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.