I love doctrine. In fact, it’s my love for doctrine that has partly kept me blogging and returning to New Leaven, in particular. The very sight of the word “doctrine” excites me. Yes, that’s how much I love doctrine. So imagine the warmth, if you will, when I came across Why Studying Doctrine Is the Best Medicine by Tim Keller.
We live in an age in which the very word doctrine, or worse, dogma, is a negative term. And yet it is simply impossible to live without doctrinal beliefs. While many do not want to use the term, all people—secular as well as religious—treat some views as horrific heresies. I’ve encountered churches that claim, “We don’t teach doctrine, we just preach Jesus.” But the moment you ask, “Well, who is Jesus, and what did he do?” they can only answer by beginning to lay out doctrine.
But Paul doesn’t simply say that right doctrine is necessary; it’s also “sound.” The Greek word he uses here means healthy rather than diseased. This is Paul’s way of saying wrong doctrine eats away at your spiritual health. Or, to put it another way, if you lack spiritual vitality and fruit, if you’re not courageous enough, or joyful enough, or filled with love and hope, it may be because your grasp of biblical doctrine is shallow and thin, or distorted and mistaken. (emphasis added, full post here)
But of course, the study of doctrine only proves to be the best medicine when it leads the student to doxology and devotion, that is, the glory of God and right living.
And yes, there’s that exultation which comes from knowing that you have put your doctrinal positions to the test–in the light of Scripture and the Christian church through the ages–and you were either reassured or compelled by reason and Scripture to adjust. The rigor and reassurance tend to pay off in the end.
Otherwise, it’s bad medicine.