There is a popular movement in our time that says something like, “I don’t really think doctrine matters, all that really matters is that we all get along and love people like Jesus.” While I agree that we should get along and love people like Jesus, I do not agree at all with the idea that doctrine does not matter. I say this because what we believe shapes of what we do on a foundational level. Beliefs, if they are genuine beliefs, emphatically cause action. For example, if I really believe that the milk is going to expire on April 2, will I drink it on May 2? The answer is a whopping no, because I know what happens to spoiled milk. My belief that the milk is going to expire causes me to not drink it when it is a month past the date. Likewise, if I firmly believe that Jesus really said, “Go and make disciples,” then I better do exactly what He said. Maybe a more fitting example would be the substitutionary atonement of Christ. If I believe in the premise that Jesus died the death that was rightfully mine, and I am given the life that was rightly His, than this should earthshakingly change my opinion about salvation. This leaves no room for works based salvation whatsoever. The belief in the substitutionary atonement requires that I also believe in my own sinfulness, and His perfection, both of which are a massive part of salvation. If we do not teach substitutionary atonement because we think it is too “complicated” or that it might create confusion, than we are allowing room for all kinds of heresies like works based salvation. If we do teach it and the people believe it, than they will react to it in an appropriate manner like falling to their knees in humility.
This lack of theological and doctrinal discussion has created a movement in our churches that is more like a moral, life coaching system that works for short periods of time, but in the long run leaves us in worse shape than ever before. Faith and belief based solely upon my loving of others with no firm foundation will be blown away when the first storm comes. In no way am I saying that salvation only comes when a person has his or her systematic theology book written. However, I am saying that Christians, at all levels of maturity, need to know and be continually learning and discussing doctrine. If right beliefs generate the right actions, than all who have deep, convicting beliefs will have deep, meaningful actions. Also, when discussing or teaching doctrine it is important to do so in an edifying and humble manner or there is a chance of causing division within the body. Not all hills are worth dying on, if you know what I mean. In conclusion, I firmly believe that people who pursue doctrinal understanding will be more likely to love people like Jesus, therefore I will teach and discuss doctrines with others in a meaningful, productive way.