I mentioned in my post about fundamentalism and separatism that I was going to write later some thoughts about “secondary issues” (or the non-fundamentals). But I have been thinking for the last several weeks about doctrine. I write and/or compile a newsletter/booklet for our ladies group, and one regular column for the last few years has been called “Women of the Word,” dealing with reasons to read the Bible, how to’s, devotional tips, Bible studies, etc. I went back and looked up a couple of columns I had written about doctrine and want to include them here before I go on to secondary issues. After all, we need to know doctrine — God’s truths — before we can exercise discernment, and we need discernment to know what is fundamental and what is secondary, what we need to stand firm on and what we have room to differ on.
So, first is one written in October of 04:
Our “favorite” times in the Word are often the “warm fuzzies” — when we feel especially blessed, loved, comforted, encouraged, or secure in what we have read. And those times are, indeed, wonderful. But as we read, we should be looking for more than “warm fuzzies” — we should be looking for truth about our God.
I was thinking recently that it is too bad that churches are too often divided into those preaching “doctrinal” messages or those meeting “felt needs” when really they should go together. We can’t truly meet spiritual needs without the truth, the doctrine, of God’s Word. When a trial comes and people feel forsaken, what most comforts but the precious truth that God will never forsake us? When a lie seems the only way out of a tough situation, what keeps us from it but the knowledge that it will displease a God whose essence is truth?
A.W. Tozer once wrote that “there is scarcely an error in doctrine or a failure in applying Christian ethics that cannot be traced finally to imperfect and ignoble thoughts about God.” He further felt that “wrong thoughts about God are in reality a form of idolatry.” I think that’s true.
When we don’t worship God for Who He truly is, then we are worshipping a god of our own making, and that is idolatry. Now, of course, all of us are imperfect in our knowledge of Him and are, or should be, ever growing in Him, and He’ll correct our understanding along the way. But that is a little different than not knowing Him for Who He is due to neglect or misapplication of the Word.
Our thinking has much bearing on our intimacy with God. We can’t know Him aright apart from what He has revealed of Himself in His Word. As we learn more of Him, we love Him and worship Him more, and what seemed like “dry doctrine” then does become something that warms and thrills our hearts as the Holy Spirit brings that truth to mind.
And, the more we behold Him, the more we are changed into His likeness. II Corinthians 3:18: “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
So, don’t be afraid of that word “doctrine.” II Timothy 4: 3-4 says, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” That is a warning to us not to turn away from sound doctrine, but also possibly an admission that sound doctrine needs to be “endured.” Learning doctrine may not always feel warm and fuzzy, but the Holy Spirit will use it in our lives in blessed ways.
This next one was just from January of this year:
Often when we read our Bibles, we’re looking for comfort, encouragement, strength, assurance of God’s love, care, guidance, and protection — and the Bible is a wonderful source for all of those things. But one of the most important reasons for reading and studying God’s Word is to learn correct doctrine. Immediately the word doctrine can bring to mind dryness, dullness, and argumentation. But if we think of doctrine as a manifestation of God’s truth and character, we can in turn worship Him by knowing and sharing the doctrines of His Word.
So often I have heard some of the sweetest people make some of the most off-the-wall comments about truth, and I have been so surprised by the lack of discernment. I remember a news report about cult leader David Koresh quoting one woman saying she was drawn in because of how well he knew his Bible. But just in that short news report Koresh made several unbiblical statements. Sometimes celebrities whose behavior and public statements contradict the Bible are quoted as spiritual sources.
One of my former pastors, Jesse Boyd, used to say that (at least in his day) bankers were trained to recognize counterfeit bills not by studying the various counterfeits, but by studying genuine currency so well that they could tell if any bill differed from it. If we know God’s Word and His truth well, we won’t be led astray and we can help share God’s truth with our children, neighbors, relatives, and others within our sphere of influence.
We have to remember, though, to let our speech be always “with grace” (Col. 4:6) and to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). We don’t need to “pounce” on every comment or reference another person might make, but graciously seek what the Lord might have us say. We also have to distinguish between clear doctrine and those areas where good people can differ or personal preferences.
That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ. (Ephesians 4:14-15).
For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law (Proverbs 4:2).
These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few (Acts 17:11-12).