ReVision

Life and Doctrine

  • November 29, -0001
Christianity in America is in the midst of one of those weird cycles where the "good guys" are downplaying the teaching of sound doctrine and all its terms so offensive to sensitive unbelieving ears for the sake of emphasizing Christianity as an experience and a way of life. We're being told that teaching doctrine is the wrong focus; what we need to do is focus on Jesus, experience Jesus in the lives of His loving people; meld into the family of God through the welcome process of gradual assimilation. Doctrine - all that stuff about sin and redemption and justification and sanctification and all those other harsh words - isn't the issue; feeling Jesus' love is what matters, and you can get that apart from doctrine. Besides, who can know what's really true anyway? Only those who have experienced Jesus' love and can share it with others through their welcoming, open lives have any real claim to be followers of Jesus. I came across a quote from an esteemed writer which I think speaks directly to this situation: "But if any one fact is clear, on the basis of this evidence, it is that the Christian movement at its inception was not just a way of life in the modern sense, but a way of life founded upon a message. It was based, not upon mere feeling, not upon a mere program of work, but upon an account of facts. In other words it was based upon doctrine." The writer then goes on to argue that contemporary approaches to "Christianity" that downplay doctrine and emphasize following Jesus as a lifestyle may be very interesting and even appealing, but they aren't true Christianity, not in any Biblical or historical sense. You cannot separate the Messiah from the message, and the message is, at heart, doctrine - doctrine which, whole-heartedly believed, leads to life full, abundant, fruitful, engaging, and transforming. Oh yes, the writer of that quote was J. Gresham Machen, reflecting - nearly 100 years ago - on the folly and feebleness of liberal Christianity. His view has been proved by time, as his view of the faith once for all delivered by the saints always