So, on Monday at Kroc Church Membership Class we talked about the concept of doctrine and looked at Salvation Army doctrines 1-3.
We looked at how doctrines have different levels of importance. I shared Mark Driscoll's levels of doctrinal importance that correspond to national and state borders. I also used an example that I stole from Dr. Gerry Breshears. Dr. Breshears says that there are Die For issues, Divide For issues, Debate For issues and Decide for issues. The important thing is that we have the Die For issues (salvation by grace through faith, the trinity, the exclusivity of the gospel, one God) in the right place. There are scads of other things that fall into the other categories. There are some legitimate things that we may need to divide for as Christians that don't reflect upon our salvation. There are also some things that we should believe and commit to living with each other in our differences. We get in trouble when we move the Debate Fors and the Decide Fors into the Die For category or, conversely, when we put the Die Fors into a lower category.
After that we looked at Salvation Army doctrine #1:
We believe that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were given by inspiration of God and that they only constitute the Divine rule of Christian faith and practice.
We looked at the issue of inspiration and we discussed inerrancy (2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:21). We looked at different ways to gain information (our experiences, the teaching of others, and the Word of God) and saw how the first two, while useful, can fail us. Because of this, scripture is our highest authority. The Salvation Army's doctrine on scripture is very old (the doctrines were developed in 1878)
Doctrine #2 is:
We believe that there is only one God who is infinitely perfect, the Creator, Preserver, and Governor of all things, and who is the only proper object of religious worship.
We checked out the idea of monotheism, the scriptural evidence for it (Deuteronomy 6:4), and why it is important. That's one thing that I want to keep in the forefront of any discussion on doctrine. If doctrine is a subject that we learn and then set up on a shelf to get dusty, we missed the point. Doctrine is a systematic explanation of the truth we find in scripture. It needs to be the basis for how we live our lives. If these doctrines don't shape our understanding of the world, they are worthless. Monotheism is important because if there is a single being that created the universe, our world, and ultimately each of us, we are accountable to him. In a polytheistic or atheistic universe we are ultimately accountable to no one. It's a big deal.
We believe that there are three persons in the Godhead - the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, undivided in essence and co-equal in power and glory.
The trinity is probably one of the hardest to understand doctrines on this list. How does it work, and why does it matter are big questions here. Really, no one knows how it works. The word trinity isn't in the Bible. However, it is a word that was coined by a church leader named Tertullian in ~200ad. It is a compound word (tri and unity) that means three in one. The concept of the trinity was not invented, but discovered as God interacted with his people over the centuries. It is all over the Bible (Genesis 1, Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Matthew 3:16-17, Matthew 28:19, and many others). God exists and has existed eternally as three distinct persons.
The tricky thing with the trinity is the "who cares" question. There may be a myriad of reasons why understanding the trinity is important. We looked at 2 of them.
- Love is absolute. - For God to be love, as the Bible tells us (1 John 4:8), love needs to be eternal. If God is a singularity, God is incapable of love prior to creating something to love. Therefore, love is not eternal. However, if God is a trinity, as we see Him in scripture, He has eternally been the giver, receiver, and spirit of love in the relationship of Himself.
- We need people. - We are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26). The first thing that God says is not good after He creates the world is that man is alone (Genesis 2:18). Man has God, but that's not enough. In order to image God well, man needs an equal partner to give and receive love and community with. That's the basis of marriage, but I think it's much more than that. I think God's eternal community is the basis of our need for one another. Human beings need each other, and I believe that's because we are created in the image of God, who Himself is in community.
Some great resources for exploring these admittedly big ideas are: