Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Something Old/Something New: 9/14/11

Please take the time and effort to get the Gospel right: your eternal destination depends on it!

Since I am getting a lot more traffic on my blog, I am starting up another feature that will help newcomers read some of the important points I have made in the past: I will be "recycling" old posts under the heading, "SOMETHING OLD". Since this weeks gift deals with Doctrine/Theology, I want to stress the importance of a proper, biblical understanding of it through a couple posts I have made. I may make some minor changes to the actual posts as necessary. If you have already read this recycled post, then skip ahead to the new material for your spiritual feeding at the bottom under the heading, "SOMETHING NEW".

 The ABC's of Doctrine...
In my prior post I talked about Christian "doctrine"; doctrinal statements and specific points of doctrine. Churches, good and bad, usually have some kind of doctrinal statement on their website or in the literature they offer to visitors under the heading , "Statement of Faith", or "What We Believe". Christian doctrine is one of those terms that can intimidate you if you don't understand it's meaning. 

Doctrine, in the Christian sense, are the teachings that have been  revealed by God in the Holy Scriptures as Truth. Doctrinal statements summarize what a particular church believes. Some church doctrinal statements are better written than others. There are some church doctrinal statements that are incoherent, misleading, confusing, inconclusive, and patently unbiblical; these are churches you want to avoid.  

And just to be clear, many Bible believing, Gospel preaching churches disagree on minor points of doctrine, or those points of doctrine that are not essential to the salvation of one's soul. For example, on the doctrine of "Creation" some Christians believe  that the universe is only thousands of years old, while others, like myself, believe it is billions of years old. Bible believing, Gospel preaching Churches also commonly disagree on the doctrines of eschatology, the extent of man's sinful corruption, and man's free-will versus God's sovereignty; these doctrines are not essential to salvation, and there is greater latitude allowed for disagreement. 

On the other hand, it is of utmost importance to be correct on certain Christian doctrines, for example the doctrine of Justification. A good doctrinal statement should make every attempt to communicate Truth; it should be clear, concise, and constructed with carefully measured words in order to communicate the essence of a particular doctrine with precision. A good doctrinal statement also ought to have Scripture references that support that what the church believes is in accordance with Scripture.

Now you might be thinking, "I don't care about all this doctrine stuff, it sounds boring and it's not my thing. I just want to follow Jesus and live the way He wants me to live". Look, if you go to a church or profess to be a Christian, then it is impossible to escape doctrine, because the moment you  mention the name "Jesus", you must think in terms of what is true and what is false about Jesus; that's doctrine, and Scripture explains what is True about Jesus. 

Who is Jesus? Was Jesus just a human teacher with brilliant spiritual insight? Or was Jesus God in human flesh?  What did Jesus teach about how you are to live your life? Did Jesus really rise from the dead? It is apparent that doctrine is inescapable. 

Another example. The word "God" means many different things to many different people. Some people think of god as nothing more than some kind of cosmic life energy. Others think god is akin to a kindly old grandfather who just ignores the naughtiness of his children and welcomes everyone into Heaven. And others view god as a cruel and abusive deity, a cosmic killjoy with oppressive rules and regulations. Hindu's believe there are many gods and Muslims believe in a god unlike the Christian God named Allah. Pantheists believe god is all and all is god. And then there are some people who don't even believe in God at all. According to Scripture, these are all false doctrines of god. In biblical language these false gods are idols. 

But what does the Bible specifically teach about the one True God, the Christian God? A good doctrinal statement will clarify what Scripture reveals to be true about the Christian God. 

Other doctrinal points that are commonly addressed in a church's Statement Of Faith besides God, Jesus, and justification, include Scripture (what does the Bible teach about the Bible),  creation, the Trinity, man, sin, redemption, sanctification, The Great Commission, the Church, the ordinances of the Baptism and Holy Communion, Satan and demons, the Last Judgment, Heaven and Hell, and Eschatology, which is a theological term pertaining to "end times". 

So you see, when I mention  the word "doctrine"  there is nothing to fear. Christian doctrines are simply teachings that are True about ultimate reality as revealed in the Scriptures. Doctrinal statements posted on church websites and in handout literature explain what that particular church believes in, usually in brief, bullet point sentences that are easy to understand. 

Now for some examples of doctrinal statements so you know what I am getting at.

  • This first example I found on the Internet. It is First Calvary Baptist Church in Eagan, Minnesota. Notice that each doctrinal point is clear and concise, with relevant Scripture references available to look up in your Bible. I disagree on a few minor points of doctrine related to creation and eschatology, but overall, this looks like a pretty solid church, on paper anyway. I would give this church a "test drive" per my previous post.
  • The next example is from Redeemer Bible Church which is my church home. Now at first glance, it doesn't seem to measure up to the doctrinal statement of First Calvary Baptist Church. It is not as comprehensive in regard to the number of doctrines covered. That, and there are no Scriptures on the website to support their particular doctrinal points. But notice right under the banner, "What We Believe". it says,

    "This is just a brief overview of our beliefs. If you want a full statement of our beliefs, please contact us.
  • The full doctrinal statement of Redeemer Bible Church is a document titled, "Creeds and Confessions". When my wife and I applied for membership, we reviewed the entire document in our membership class. It is forty one pages long, and it will absolutely blow your mind as to how detailed this document is! Check out the link here: Creeds and Confessions of Redeemer Bible Church. This page includes all the footnotes and Scripture references at the bottom of the document. . 
  • Here is a link to a cult church called "A True Church" whose leader is a man called Darwin Fish.  Check out their beliefs here: A True Church: Statement of Faith Look it over and then look at the other goodies they have on their website. He sounds very religious, he exposes "false teachers,", he quotes a lot of Scripture. Does this sound like a true church to you? Darwin Fish is false teacher. 
  •  Now let's try a link to the Mormon Church: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, official website and their  Articles of Faith. Do they preach a false gospel? After all, their website does offer a doctrinal statement that affirms things that sound very orthodox...or do they? Discernment is key in answering that question. 
  •  Now read this link, challenging the beliefs of the Mormon Church. Does their doctrinal statement accord with what Scripture teaches? I would say "no".
  • And I can't avoid including the "Statement of Faith" of The Crossing. For the most part, this "Statement of Faith" is biblical. It appears that, on paper, The Crossing is a Church that teaches the historic Christian faith.
There is a valuable lesson to be learned here. Just like the cute science fiction story in my last recycled post, "A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far, Far Away..."  you can't judge a used car by looks and feelings alone; you have to actually take it out for a "test drive". And that's what you have to do when church shopping. Give it a try, talk to the pastors, ask lots of questions, and look for fruit. Is it good fruit, or is it bad fruit? That will help you be more discerning when it comes to understanding what a church says they believe and what they actually teach and practice.

If you have never had the opportunity to listen to John MacArthur, here you go. This man has preaches thousands of sermons and is widely recognized as a solid biblical teacher. I disagree with him on matters of Echcatology and the Day/Age controversy regarding the age of the earth (minor points of doctrine), but I agree with everything else he treaches on essential Christian doctrine; he is a gifted bible teacher whose messages are crystal clear and brutally honest. This is a sermon as about 45 minutes long titled, "The Humbling Gospel"
God Bless, Casey  

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