The following post was written by Andrew Jacobson in 2014 as part of a discipleship blog series. We are revisiting these topics in our current sermon series and publishing his writings here with his permission.
Doctrine or Theology is a word that carries different connotations for people. For some it is an intellectual passion. But for many it is a negative word that invokes memories of church splits or endless debates about how many angels can stand on the head of a pin. We are surely aware that the discipline of theology, the study of Christian truth, has many dangers associated with it. But the dangers should never scare us away from the absolutely central and vital role that truth plays in the life of the Christian and the Church. This is why the fifth component of our Discipleship Vision is Doctrine-Grounded. In this area of discipleship we want everyone at First Free to be equipped to humbly and transformatively hold to the essential foundations of the Christian faith so that they can live in the freedom of truth and fight against the dangers of error.
It is important to know that every person is a theologian whether they acknowledge it or not. You may not get paid to write a theological treatise, people may not be lining up to hear you lecture on the ontological relationship between the Father and the Son. But when you study the Bible and formulate interpretation, when someone asks you a question about your Christian convictions, you are engaging in theological activity. The question is never “if” you are a theologian as a Christian, but whether you are a faithful and God-honoring one.
Thus our goal is to equip people with a proper knowledge of the essentials of the Christian faith so that they can have an anchor of truth that will hold them steady in a turbulent world of falsehood. People who believe nothing or don’t truly know what they believe are vulnerable and susceptible to the lies that this world spews out every day. If we do not have a proper doctrine of what sin is, then we will be prone to buy into disguised temptation. If we do not know what it means that Jesus alone provides the salvation that we need, then we may wander off after the false saviors that other religions put before us. If we do not have a proper knowledge of the Gospel, then we will not be able to communicate it to a world that so desperately needs it. This is why Jesus said “you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). A proper approach to theology and doctrine isn’t a matter of who’s smarter than whom, but are you enslaved to error or finding freedom through knowing God’s truth. We want to set people free.
We not only want to help people to know essential Christian theology but to be Christian theologians. A Christian theologian is one who not only knows truth about God, but loves the God he has come to know, and this knowing and loving leads him to obey God more and more. That is a true Christian theologian. In order to make Christian theologians at First Free we want to inform heads with truth, inflame hearts with love, and inspire hands to obedience. So, may God help us to make and be true Christian theologians with filled heads, full hearts, and fruitful hands.
- Stop by the library and grab a copy of Evangelical Convictions, which is published by the EFCA and explains why the EFCA and First Free believe what they believe.
- Pick an area of essential Christian doctrine that you would like to learn more about, meditate on some associated Scriptures, and read some solid books related to it.
- When studying the Bible, reading theology books, or even listening to a sermon make it a constant discipline to follow up the “What?” with “So what?”