In an earlier post I talked about the importance of studying and understanding theology. Joshua Harris, author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye and Boy Meets Girl, is releasing a book called Dug Down Deep that I’m looking forward to picking up. For his book he had a short film made that does a great job of explaining why we need to study theology:
(This is part one of a multi-entry blog series discussion the Apostles’ Creed.)
So we’ve created a new blog (with all the old entries intact); we wanted to move away from the Sword & the Stone because it was created for different purposes at a different time. This blog is meant to be a more enduring blog that we will share throughout the years to come. Some of you who know me might pretty quickly figure out the name, for others it might take some time. Ultimately though, I like the name Flat Hill because it encapsulates the paradox of being a Christian. You conquer by surrendering. You find true strength in your weakness. You are great when you become humble. You are the leader when you serve others. When you give, you recieve.
Since this blog is brand spankin’ new, we thought it best to start with something important…but what?
After looking at a couple possibilities, we decided it would be cool to go through the Apostles’ Creed. It’s vintage, often overlooked, sometimes even forgotten, but it’s an excellent summary of the big picture of the Christian faith. The word “creed” comes from the Latin word credo. Credo is the first word of the Apostles’ Creed and means simply, “I believe…” It sounds like a fitting way to kick off Flat Hill.
In Christianity, there are two different categories that doctrine can fall into. Mark Driscoll uses the image of two hands: one open, one closed. Until recently, that was my favorite metaphor. However, I read an illustration of two tiers in an article on Neue magazine by Jim Belcher (author of Deep Church). He borrows the idea from Robert Greer‘s book Mapping Postmodernism.
Anyway, back to the tiers! One is the upper tier and one is the lower tier. In the lower tier, you’ll find stuff like how pastors should dress (robes, suits, or blue jeans? shaved or with facial hear?), what type of music should be played (organs and choirs or drums and guitars), and even what type of translation should be used (KJV? NIV? NLT? ESV? LMNOP?!). In the upper tier, you’ll find beliefs that Christians cannot disagree about. These are the unchanging, unmoving beliefs that true Christianity depends upon.
These are the beliefs reflected in the Apostles’ Creed.
These are the beliefs we want to spend a little time exploring.
Come back soon to see a deeper exploration of the Apostles’ Creed.
After yesterday’s post, I want to look at the other side of the pendulum: Doctrine. Love is supreme, of that I have no doubt, but without a proper theological understanding of who God is, it’s impossible to articulate Who you love when you’re loving God.
Once someone is ready to hear the Gospel, can you properly articulate it? Do you even know what you believe? Where do you stand on issues such as predestination, the Trinity, the extent of the atonement, eternal security, etc? Do you understand those terms? I firmly believe, and I think I heard it from The Truth Project, that Christians have never been more intellectually lazy than they are now. We have a wealth of knowledge available to us through websites like Google and Wikipedia, but we seldom use those to explore Christian doctrine, do we?
Theology/doctrine is important! Many Christians simply focus on their “walk.” What good is going for a long-distance, multi-year voyage with out a proper map? Who would go sailing without a working compass (or GPS)? A fool! 1 Tim 4:16 puts life (walk) and doctrine on equal footing. You need both, or you’ll wind up lost or ship wrecked in your faith. For more specific dontrinal teachings, you can check out Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe (RE: Lit) or the Mars Hill sermons series called “Doctrine.”
However, we can go too far in the other direction. When we know everything but cannot communicate it to people in a way they understand our knowledge is no longer useful. Or even worse, when we begin to use our knowledge to make ourselves feel or appear superior to others, you become a liability and hindrance to others ministering around you. 1 Corinthians 8:1 says that knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Therefore, we must ensure that we are lovingly teaching those around us, not just trying to puff our chests out to impress others.
As long as our goal is to glorify God and share Him with others, we will be able to maintain a healthy balance of life and doctrine.
Some friends and I are going through the Mars Hill Doctrine sermon series. Thus far it’s been really great and we’re all learning a lot about the finer points of Christian belief. But do any of those finer points matter? Some people, even inside the Church likely think such things as the Trinity, Revelation, Creation, etc. are a waste of time. Why not spend our time doing more important things? It seems as though I’ve had a lot of conversations recently that center around what the Bible says about certain doctrinal issues (the source of morals, the virgin birth, etc). Is all that a waste of time? Are those finer points of Christianity important?
I think so. In his letter to Timothy, Paul tells him to watch his life and his doctrine. He is essentially putting them on equal footing. He’s telling us that what we believe is just as important as what we do. After all, don’t our beliefs guide our actions?
In 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, God through Paul says, “Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” How are we to do this if we do not first know what is good and what is evil? I realize some things are obviously evil and some things are obviously good, but there are other issues that must be thought through carefully and critically.
In John 8:44, Jesus teaches that Satan is the father of lies and that lies are Satan’s native language. If we do know not know what the truth is–that is, if our doctrine is not grounded in Scripture–Satan can easily guide us off track. He’s been doing it for a while now, ya know? That’s why it’s important for Christians to read the Bible, connect with other Christians, and pray (pray especially for wisdom). It’s hard to watch your doctrine closely if you don’t know what your doctrine is, right? If a compass does not know which way is North, it will not serve as a very reliable guide.
The next part is to take this knowledge and use it to guide our lives. Just as a working compass is useless if you do not use it, head knowledge is pointless if it is not put into practice. That’s why Paul says to watch your life and doctrine closely. The two complete one another because doctrine is proven right by being put into practice. Jesus himself said, in Matthew 11:19, that “wisdom is proved right by her actions.” This means that as we incorporate wise doctrine into our lives, it will demonstrate itself to be true.
Socrates once said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Perhaps I’m going out on a limb here, but I think this can also apply to our doctrine. If we do not examine our doctrine, it’s likely we will not find it worth living. We must take ownership of our beliefs, make them our own, and then put them into practice.