Why Doctrine Matters

It shapes our lives.

The Mind of Christ in His Word: Part 2 (3)

And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed and therefore I spoke,” we also believe and therefore speak… 2 Corinthians 4.13

Belief and life
What Paul says here about his speech is true of every other aspect of our lives: we live what we believe.

Put another way, as Jesus frequently did, how we live demonstrates or reveals what we believe. And, of course, what we believe is informed by the content of our thinking. And, since thinking is primarily about information, ideas, opinions, and the like, what we think – and therefore what we say and do – will be unavoidably shaped by the doctrine we embrace.

If we want to live like mature Christians, rather than like infants, then we will need to press on toward maturity in the mind of Christ. And that means feeding our minds with the sound doctrine of the Word of God.

What we believe is the commitment we make to whatever we know, whatever doctrine has shaped the parameters of our minds. Doctrine matters because it affects beliefs, which, in turn, guide our conduct in the world. The things some people believe – that is, the doctrines they have embraced – make them a blessing and a boon to society. Those whose beliefs are informed by ideas of generosity, selflessness, compassion, and love are more likely to be the kind of people we like to be around, as opposed to those whose beliefs have them and their interests at the center of the universe, and you and yours merely as means to whatever ends they might seek at any given time.

Sources of doctrine
For many people, the doctrines which shape their beliefs, and, in turn, guide their conduct, come to them from a variety of sources, and are often uncritically embraced. Advertising affects how we think about things. The opinions of our friends or of people we esteem influence our thoughts as well. What we read, see on the evening news, are told by our politicians – all these ideas and opinions – all this doctrine – affects our thinking and beliefs.

To simplify matters, there is doctrine which emanates from the Spirit of Christ, speaking in His Word; and there is doctrine which emanates from the spirit of the age, speaking through the voices of media, advertising, false teachers, pop culture, education, and so forth.

We don’t always examine what we hear as carefully as we should. And so it may surprise even us when, in some conversation or situation, we blurt out something that embarrasses us, or that we can’t defend, or we do something we might afterwards regret. Thus we prove the truth of Socrates’ admonition, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

An unprotected mind
False doctrines can invade a mind that is not protected by sound doctrine like termites sneaking into the bones of a beautiful home. We may not even be aware of the thoughts, outlooks, and opinions which are taking shape in our minds until they suddenly and unexpectedly surface. Or, we may understand full well the ideas that are guiding our beliefs, and may be living as consistently as we can according to whatever we hold to be true.

But if what we hold to be true is shot through with self-interest, expediency, pragmatism, and moral relativism, someone, sometime is going to be hurt by what we do or say. Even more important, our desire to serve and glorify God will be thwarted to the extent that the spirit of the age, rather than the Spirit of God, is the source of our doctrine.

C.S. Lewis once warned that “The right defence against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments.” If we want to prevent our words and deeds from being hurtful, selfish, and embarrassing to us and others, and if we want to glorify God with our beliefs and lives, then we need to raise a hedge and infuse an atmosphere of sound doctrine in our minds. Only sound doctrine can enable us to recognize false and hurtful ideas and, by analysis and persuasion, send them packing before they settle into our brains.

It matters what we believe – whether the good stewardship of sound doctrine or the vain speculations of self-interested minds. If we would be renewed in the mind of Christ, and live a mature experience of following Him, then we must embrace the sound doctrine of Scripture as our solid food for spiritual growth.           

For reflection
1.  What do we mean by saying that belief shapes action? Can you give some examples?

2.  Review the list of important doctrines you prepared for the preceding lesson. For each one, suggest some ways that this doctrine shapes our actions.

3.  How do the vain speculations of those who reject sound doctrine shape their actions? Can you give some examples?

Next steps – Preparation: What would you describe as the most dangerous false teachings in our day? Why? Share your thoughts about this with a fellow-believer.

T. M. Moore

This is part 5 of a multi-part series on the Christian mind. To download this week’s study as a free PDF, click here.

Brush up on your Christian worldview, and stretch your mind to think about life and the world as Jesus does. Our free online course,
One in Twelve: Introduction to Christian Worldview, can provide the categories, terms, and framework for you to begin nurturing a more expansive Christian mind. For more information and to register, click here.

How’s your knowledge of the Bible, as to its primary themes, overall development, and Christ-centeredness? Order a copy of our workbook,
God’s Covenant, and spend 13 glorious weeks working your way through the whole of Scripture, examining key themes and tracing the development of God’s precious and very great promises (click here). Or sign up for our course, Introduction to Biblical Theology, and discover the best ways of getting at, getting into, and getting with the Word of God. The course is free and online, and you can study at your own pace and depth. For more information or to register, click here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT. 

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