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January 16, 2018

Why Doctrine Matters

Mere Christianity was a book written by Clives Staples Lewis and published in 1952 (based on a number of radio recordings by Lewis on the BBC during World War II). It is one of the most influential books of the 20th century, written by one of Western culture’s intellectual giants. In the book, even though it gives a baseline apologetic (or, defense) of the Christian faith, it contains an impressive depth of what we call doctrine.

In the years since its first publication, the Church has undergone a continual seismic shift. In spite of the book’s influence, there has been a jettisoning of orthodoxy (or, right doctrine) within the Church—at least in the United States and Western Europe. We have come to the lamentable point where many of our churches are not a whole lot different from any other civic organization, whose purpose is to, generally, “do good.”
Unfortunately, the undergirding for why we would do any good has been lost. It is, as theologian Reinhold Neibuhr once put it, as though “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross."

Doctrine, however, matters. Without the foundation of a good, transcendent, and personal God, it is impossible to define good and evil, right and wrong, beautiful and coarse. Click to Tweet

One of my favorite novels of the past five years is Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. In it, she offers a haunting passage which is essentially a summary of the Book of Ecclesiastes:
“Most people seemed satisfied with the thin decorative glaze and the artful stage lighting that, sometimes, made the bedrock atrocity of the human predicament look somewhat more mysterious or less abhorrent...flooding themselves incessantly with information and texts and communication and entertainment from every direction to try to make themselves forget it: where we were, what we were.”
This is an apt description of a godless worldview, or life “under the sun.” Shortly thereafter, Tartt invokes the words of Frederich Nietzsche, that “We have art in order not to die from the truth.” Remember, Nietzsche’s “truth” was that God is dead. At least he is being honest.

If God is not real, if he has not revealed himself in his word and in Christ’s coming, then life truly is absurd. There is no meaning, and we are foolish to delude ourselves in thinking that there is a purpose and goal in life. We should merely “eat and drink for tomorrow we die” (1 Cor. 15.32).

But if he is real, and if he has revealed himself in the person of Christ, historically and recorded in Scripture, then we would be foolish to ignore doctrine: doctrine which states that we are image-bearers of our Creator, that we were made to glorify God and enjoy him, and that Jesus Christ has revealed God to us, restoring a once broken relationship through faith in his promises. And the promise God offers us? That the life which he gives us in Jesus Christ is the final chapter to the story of life, which, as C.S. Lewis wrote, “goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

In order to the know the story, we must know doctrine and remain true to the orthodoxy handed down to the saints, once for all time.

TuckerTucker Else is Christian Union's director of undergraduate ministry at the University of Pennsylvania. Tucker served as a pastor in Iowa for seven years. Prior to that he was a practicing attorney for an international bank (RaboBank). In preparation for pastoral ministry, he earned an MDiv at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis. He received his JD from Drake University.

Tucker and his wife, Marchelle, have been married for 21 years. They have four children: Lauren, Tamrick, Brennan, and Kianna. He loves reading, music, sports, and visiting all of Philadelphia's great neighborhoods. He takes delight in discipling students into a deeper love and affection for Jesus Christ.
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