When we dig into the theological foundations of faith, the word we often hear is doctrine. Webster’s Dictionary defines doctrine as “a principle or position or the body of principles in a branch of knowledge or system of belief.”
I realize many people can find this word intimidating. They may initially think that understanding doctrine requires going to a Bible college or theological seminary. That could not be further from the truth. In fact, you and I need to know what we really believe and the reasons we believe it. Why?
Let’s look at four reasons why knowing what we believe as Christians matters, built from an article written by Stephen Rees.1
1.) We study doctrine because we love God. I want to know more about the things I love. This is why I know more about my wife than I do about any other woman in the world. There are many women in my life who mean a lot to me, but none of them compare to my love for her. I know her favorite foods. I know the restaurants she enjoys. I know the things she likes to do. I want to always be learning more about her because I want to know her more. This should be our attitude toward the Lord God.
2.) We study doctrine because what you and I believe shapes our lives. Belief leads to behavior.
3.) We study doctrine because, without a proper understanding of what we believe about God and the gospel, we will not be able to make sense of our world. We will not have a worldview that honors the Lord.
4.) We study doctrine because the Bible says that we, as normal everyday Christians, need to be ready to explain to an unsaved world, those who are far from God, what we believe about our great God and why we believe it so strongly.
While some might consider doctrine nothing more than an archaic or stuffy word, it is actually a topic that matters greatly in the understanding and growth of our faith. If we assume we know what we believe without ever truly digging into those beliefs, then, within one to two generations, those foundational beliefs will be lost. We’re seeing this all around us.
I am reminded of a bumper sticker I noticed recently from a church, the Universal Unitarian Church, that does not acknowledge biblical Christianity. This church holds that all beliefs are equal, and so the slogan on their bumper sticker reads, “Love beyond belief.” This expresses a high view of loving people and a low view of allowing beliefs to divide people.
I absolutely believe that we, as Christ followers, should be kind and loving to all people as much as it depends on us. Scripture clearly teaches us to be gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, and forgiving. However, if you take away our belief in the greatness of God as outlined in the Bible, we have nothing to build our life on. We have no anchor of love to hold us steady in the storms of life.
Love and proper belief do not work against one another. In fact, true love – the love of God for people, the love of God in Christ, the love of God in your life and mine – skyrockets when our belief in God lines up with what He has revealed to us through His Word. We are to have a high view of the greatness of our God, and studying doctrine helps us gain that high view.
Doctrine is not just for pastors and professors. It is for people like you and me. People who love God and want to know Him more.
1Stephen Rees, “Why Is Doctrine Important?,” Banner of Truth, June 30, 2009, https://banneroftruth.org/us/resources/articles/2009/why-is-doctrine-important/.