great conflict. We read in Genesis 25:22, “the children struggled together within her.” The NIV says that the babies jostled together within her. There was a conflict in Rebekah’s womb, and it was most certainly painful. In response, Rebekah asks a very appropriate question, “and she said, “If
Kevin DeYoung: Christianity is much more than getting your doctrine right. But it is not less. You can have right doctrine and not be a Christian. You can know all sorts of true things about Jesus and not be saved. The Devil is not unaware of who Jesus really is. The first beings in the Gospels to recognize the true identify of Christ are the demons. You can know true things and not be a Christian. But you cannot be a Christian without knowing true things. Some doctrines are absolutely essential. You can know some truths and still be lost, but there are some truths, without which, you will not be found. What we believe about Jesus is one of those truths. Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that
Ray Ortlund: Doctrine + Devotion The Bible calls men today to lead in their churches and in their homes through both doctrine and devotion. What is “doctrine”? The word simply refers to biblical teaching. So no man should fear this word. You can ponder the Lord, by his grace. But if you resist theological thinking, that mentality itself is teaching something, and what it’s saying is really bad doctrine. What is “devotion”? This word simply refers to heartfelt feeling. So no man should look down on devotion. You can love the Lord, by his grace. But if you resist devotional feeling, that feeling itself is captivating your heart with really bad devotion. But if your Christianity is both doctrine and devotion, both head and heart, and increasingly so as you grow and mature, then you are truly following the Lord. Here is where the Bible takes us: All doctrine should be devotional, and all devotion should be doctrinal. This is
Tim Challies: I love doctrine. Doctrine is simply the teaching of God or the teaching about God—the body of knowledge that he reveals to us through the Bible. I guess I’m one of those geekly people who loves to learn a new word and the big idea behind it. But I hope I do not love doctrine for doctrine’s sake. Rather, I strive to be a person who loves doctrine for God’s sake. Today I want to give you 6 great reasons to study doctrine. DOCTRINE LEADS TO LOVE Doctrine leads to love—love for God that then overflows into love for others. 1 John 4:8 makes it plain: “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” To know God is to know love; to know God is to equip yourself to act in love. Your love for God is limited by your knowledge of him, so that you can really only love him as far as you know him. As
Derek Rishmawy One of my fundamental convictions is that theology, while possessing theoretical aspects, is eminently practical. It’s the “doctrine of living unto God” as some of the older theologians used to put it. One of the greatest tests of that “practicality” is understanding the various ways that the doctrines of the Christian faith can serve as a comfort to us in the manifold sufferings and tragedies we encounter in this life this side of Eden and before the Second Coming. In what follows, I’d like to simply (and briefly) point out some of the many ways the main doctrines of the Christian faith provide a comfort to the believer in times of struggle, suffering, and pain. Trinity. Before moving to realities more directly oriented towards God’s actions on our behalf, it’s important to stop and remember the comfort of the fact that before all things, God has eternally been perfectly existent as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This God
A collection of quotes from chapter five of John Murray’s Redemption Accomplished and Applied: If we are to appreciate that which is central in the gospel, if the jubilee trumpet is to find its echo again in our hearts, our thinking must be revolutionized by the realism of the wrath of God, of the reality and gravity of our guilt, and of the divine condemnation. That justification does not mean to make holy or upright should be apparent from common use. When we justify a person we do not make that person good or upright. When a judge justifies an accused person he does not make that person an upright person. He simply declares that in his judgement the person is not guilty of the accusation but is upright in terms of the law relevant to the case. In a word, justification is simply a declaration or pronouncement respecting the relation of the person to the law which he, the judge,
Tim Challies: A few days ago I tried to demonstrate how a church self-destructs. There is a sad progression that begins with the people growing weary and ashamed of truth. No longer able or willing to endure sound teaching, they get rid of the truth-tellers and accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions. Inevitably, they soon turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. All of this is laid out in chapter four of 2 Timothy. In the face of this kind of assault, Paul juxtaposes the simplest solution: Preach. It’s as simple as that one step, that one commitment. The church that remains faithful to God is the church that remains faithful to the Word of God. The healthy church is the preaching church. Here, as I see it in 2 Timothy 4:2, are Paul’s specific instruction for the kind of preaching that glorifies God and protects the church. Preach Expositorily It is
Sound theology should shape everything we do in corporate worship. But what does that mean for music in particular? Don Carson recently sat down with worship leaders Keith Getty and Matt Boswell to discuss the relationship between the truth we believe and the songs we sing. Theology and Music from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.
R.C. Sproul: Every Christian is a theologian. We are always engaged in the activity of learning about the things of God. We are not all theologians in the professional sense, academic sense, but theologians we are, for better or worse. The ‘for worse’ is no small matter. Second Peter warns that heresies are destructive to the people of God and are blasphemies committed against God. They are destructive because theology touches every dimension of our lives. The Bible declares that as a man thinks in his heart, so is he…Those ideas that do grasp us in our innermost parts, are the ideas that shape our lives. We are what we think. When our thoughts are corrupted, our lives follow suit. All know that people can recite the creeds flawlessly and make A’s in theology courses while living godless lives. We can affirm a sound theology and live an unsound life. Sound theology is not enough to live a godly life.
