As I talked about last week, I think that we have done ourselves a disservice by not connecting with the Christians of the past to understand why we believe what we do today. I believe that this is a malformation because of our culture today. Far too often we are looking at the next, newest, best thing to help improve our lives. We have a progressive idea that tells us the past does not hold any relevance for us today, the future is where it is at. The truth is, the only way we have ever been able to learn is by looking to the past to understand the world around us. Math works because of the work of the mathematicians of the past to make discoveries so we can understand Algebra. All the fields of science look to the past experiments of scientists to understand the field and how to move forward. Why is it that we do not do this when it comes to our theology? We like to look to people who are our contemporaries and trust that they have all the answers. We need to be able to have an understanding of the beliefs of our predecessors in order for us fully understand what we believe today.
To start this journey off, we need to be introduced to a word that makes a log of people nervous, doctrine. Most people, when they think the word “doctrine,” are immediately turned off because they want to say “I don’t have any doctrines, I just believe in Jesus.” The truth is, the word “doctrine” is derived from the latin doctrina meaning teaching and learning. Chances are high that even if you “only believe in Jesus,” somewhere along the line, you were taught something about him. That belief is a doctrine. While this definition of doctrine is wide ranging, we are wanting to look at Christian doctrine specifically. When we do this, we are looking specifically to the core set of beliefs that make a Christian a Christian. Honestly, we may have different opinions on how these beliefs play out, but in order to be a Christian, you likely have some understanding of what I will be writing about.
Whoever does not acknowledge that Jesus Christ has come in flesh is an antichrist, and whoever does not acknowledge the testimony of the cross belongs to the devil, and whoever crafts the sayings of the Lord to meet his own desires and says there is no resurrection or judgment is Satan’s firstborn child. Therefore, let us forsake the folly of the many and their false teachings and return to the doctrine that was handed down to us from the beginning.Polycarp, To the Philippians
So why have doctrine? I once had a professor describe it like the fence around the yard. The yard is everything that is completely permissible and reasonable to believe and still be able to call yourself a Christian. The fence is our doctrines. This is why we can have such wide ranging beliefs, but still be able to greet one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. When someone steps outside of these bounds that’s when start using words like “heresy” or “heretic.” These words simply mean that there is a belief that exists outside of the doctrinal boundaries of the Christian faith. Fighting heroes has been a long term issue within the Church, as we even have examples of Paul fighting heresies in Scripture. Doctrine helps us to more easily discover heretical beliefs and seek to help people correct their understanding. It is important to note that people who hold heretical views are not inherently working against the Church, rather they are asking questions and have come to different conclusions of belief. I do not believe that there is anything wrong with these people, and they actually help the Church have a stronger understanding of theology. Without many historical heresies, we would not have the doctrines that we do now.
In the coming weeks I will be digging into some specific doctrines of our faith. I think that as we go through this together, we will recognize just how fundamental a lot of these beliefs our for us. Some examples are:
- Monotheism and the Trinity
- Jesus is both fully God and fully human.
- How Jesus’ death saves us from sin
- What the Church does
What are some doctrines that you want researched? I’m still working on what this series is going to look like. Let me know in the comments what kind of things you interested in learning more about.
FYI I recently started a podcast and Patreon. If you would like to get some more content from me, check these spaces out. Make sure to drop likes everywhere as it helps me get the word out on this blog. I’m very excited to be writing this series and think it could be a great help to everyone.