Doctrine is Unavoidable

The word doctrine comes from a Latin word, doctrina, which means, “that which is taught.” In Christian usage, it refers to Christian teaching about Scripture, God, man, Christ, salvation, church, and the end of all things. Non-doctrinal Christianity is impossible. The teaching of non-doctrinal Christianity is doctrine. It is bad doctrine, but it is doctrine nonetheless. The real question is not whether Christians will have doctrine but which doctrine or whose doctrine? The history of salvation and of the church is, in part, the history of the struggle between true and false doctrine and the moral consequences of error. Satan came teaching false doctrine about God, man, sin, and judgment. His doctrine led to death. In Scripture, there is no divorce between doctrine and practice. True doctrine is never mere theory. This connection is explicit in 1 Timothy 1:8, where Paul lists a series of gross sins and categorizes them as “contrary to sound doctrine.” To deny biblical doctrine is immoral, and morality is based upon fundamental Christian teaching. Nevertheless, for all its virtues, good doctrine is not magic. It is possible for someone to profess right doctrine and yet remain an unbeliever. That is called hypocrisy. It is also possible for one to live well and yet confess bad doctrine. That is blessed inconsistency. Neither Scripture nor history commends either option. We should rather think that good doctrine is salutary— healthy and helpful in the same way that sunshine, clean air, and rain are salutary for living beings.