Sunday, October 29, 2006

Why Doctrine Instead of Theology???

(This is an excerpt from an article written by Pastor David Reagan; the full article can be found by following the link found above.)

This study consciously and purposely deals with the doctrine of God instead of the theology of God; or, Theology Proper. The reason for this approach is based on the meaning of the two words and the approaches they tend to describe. To understand this distinction, we need to define the words.

Simply put, doctrine is defined as that which is taught. Bible doctrine would then be those things which are taught in the Bible. The word, doctrine, is used 56 times in the Bible. The Bible teaches that doctrine has three common sources: man, devils, and God. We are to avoid the doctrines of men (Colossians 2:22) and the doctrines of devils (1Timothy 4:1) and rely fully on the doctrine of God. This doctrine is often called “sound doctrine” (1Timothy 1:10; 2Timothy 4:3; Titus 1:9; 2:1). It is the doctrine that proceeds directly from the words of the Bible: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine…” (2Timothy 3:16); the “faithful word” enables us “by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers” (Titus 1:9).

Theology, on the other hand, is the study of God. Although it comes from the Greek words for God and study (or word), it is not a Bible word. Because theology is often used to refer to a large range of Bible-related subjects, the specific study of God is sometimes called Theology Proper. Many people do not see the difference between doctrine and theology. However, there is a substantial difference in how the two are developed in a practical way and it is important that we make the distinction.

Bible doctrine is the teaching that comes directly out of the word of God and is founded on the very words of God. To teach doctrine is to begin with full faith in the words of the Bible, to dig out all that the Bible says about a subject, and to organize that material in the way that best agrees with the approach God Himself makes on the subject.

Theology, by its nature, puts greater emphasis on logical systems built by man. Theology tends to begin with the system and then go to scripture for support, while doctrine begins with the scriptures and allows it to develop its own logic as much as possible. Theology in itself is not evil and much that has come to us by way of theology helps us to see God’s truth. However, theology is too often undergirded with human philosophy and reasoning. Even doctrinal studies lean on human understanding too quickly. However, when the student begins with the idea of developing an intellectual system of theology, the dangers are greater and the study more quickly moves away from the plain teaching of scripture.

For these reasons, this study is approached as a study in Bible doctrine and not the development of a theological system. We cannot fully avoid human systems of understanding, but we can start with a prejudice against them in favor of the plain teachings found in the Bible. We can look for the biblical structure of truth before imposing systems of the intellect. We can seek to keep the necessary human outlines as simple as they reasonably can be. We can lean heavily to Bible patterns of thought and organization. This is what is attempted in this study. Where we fail, we fail because of human frailty and not because of prejudice against God’s holy word.


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