Albert Mohler: In the beginning was the Word. Christians rightly cherish the declaration that our Savior, the crucified and resurrected Lord Jesus Christ, is first known as the Word — the one whom the Father has sent to communicate and to accomplish our redemption. We are saved because the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Believers are then assigned the task of telling others about the salvation that Christ has brought, and this requires the use of words. We tell the story of Jesus by deploying words, and we cannot tell the story without them. Our testimony, our teaching, and our theology all require the use of words. Words are essential to our worship, our preaching, our singing, and our spiritual conversation. In other words, words are essential to the Christian faith and central in the lives of believers. As Martin Luther rightly observed, the church house is to be a “mouth house” where words, not images or dramatic
In this video by Desiring God, Joel Beeke, co-author of A Puritan Theology, gives an entry-level appreciation of the puritans.
Jonathan Edwards: By virtue of the believer’s union with Christ, he doth really possess all things. That we know plainly from Scripture. But it may be asked, how doth he possess all things? What is he the better for it? How is a true Christian so much richer than other men? To answer this, I’ll tell you what I mean by “possessing all things.” I mean that God three in one, all that he is, and all that he has, and all that he does, all that he has made or done–the whole universe, bodies and spirits, earth and heaven, angels, men and devils, sun, moon and stars, land and sea, fish and fowls, all the silver and gold, kings and potentates as well as mean men–are as much the Christian’s as the money in his pocket, the clothes he wears, the house he dwells in, or the victuals he eats; yea more properly his, more advantageously his, than if
Tim Challies: Some words are written down and are here for a day and then gone. Other words are so pointed, so perfect, that they stand for many years. J.C. Ryle is a man who wrote many books and pamphlets and sermons that are as powerful and relevant today as they were in the 19th century. His description of jellyfish Christianity could as easily have been written here in the 21st century. “[Dislike of dogma] is an epidemic which is just now doing great harm, and specially among young people. It produces what I must venture to call a “jelly-fish” Christianity in the land: that is, a Christianity without bone, or muscle, or power. A jelly-fish is a pretty and graceful object when it floats in the sea, contracting and expanding like a little, delicate, transparent umbrella. Yet the same jelly-fish, when cast on the shore, is a mere helpless lump, without capacity for movement, self-defence, or self-preservation. Alas! It is a vivid
Geerhardus Vos: To join the outcry against dogma and fact means to lower the ideal of what the Christian consciousness ought normally to be to the level of the spiritual depression of our own day and generation. How much better that we should all strive to raise our drooping faith and to re-enrich our depleted experience up to the standard of those blessed periods in the life of the Church when the belief in Bible history and the religion of the heart went hand in hand and kept equal pace, when people were ready to lay down their lives for facts and doctrines, because facts and doctrine formed the daily spiritual nourishment of the souls. May God by his Spirit maintain among us, and through our instrumentality revive around us, that truly evangelical type of piety which not merely tolerates facts and doctrines, but draws from them its strength and inspiration in life and service, its only comfort and hope
David Wells reflects on the fact that apostolic Christianity was shaped into a set of clear teachings and doctrines: “Christianity, in these and texts like them, is described as the faith, the truth, the pattern of sound words, the traditions, the sound doctrine, and what was delivered in the beginning. This is what the apostles taught, it is what they believed, it is what they “delivered” to the church, it is what is “entrusted” to the church. Christians are those who “believe” this teaching, who “know” it, who “have” it, who “stand” in it, and who are “established” in it. The New Testament letters were written to remind believers about their responsibilities in relation to this teaching, this faith that has been delivered to the church in its final and completed form. The apostles, we read, write to “remind” them of it, urge them to “pay close attention” to it, to “stand firm” in it, to “follow” it, to “hold”
Tim Keller: The church in Western culture today is experiencing a crisis of holiness. To be holy is to be “set apart,” different, living life according to God’s Word and story, not according to the stories that the world tells us are the meaning of life. The more the culture around us becomes post- and anti-Christian the more we discover church members in our midst, sitting under sound preaching, yet nonetheless holding half-pagan views of God, truth, and human nature, and in their daily lives using sex, money, and power in very worldly ways. It’s hard to deny what J. I. Packer and Gary Parrett write: Superficial smatterings of truth, blurry notions about God and godliness, and thoughtlessness about the issues of living—careerwise, communitywise, familywise, and churchwise—are all too often the marks of evangelical congregations today (Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old-Fashioned Way, 16). This is not the first time the church in the West has lived in such
From The Gospel Coalition: Talk to certain critics of Reformed theology, and you might think something about the doctrines of grace inhibits church growth. Talk to some proponents of Reformed theology, and you might reach the same conclusion. We—both the pastors up front and the Christians in the pews—assign spiritual value to church size, depending on our background and perspective. We see large churches as a sure sign of God’s faithfulness in some cases, and small churches as a sign of God’s faithfulness in other cases. So what, really, does church size matter? That’s the question discussed in this video by pastors Kevin DeYoung, Matt Chandler, and Mark Dever. Their friendly banter touches on serious subjects, including: the awesome responsibility of giving pastoral account for thousands of souls; the urgent need for more ambition to see Jesus Christ change many lives; and the practical nightmare of exponential church growth. They also suggest some helpful resources, no matter your church size.