c5c-02 (1)In the new issue of Credo Magazine, “Doctrine Matters,” Scott Sauls has written a gripping article titled, “Does Theology Make a Difference in the Pastorate?” Scott Sauls is senior pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee and author of Jesus Outside the Lines and Befriend.

Here is the start of his article:

In the world of ministry and ministers, there is often a love/hate relationship with theology. On the one hand, we love theology because it gives us an ordered, systematic, and storied picture of the sixty-six books of the Bible. We might say that theology packages the Bible ¾which for many can feel uncomfortable ¾into a more digestible, less intimidating, easier to understand, and organized whole. At its best, theology gives us an interpretive lens from which to more clearly see God, the world, our neighbor, and ourselves. It anchors us and forms our most deeply held convictions. It gives us greater certainty about things that are true and things that are not; about things that should be treated as lovely and things that should be treated as repulsive; about things that are healthy and that enhance life, and things that are harmful and diminish life. On the whole, and when handled with humility and care, theology can be a tremendous asset to our existence.

On the other hand, if handled poorly, theology can turn us into the worst versions of ourselves. As Paul was quick to warn the Corinthian saints, we can fathom all mysteries, but if we don’t have love, we have and we gain nothing (1 Cor. 13:1). James says the same thing, perhaps even more bluntly, when he says that having the most sound, water-tight, correct system of doctrine by itself puts us in the same category as the devil of hell. “Even the demons believe,” James says, “and they shudder” (James 2:19).

I think what both Paul and James were getting at is this: It is quite possible to memorize the whole Bible and to affirm and believe and even preach every single word that it says, and still not be even remotely submitted to it. To the degree that this is the case, we, like the demons, should begin to shudder. And then we should run to Jesus, immediately….

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Say the word “doctrine” in church and you will get some strange looks. Say it again and you will find yourself sitting all alone. For many Christians today doctrine seems miles removed from real life in the church. Doctrine is for academics that spend their time speculating in their ivory towers. It’s the stuff of the head, but Christians are to be concerned with matters of the heart. Plus, shouldn’t we just stick to reading the Bible anyway?

Perhaps this will come as a surprise to some, but the Bible is doctrine’s number one fan. In fact, for Jesus and the apostles doctrine was everything. It really mattered. Entering the kingdom of God, a proper understanding of the gospel, and a real relationship with the living God all hinge upon one’s doctrinal beliefs concerning the character of God, the heinousness of sin, the divine identity of Christ, and the nature of the cross.

Doctrine is so important to the biblical authors that Paul told Titus to teach only what “accords with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). And when Paul spelled out the qualifications to become an elder in the church, an ability to teach biblical doctrine was at the top of the list. “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9).

In this issue of Credo Magazine, several pastors and theologians help us understand just how much doctrine matters for the Christian life and for the church. We will discover that doctrine infiltrates the songs we sing, the sermons we preach, and the way we counsel each other as disciples of Christ. We will learn that nothing could be more critical to a right relationship with God and others than sound doctrine. Whether we realize it or not, doctrine is a way of life. The Christian life depends entirely upon sound doctrine. In short, doctrine matters.

Contributors include Leland Ryken, Scott Sauls, David B. Garner, Jeremy Kimble, Matthew Barrett, Raymond Perron, Fred Zaspe, J. V. Fesko, Brad Bitner, and many others.