Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Disaster of Indifference to Doctrine

From Martin Downes' Blog on Against Heresies

"My Christian life, for the past thirteen years, has involved inhabiting a small circle within a larger circle. The small circle is that of Reformed theology and church life, the larger circle that of UK evangelicalism. The world of the smaller circle is far from perfect. Yet one thing that it does not suffer from is indifference toward doctrine.

In the larger world of evangelicalism one cannot assume that doctrine is valued. The reverse is often the case. One has, at times, to present an apologetic for the necessity, vitality and importance of doctrine. One can assume that the "d" word is associated in your audience with intellectualism, and the kind of Christian life and experience that is "academic," dry and dusty. Of course these things aren't necessarily so, but prejudice is a powerful thing, and a stress on doctrine can lead to listeners switching off.

Evangelicals who are indifferent to doctrine are a danger to Christianity. Church leaders who do not "hold firmly to the trustworthy word as taught" will never be able to bring God's people to mature godliness (which requires instruction in sound doctrine), nor will they be able to ward off infiltrators who teach another gospel (Titus 1:9). Somehow they know better than Paul what is best for the health of the church.

But it is not only leaders who are held to account for their attitude to sound doctrine. The epistle to the Galatians is directed to churches who are departing from the apostolic gospel. If we are indifferent to sound doctrine, and neglect its intrinsic importance, we are guilty of treating the precious truth that we have been entrusted with as worthless. We take care of the things we love. When God entrusts us with the pattern of sound words he tests our love toward him by how we use, abuse, treasure or neglect his revealed truth.

When you cut through the forest of rhetoric surrounding doctrine, what becomes clear is that indifference toward doctrine is often a cover for indifference toward particular doctrines. Personal experience is not a sufficient or appropriate source from which truth for life can be derived. At the end of the day resistance to true doctrine is empowered by a non-negotiable commitment to other doctrines."