Last week I finished reading Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe
What prompted me to read this book? It was offered as a Sunday School class at church around the same time of me posting about always testing our teachers against Scripture. The timing seemed to stand out like a bright billboard screaming “Read This Book“.
I’ve never stopped to really learn about “Doctrine”. Never slowed down to analyze WHY what I believe is important, OR, why slightly different beliefs are not OK for me to accept. I felt led to take a “time out” and go back to the basics.
The book at first is intimidating. It’s not only because of it’s dark black cover with it’s image of an eerie snake curled around what appears to be a branch, or because of the stark contrast of the large white-grey lettered “Doctrine” almost dripping onto a blood red banner of “What Christians Should Believe”. No, it’s THAT combined with the heavy thickness of 463 pages of smaller sized print weighing down your hand that makes it intimidating.
It’s also not an “easy” read, at least, not for me. I sometimes found myself getting lost in some of the vocabulary. When words like “ontological”, “Christophanies”, “Pelagianism” and “psychologism” are used, one simply does not “half-way” read and retain a level of understanding. I would honestly describe it as more of a “text book”, and there were some nights as I found myself re-reading sections (to make sure I understood what was being explained) that I had “college study-night” flashbacks.
It may sound as if I did not enjoy the book,
and that would be a horrifically wrong impression to leave you with.
I immensely enjoyed the book and was disappointed when (due to weather) we missed a few classes, resulting in several Chapters not being discussed as a group. Ideally, the student in me would love the class spread out over a twenty-four week Sunday School session to really dive into each Chapter. I truly enjoyed our group discussions and the additional information I learned in each class.
Each Chapter provides extensive Scripture references, and I made it a point for the first Chapter to stop and look up every single reference. I confess, this made reading the first Chapter incredibly long, however, also incredibly rewarding to really see in Scripture who God is and have the best understanding of the Trinity to date I’ve ever had. I appreciate all of the Scripture references because it points us back to the source of Truth, the Bible.
The reason the book is so “heavy” is because there is a LOT of information available in it. It tackles topics Christians debate such as “was the world created in six literal days”, and discusses which views of creation would be considered Biblical and which would not and backs it up with Scripture.
It goes even further to address which topics we must agree on as Christians versus the topics that we may not agree on, but are not “heresy” and therefore should not become “the litmus test for Christian orthodoxy” (page 93). This really helped me to see where I need to show love to my brothers and sisters in Christ over a differing in opinion by being willing to discuss and willing to “agree to disagree”, versus showing love by knowing when to point out a dangerous belief that is a lie.
This alone was what I was most hoping to learn from the class/book, and I truly feel afterwards I have a better understanding now than I did before. (And yes, each of those “big” words I mentioned earlier are also explained in the book 🙂 )
It would be impossible to share a single Chapter I enjoyed “the most”. Every Chapter has information and content I found helpful. In an attempt to be as brief as I can, here are some that really grabbed my attention:
- Chapter One: Trinity: God Is – starting the book with the truth of who God is in light of the full Trinity was a wonderful starting point. It remained in my mind throughout the entire book.
- Chapter Two: Revelation: God Speaks – this really dove into understanding the Bible is the inerrant word of God. As one who earlier in her faith would say things like “I believe in Christ, however, man wrote the Bible and man is sinful” or “The Bible has been translated so many times you can’t trust it to be 100% accurate” or the great “The Bible is outdated and can’t always be applied to modern times“, this Chapter contained fantastic information pointing to the truth that the Bible IS the inerrant word of God. (Praise the Lord these last few years for leading me to embrace This Truth.)
- Chapter 8: Cross: God Dies – a vividly descriptive reminder of exactly what “Jesus died for our sins” really looked like, once again humbling my prideful heart.
- Chapter 11: Worship: God Transforms – an intense look at idolatry which was extremely convicting to me in a much needed way.
- Chapter 12: Stewardship: God Gives – the important and humbling reminder that it all belongs to God, not me.
Like I said, it would be impossible to pick only one Chapter.
There is a study guide in the back one could use as reflection on a personal reading level or it could be used for discussion in a small group. The benefit I believe of having this offered as a Sunday School class was also discussing our church’s stance and beliefs on certain topics, as well as cover related subjects the book may not have fully covered (dispensationalism as an example) providing a full in-depth look.
I would recommend this book to anyone seeking growth in their Christian walk and hasn’t taken the opportunity to study doctrine. It will take a certain level of commitment to read in it’s entirety with understanding and comprehension. I think it will help it’s reader obtain a better understanding of who God is, why we need Jesus, and why we believe what we believe as Christians. My hope is to go back through and re-read some of these chapters taking that precious time to look up every scriptural reference as I found that to be most helpful.