Thanks everyone for coming out for our first Coffee & Theology meeting! I’ve copied the notes from today’s session below. Remember to bring questions and doubts you’ve had for next week’s meeting so that we can discuss them live. Also try and read Romans 1 and 2, as these will play a crucial role in our upcoming classes. Thanks again for coming out and can’t wait to see everyone again next Sunday!
Foundations of Christian Doctrine
The purpose of Coffee & Theology is to help Christians understand, articulate, and defend basic Christian truths. 3 years ago I didn’t really care about any of this. Prior to my brother becoming an atheist I was a “nominal Christian”. I went to church and played guitar and worshiped and had a relationship with God. But if you asked me what I believed I couldn’t really tell you. I certainly couldn’t defend much of what I believed other than to say that’s just what I’ve been taught. Since then I’ve come to understand the importance of not only knowing what I believe but being able to understand, articulate, and defend basic Christian truths. The bible even commands us to do so.
1 Peter 3:15 “always be ready to give a defense of the hope that is within you. Do it in gentleness and respect.”
The format of Coffee & Theology will basically be a talk on a given subject with breaks periodically to allow for questions and discussion. We want to foster an environment in which we can all grow and learn together. This is meant to be a haven where you don’t have to be afraid to ask questions and share your doubts. Sometimes Christians think it’s bad or wrong to ask questions that challenge our faith. I believe the opposite is true. We shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions. Expressing our doubts plays an important role in coming to a deeper understanding of Christianity. It’s pretty unlikely you’ve got a question or doubt that biblical scholars haven’t already thought about and provided rigorous answers to. And if you ask questions I don’t have the answer to, that’s ok. We’ll take it home as homework and come back the following week to discuss what we’ve discovered.
With that said we’re going today to cover some of the basics of Christian Doctrine.
What is Christian doctrine? Christian doctrine is simply “what the Christian church believes and teaches.” But why not what the bible teaches? Well the bible doesn’t explicitly teach things like “the trinity” or “the two natures or Christ” so we’ve got to rely on human reflection of these doctrines. Thus Christian doctrine is more than simply what the bible teaches.
But so why care about what the church believes and teaches? Why shouldn’t we just enjoy the Christian life, going to prayer meetings, fellowshipping with other Christians, etc? Why should we study Christian doctrine? I can think of 3 reasons for this.
1. Knowing correct doctrine is essential to Christian maturity.
Eph 4:13-15 “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 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.”
Notice Paul’s goal here is to train Christians to grow into full Christian maturity and that part of Christian maturity is knowing correct doctrine. The goal is to have an understanding of Christian doctrine, so that we are not like children, not like the waves of the sea that are tossed about to and fro by every wind of doctrine that comes along. So it is part of Christian maturity to have a clear grasp of Christian doctrine.
Look also at Galatians 1:6-9 for a similar emphasis on doctrine:
“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.”
Galatians 1:6-8 ESV
Here Paul speaks in the most graphic and powerful terms about the importance of having right doctrine. If someone is preaching a different Gospel, a different account or message of Christ, Paul says let that person go to hell because that is contrary to the true Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is what Paul preached to the Galatians when he visited them. So, again, Paul’s emphasis is on correct doctrine and understanding the truth of the Gospel.
Finally turn to Titus 1:9.
“He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.”
Titus 1:9 ESV
Part of the qualities of an elder are to give instruction in sound doctrine and rebuke those that contradict it. Even if you’ve never been an elder or ever plan on being an elder you should still want to have the qualities of an elder.
2. The study of doctrine is an expression of loving God with all our minds.
When Jesus was asked by the Pharisees what the greatest commandment was he responded by saying:
“And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.”
Matthew 22:37-38 ESV
We’re to love God with our entire being. And one of the ways to love God with your mind is to learn His truth. Meditate on his Word. Explore sound doctrine. This is one of the best ways to express loving God with all your mind.
3. Christ cannot be separated from truths about Christ.
In 2 John 1:9-10 John is warning about people claiming to be Christians, claiming to follow Jesus, but don’t know his teaching.
“Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting,”
2 John 1:9-10 ESV
Notice it doesn’t say he who does not abide in Christ doesn’t have God, but it says he who does not abide in the TEACHING of Christ, does not have God. So failing to have the correct teaching of Christ, or the doctrine of Christianity, does not have God. They are not saved.
It’s not enough to say “I love Jesus” or “all I need is a relationship with Jesus”. We need a combination of doctrine filled wisdom along with a spiritual relationship.
So to reiterate. We should care about doctrine for at least 3 reasons.
This was an awesome read. Great job with the notes Cam
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