Does Doctrine REALLY Matter?

January 25, 2011

In the first chapter of his excellent book, Dug Down Deep, Joshua Harris writes:

I know the idea of “studying” God often rubs people the wrong way. It sounds cold and theoretical, as if God were a frog carcass to dissect in a lab or a set of ideas that we memorize like math proofs.

I know  many professing Christians who personify what Josh describes, including some within our church. There are a number of reasons they find theology – study of God – distasteful.  One reason is that it is difficult. Another reason is that doctrine has been a point of contention between Christians for ages, and no one with any sanity enjoys being at odds with others. And for many, previous exposure to theology has been just plain boring.

Harris goes on in his observation, and addresses the concern about doctrine being boring:

But studying God doesn’t have to be like that. You can study him the way you study a sunset that leaves you speechless. You can study him the way a man studies the wife he passionately loves. Does anyone fault him for noting her every like and dislike? Is it clinical for him to desire to know the thoughts and longings of her heart? Or to want to hear her speak?

Knowledge doesn’t have to be dry and lifeless. And when you think about it, exactly what is our alternative? Ignorance? Falsehood?

We’re either building our lives on the reality of what God is truly like and what he’s about, or we’re basing our lives on our own imagination and misconceptions.

We’re all theologians. The question is whether what we know about God true.

I think Josh is correct: The study of theology does not have to be boring.

My own motive for studying and teaching theology is not to put myself above anyone else, nor to find grounds to debate and prove others wrong.  My motive is that I have found what Josh describes to be true – I have found beauty in the nature of God.  I have found joy through the discovery of his amazing grace.  I have experienced – and I am experiencing – the transforming power of his promises and principles in the gospel. And while I have found points where I disagree with others, those disagreements do not diminish my friendships with anyone.  So I engage in the study of theology to enhance my own life. And I endeavor to teach theology to offer those same benefits to others who are willing to enjoy them.

As for the study of theology being difficult, well that might be true. Especially when dealing with some important complex issues, such as our Union with Christ.  However, in his book, Josh describes an epiphany he had while vacationing in Florida.  One morning, while at the beach, it dawned on him that in order to “build a house on rock not sand” requires that we dig until we find the rock.  (Matthew 7.24-27) And digging takes work.  But in the end the benefits are worth the work.

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