We need Doctrine today more than ever, not less – particularly the youth.
Have you noticed that doctrine has fallen from grace in everyday church life, and from the pulpit? Maybe you haven’t noticed since the process is gradual and easy to overlook for a while. Doctrines may at times talked about, even referred to, but it is seldom if ever actually preached or offered as a significant part of church school.
In church society what appears to be happening (or already has happened) is that doctrine is being made synonymous with dogma. Dogma is a four letter word in the mind of relativistic, pluralistic society, equated with authoritarian control and the like. The evangelical church seems to be subtly adopting the same attitude, in what appears on the surface to be the fear that it will alienate non-Christians and reduce potential growth. The church would certainly differentiate itself from overt expression of this secular view, but living in the world brings a quiet inflow of ideas, attitudes and approaches. One of these is rejection of the fixed framework that doctrine represents (erroneously) to many people.
What does this indicate about the true attitude towards the Sovereignty of God in all these matters? What does it say about belief and dependence on the sufficiency of scripture and the sufficiency of the fundamental ideas therein?
In church life today it seems dated to insist that there are any fixed benchmarks aside from basic belief. As such, demoninational distinctives, and the rich history that preceeds them, are passe and are quietly jetisoned in favour of more up to date presentation and applications. But it bears remembering that a building in which the foundations are eroded by inattention, will weaken over time and eventually fail.
Before we expand into too wide a discussion, let us look narrowly at basic beliefs. I look from the point of view of a Reformed Baptist, but I suspect that most evangelicals would find the same symptoms to one degree or another.
If you were to ask the average church goer or even member:
What are denominational distinctives?
What are theirs?
Would they know why?
Would they think it was irrelevant? Dated? That they are all the same?
Would they know what a confession of faith is?
In this case would they know what the Westminster Confession is?
Would they feel that the doctrinal beliefs of church leaders were important?
Would they know what those leadership beliefs and tenants were?
Would they feel that leadership job performance was the over-riding criteria?
Do you see where this is headed? It is headed to where history, the structure of belief, and therefor the ability to defend or hold on to those beliefs in the face of adversity, comes into serious question.
The beginning of an answer to this is sound doctrinal preaching and teaching. It is not up to date. It does not utilize todays ‘relevant’ examples (it is timeless). And it does not necessarily directly address modern application. But it is absolutely essential for a faith based upon bedrock.
Nowhere is this more critical than in the church youth. No group is more challenged by society. No group is more suseptible to its wiles. Yet in no church group is the education in the structure of our beliefs and the reasons for them often more lacking.
The danger is that what may be created is a wonderful, vibrant, dynamic ministry that is built on sand. When the flood comes, and we all know that it will in some (worldly) form, a foundation of reinforced concrete is needed, not sand.