Thursday, September 30, 2010

Good Old Basic Vanilla Bible Doctrine

After hearing Rush Limbaugh opine that the Golden Rule was not part of the teachings of Jesus, and reading this article from USA Today on the beliefs (or lack thereof) of professing Christians, it becomes clear to me that the church has remedial work to do.

I remember when I got my first taste of Christians who hadn't been taught much doctrine. An acquaintance in college painted himself as something of a super Christian. He did not have much patience for struggling sinners --he, himself, didn't struggle at all. And, he didn't know that one of the great promises of the Christian faith is that we would be raised, bodily, from the dead just like Jesus was. He still resisted it even after I told him to go look up 1 Corinthians 15. This was a bright young man, raised in a Christian household, the product of a Christian school, and an evangelical church. In many respects, he was far more an upstanding model of the Christian life than I was at that point, but he didn't know a basic core belief, and, when shown it, resisted it.

Church instruction is not something we think of often. We spend relatively little time, inf light of our overall lives, being instructed out of the Word of God. Most churches no longer have evening services or midweek programs. Small groups may study Scripture, but systematic instruction is probably not something in which most small groups engage.

Christians are rightly concerned with acting out their faith through deeds of mercy. They are rightly concerned with how to apply their faith to the challenges of their lives. But, as sadly becomes clear here, many of them don't know the basic content of their faith. It is no wonder, then, that so many of us are so poor at living it out. We borrow our understanding of compassion from statism: namely, let others do it instead of doing it ourselves. Our understanding of God comes more from Oprah than from Scripture. Hence, Mark Driscoll's book Doctrine is a much needed tome.

Doctrine lights few fires among modern Christians. Even in the seminaries, Biblical studies faculty sometimes deride studying doctrine in systematic fashion. Churches resist anything beyond Biblical instruction. We spend a lot of our time on program and show. We spend some time on compassion and mercy. Yet, here we see we must make time for doctrine.

Doctrine means teaching the catechism, but it means far more than memorizing the catechism. It means fleshing out those truths, demonstrating them, helping children particularly to internalize them. It means making sure parents understand, value and love doctrine so they can talk about it with their children.

The Christian life is far more than doctrine, but neither is it less than doctrine. The danger in today's churches, even conservative and Reformed ones, is that we assume knowledge of doctrine. What is assumed by one generation is forgotten by the next. Our job, at least in part, is to pass on the content of the faith, and we need to do a better job at it.


  1. I agree whole-heartedly. I am amazed in the biblical/theological illiteracy of many of my students. I don't really blame, but our churches (of which I am a part so therefore I take partial blame) have dropped the ball. My Christian students do focus on good causes as you mentioned, but many of them are not able to give a theological reason behind their motives. For many it is a form of humanism in that they are doing simply "what is right" rather than as a response to what God has done for them. Thanks for your thoughts

  2. Ken,

    Amen, we aren't training teachers and putting them to work they way we need to. We assume way more than we should, and yet the cults are grabbing the informant and cramming all kinds of things into them...

  3. ignorant... spell checker fixed it... I guess that makes we one

  4. Cult informants did seem a tad conspiratorial, even for you, Doug! :-)

  5. I'm seeing a woeful/ shameful amount of Bible ignorance as I am teaching at Christian School. I'm trying to actually teach the Bible and have to stop often to tell the kids where in the Bible to find stuff. It's pathetic.