Doctrine matters, even false doctrine.
As I’ve been examining T.D. Jakes’ views on the doctrine of the Trinity, some might think, “Does doctrine even matter? Or, “Why should we be so concerned about doctrine and go as far as talking about different doctrines and sound doctrine and false doctrines”? Well, here are some thoughts that I hope would answer these questions.
Here’s why biblical doctrine is so important: if you don’t have biblical doctrine, you don’t have God’s Word. Doctrine is another word for ‘teaching’ and God’s Word has been given to us for “teaching/s”. In fact, the Apostle Paul explicitly writes that, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching” (2 Timothy 3:16).
So, to shun biblical doctrine is to shun the word of God and to not have the word of God is to not know the will of God and to not know the will of God is to not do the work of God. To not know the word of God, the will of God, the work of God is to cast serious doubt on whether or not you know God!
The Bible never encourages an attitude of indifference towards ‘doctrine’ not even false doctrine. The Bible wants the believer to know sound doctrine and to be on guard against false doctrine. Doctrine is not a word made up by those who like to argue and cause division, but in fact, a word that describes the Word of God itself.
The Scriptures are called “the doctrine of God” (Titus 2:10) . Actually, in that verse and context we can make a good argument that the phrase “doctrine of God” is a reference to the gospel itself. This again stresses how important it is for us to care and contend for biblical doctrine (Jude 3). It is a matter of God’s Word and it is a matter of the gospel! To be negligent in rightly understanding and teaching God’s Word is to set oneself up to not understand nor actually teach God’s Word. And this makes us vulnerable to lose God’s Word and the gospel itself!
Elders are charged to “hold fast the faithful word…so that they will be able to both exhort in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict” (Titus 1:9 emphasis added). A truly neglected pastoral duty today is to faithfully exhort in sound doctrine. In addition to this, a widely unknown pastoral duty today is to “refute those who contradict sound doctrine” (Titus 1:9). Instead, today we ignore doctrine and call it unloving to refute those who contradict!
Speaking to the subject of instructing in sound doctrine and showing concern for these things, Paul writes “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). We often use that verse to encourage one another on how to regulate Christian conversations and rightfully so. However, the context of that verse is actually about speaking the truth in love doctrinally and not merely conversationally!
When we speak about different doctrines we are not engaging in irrelevant and meaningless discussions but we are using the very language of the Bible and touching on the very concerns of the Bible. The Apostle Paul exhorted Timothy:
3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions,(1 Timothy 6:3-4)
Notice, the language that Paul uses as he writes under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and how he raises concerns about “different doctrines”. Today when you raise such concerns you are considered divisive, puffed-up on head knowledge and engaged in an exercise of futility. Yet, that was not the case for Paul, he constantly demonstrated a concern for purity in biblical doctrine and notice, in the verse quoted above, who he calls conceited.
It is not the one who cares about the dangers of false doctrines and who strives for purity in biblical doctrine but the one who teaches a different (i.e. false) doctrine who is considered proud and conceited! It is not the one who cares for sound doctrine and seeks to uphold it against error that is quarrelsome but the one who propagates a false doctrine.
When we teach that God is not interested in our “doctrines” and He doesn’t care whether we believe rightly about a certain biblical doctrine, especially one as important as the Trinity, we are in fact espousing a doctrine i.e. that is a teaching. It is however, a false teaching and falls in the category of “different doctrines” and incidentally according to 1 Timothy 6:4 evidences of pride and quarrelsomeness. The Apostle Paul writes, “If anyone teaches a different doctrine…he is puffed up with conceit (1 Timothy 6:3-4).
Therefore, elders, preachers and pastors who show no concern for exhorting in biblical doctrine and refuting those who contradict have given up their responsibility and failed at being faithful stewards (Titus 1:7, 9).
One of the saddest and also dangerous consequences when pastors give up their responsibility to exhort in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict is seen in Ephesians 4:14. Paul writes in Ephesians 4:11 that God has given certain offices to the church (Ephesians 4:11) for the equipping of the saints (Ephesians 4:12). One of the major preventative benefits and main purposes of this is recorded in Ephesians 4:14;
14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
Here’s the thing: showing indifference towards doctrine and ignoring calls to pursue sound doctrine will not make the issue of doctrine go away but will only make you and those you ought to spiritually care for vulnerable to “every wind of [false] doctrine”. A depreciation of sound doctrine and a failure to be faithful in teaching sound doctrine will stagnate growth, will cause spiritual instability and will carry off such a careless soul into a barren place of spiritual unfruitfulness
Doctrine matters. We must care to exhort in sound doctrine and we must be concerned to refute false doctrine. Doctrine matters. Through it we are able to know that God has spoken to us authoritatively, sufficiently, infallibly, inerrantly, and clearly (Bibliology). We also know who God is (Theology) and we are able to understand who we are (Anthropology). Through biblical doctrine we are able to know what God has done in and through His Son to save us from sin and His wrath (Soteriology), we are able to know the Son who came to save us (Christology) and we are able to draw comfort that He is coming again for us so that we can be with Him in glory (Eschatology).
These are precious and essential doctrines, and it is imperative that we understand, love, live, proclaim and earnestly contend for every essential biblical doctrine!
No wonder when Paul speaks about doctrine he has a deep appreciate for it and shows a high regard for it. When Paul encouraged certain believers in 1 Timothy 6:1 to live for the glory of God in this world, he exhorted them that their actions will reflect not only on the name of God but also on the doctrine they are being taught and which they have believed
1 Timothy 6:1
1 All who are under the yoke as slaves are to regard their own masters as worthy of all honor so that the name of God and our doctrine will not be spoken against.
It will not work to say “give me God, not doctrine”! It will not work to say, “I live only for God and I do not care about doctrines”. God is not honored by such talk!
Finally, even though it is not the point of this post, it would also be necessary to point out that we must not only seek to know pure doctrine and teach pure doctrine but we must also show concern that we live it out. In the words of Paul to his protégé Timothy “watch your life and doctrine closely”(1 Timothy 4:16).
If you do not see the importance and relevance of caring for sound doctrine and if you do not see the problem in how a seasoned minister can be so confused and unclear regarding an essential biblical doctrine like the Trinity, my prayer is that these few words would help you.