by Dr. T P Varughese
A doctrine is “what the whole Bible teaches us about some particular theme or topic.”
This definition is related to any standard definition of a systematic or a dogmatic theology. Here, it is taken for granted that we talk only of ‘biblical or Christian theology’ and the possibility of every other theology is ruled out. Millard J. Erickson says that Christian theology should have at least five ingredients:
It should be biblical
It should be systematic (drawing on the entirety of scripture).
It should be relevant (to culture and learning).
It should be contemporary.
It should be practical (relating to life itself).
(M.J. Erickson, Christian Theology- vol. 1, 1983 pp. 21-22)
Why is it necessary for a Christian to study or understand the doctrines? No where in the Bible do we see Jesus or any of the Apostles commanding the church to study theology or doctrines. But there are references from which we can infer that it is expected of a Christian to study the Word of God. The Great Commission (Mt. 28:18-20) itself included this challenge. “Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost”.
It is clear from this that a disciple of Jesus Christ needs to learn all that is taught by Jesus. The summary of‘all what Jesus taught’ would include both Old and New Testaments and not simply the red lettered verses printed in the New Testament as Jesus’ words. He affirmed both the Old Testament and the New. The rest of the books in the New Testament except the gospels are an enhancement of what he taught in the gospels.
The task of fulfilling what is commanded to us in the Great Commission is completed only when we teach what is taught in the Word of God. No one can teach without studying what is told in the Bible and the best way to study is by arranging them in a manner comprehended logically and coherently. This is what we call systematic theology and the teachings are called doctrines.
A better treatment of a subject is done by collecting and summarizing all the Bible passages on a particular theme. From this collection we systematically study that theme, and once we do that, we form a doctrine. If someone asks a question on a given topic, the best way to answer it is not by saying “go and read the scripture, and you shall find it”. A sincere seeker hearing the answer may read from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21 but will not understand the topic he is searching for.
To have a clear understanding of the fundamentals of the doctrine, the person needs to have a systematic and clear thought pattern. This calls our attention to the mind-set of humanity. Our mind comprehends more of a theme when it is presented in an arranged manner. This is what theology does. Our mind is not ready to comprehend anything that is vague, confusing and self contradictory. The Bible was not written in a doctrinal outline; hence it is important for us to systematize the themes of the bible to understand the doctrinal emphasis of the entire Bible.
A genuine understanding of the biblical doctrines enables Christians to defend their beliefs rationally against opponents and antagonists to the faith. This is extremely important today with the emergence of humanism, cults and other eclectic religions. The systemized doctrines of the Christian church must be researched, delineated and presented as a defense of historic Christianity.
Right doctrines are necessary for the power and safety of the church. The church is the pillar and true foundation of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15). False doctrines will destroy the foundation of the church. Right doctrine is like the spinal cord of a person. If the spinal cord is crooked, a person cannot stand right or walk straight. Doctrine is an assertion of Christian truth. These truths are essential to the maturity of believers (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Many Christians have faithfully attended church services for decades and yet have little understanding of the major doctrines of the Christian faith.
Right doctrines protect the believer from error (1 John 4:1,6; Jude 4). They are like preservatives. We differentiate right from the wrong with the help of doctrines. Right doctrines help us to keep ourselves from falling and impart the right teachings to a spiritually hungry person. More than ever in history, the Christian church is facing challenges from inclusivism, pluralism and modernism.
Right doctrines also enrich the character of the individual. Right understanding of God changes the attitude of the individual to self, to others, and to God. The ignorance of God creates false beliefs. The knowledge of God increases piety. Doctrines are necessary to know God and to make Him known. Otherwise, we will be like doctors without the knowledge of anatomy, lawyers without the knowledge of the law. To be an sound believer, we need to know doctrines. Peter speaking to the Christians said: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). Doctrinal studies can be said to be the map of our Christian life. Usually, when we do not know the way or when someone else asks us the way is when we understand the value of a map. The same goes for doctrines as well.
The mission of the church expresses the place and importance of studying the right doctrines. The Church expresses her faith in every age through the doctrines. We need to make it relevant through our proclamation and life. The right interpretation of the scripture produces right doctrines. Unless they are relevant, the message will be lost and it will simply be buried under the culture and customs of the world. It will be a history of the past and will not be a life of the present.
Finally, studying the doctrines of the Word is absolutely necessary for us to overcome our wrong ideas about any themes of the Bible. Spiritual depravity takes place in our lives because of sin that has darkened our eyes to understand the truth of God. A systematic study of the doctrines revitalizes our divine thoughts. This helps us to make better decisions on questions of doctrines that may arise in the future. Since the basics are already learned, we are able to apply the scriptures to life in many more contexts. The Bible connects sound doctrines with maturity in Christian living. This shows the place and importance of studying doctrines in our day to day life.
MGM Ministries-Article Source: trumpetmagazine.com/read.aspx?lang=1&id=3&mid=25 – (In 2011-2014)