The Aims of This Lecture:
In my paper, I would like to air the perpetual challenge of presenting doctrine in evangelism, pastoral work and personal witness to a people who find doctrine hard to digest, difficult to understand and indeed, an insult to their view of themselves. I will first look at the fact that even in Christian circles doctrine is dumbed down and then at the methods used and reasons given for such an attitude. I will follow this up by defining doctrine as it is found in Scripture and analysing its obvious use in evangelism and Christian edification. Indeed, I hope to show that no evangelism can be done without doctrine as doctrine is the framework and contents of the gospel. We shall look at this framework and contents and come to the conclusion, I trust, that dumbing down doctrine will leave us without a gospel, without teaching, without a knowledge of ourselves, without a knowledge of Christ, and thus without either a knowledge or experience of salvation, and leave us with nothing with which to honour God or edify the saints. That is, it will leave us without belief, without worship and without witness. This leads me to the conclusion that dumbing down doctrine is the surest way to curb evangelism, pastoral work and public testimony. This leaves us with a shallow religion that is a mere mockery of Christianity and not the power of God unto salvation. In short, no doctrine, no gospel, no church.
The framework of my talk will thus be:
Part One: Dumbed-Down Doctrinal Dissent
Part Two: Divine Doctrinal Definitions
Part Three: Divine Doctrinal Demonstrations
Part Four: Divine Doctrinal Deductions
Part One: Dumbed-Down Doctrinal Dissent
Dumb dogs cannot bark
Referring to the hireling who neglects the sheep, Isaiah in Chapter 56:10, says “His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark.” Christ, too, warns us of these hirelings, so we must take a good look at them so as to be better warned.
Let us imagine that a British Travel Agency wanted to tempt Continental tourists to Britain. They thus sent over finely coloured brochures with lots of glossy pictures to gain the interest of the Germans, Dutch, French, Scandinavians, etc.. They opened a web-site, and produced films and videos to draw the crowds to this green and verdant land. In these media, however, they explained apologetically that London was merely a Kentish suburb and quite uninteresting; York was a boring historical city and thus not worth visiting; the Lake-District had only barren, off-putting hills and Wales would frighten anyone off because of the constant singing going on there. No, they argued, anyone who visits Britain can do no better than to have a guided tour of the off-shore oil-rigs.
Pro-Christ and the Alpha Course
Believe it or not, many of our modern hirelings-cum-evangelists, preachers and para-church organisations follow the same inane tactics when inviting outsiders to Christ. In recent months two modern ideas to attract people to a doctrine-less gospel have been given much publicity in Germany. A campaign called Pro-Christ and one called Alpha Course. As soon as these campaigns were started, Christian groups as far apart as Roman Catholics and Pentecostals – or perhaps they are not so far apart – argued that as there was nothing in these campaigns that discredited their churches, they would join. Nobody found anything to which they could object, for the simple reason that the basis of these campaigns was so weak and washed-out that there was nothing in it that one could object to. The official 1997 Pro-Christ report, which was given to prove the great success of this ecumenical project, illustrates this. It reads translated:
“The Evangelical Church provided the facilities, the Catholic Church the projector, the Pentecostals, Inner mission (Landeskirchlichegemeinschaft) and the Baptists the rest of the technology. The Pietists provided the moderator and the tea, the Plymouth Brethren the drama introductions and the Charismatics the praise. A miracle from God. Four years ago this would not have been possible. Pro-Christ creates practical unity!”
I read this to my son who had been to Pro-Christ meetings. Yes, he said, they will accept anything and anybody but woe betide those who quote God’s Word!
Concerning the Alpha Course, I read in an English review by Elizabeth McDonald two salient remarks. The problems with the course are so serious, the lady says, “that faithful Bible believing Christians cannot recommend the course nor, in the final analysis, stay silent about its faults.” She adds, “It is ironic, if not cultic, how the Holy Spirit is so enthusiastically endorsed through second blessing experiences yet so little emphasised with respect to salvation.”
One further dumbing down of doctrine which is so much evident in these modern substitutes for sound evangelism is the dumbing down of language that goes with it. Terms like propitiation, surety, imputation, depravity, sanctification, justification and vicarious substitution are being done away with at breath-taking speed with no attempt to use understandable synonyms in their place. How can one preach redemption in Christ if one has blindly and dogmatically thrown overboard the very language that helps to save people? With the language goes the concept and, again, in matters of the uttermost importance, these dumb preachers leave their hearers illiterate.
Just as London, York and the Lake District were wiped off the face of the English map in my fictive example, so these dumbers-down factually erase all the doctrines of grace from the Bible. But it is just this barrenness, they tell us, that is a sufficient basis and repository of truth for all to unite on and serve God together. They see the sceptred isles of Biblical truths through the off-shore oil-rigs of ecumenical activity. Of course, some few see that the Alpha-Course’s supposed strength is its great weakness and refuse to cooperate and are denounced as being beyond the Christian pale and thus in need of evangelism themselves. “Fancy,” say these campaigners, “not accepting the basic gospel that we only have to love God as if we had never left Him and all will be well!”
Samuel Butler and the Way of All Flesh
Many years ago, I took up a book by Samuel Butler, the nineteenth century offspring of a line of clergymen who shocked the world with his anti-Christian satire. I have forgotten whether it was his The Way of All Flesh, an autobiography, or Erewhon, which is Nowhere backwards. In this book, he demonstrates how to stand Scripture and his readers on their heads, so that the Scriptures are reviled and his readers’ money drops out of their trouser pockets into his hack-writer’s hand.
Quoting Luke 24:25: “Oh fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken”, Butler suggested that the correct rendering should be “Oh fools and slow of heart – to believe all that the prophets have spoken.”
In other words, instead of Jesus’ telling the disciples on the way to Emmaus that they were fools not to believe the teaching of the prophets, Butler maintains Christ was telling them that they were fools to believe them and that Christ ought not to have suffered these things and entered into glory. Thus all that we suppose is basic Christianity is foolish nonsense. So Butler.
This twisting of Scripture has become a badge of orthodoxy for certain evangelists, preachers and pastors who claim they are not only within the fold but they would cast out all who gainsay them. Misusing Hebrews 6:1. “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection, ” they tell us, “Doctrine is all right as a kind of first step, but if a man wishes to be made perfect, he must leave that all behind.”
Actually the author here, in context, is saying that we have tasted the good, strong meat of doctrine which now enables us to grow in grace and a knowledge of our Saviour. He then warns us not go back to those pre-conversion days when doctrine meant nothing to us. Then come those terrible words of warning that should we neglect or reject that doctrine, there is absolutely no hope of salvation. Therefore we must press on! But those who look for ‘slogans’ in the Bible, rarely look in context and our Christian magazines and publishers are full of works dumbing down doctrine and pawning off ways of perfection foreign to the gospel of Christ.
Promise-Keepers want revival without doctrine
You have perhaps heard, here in England, of the USA Promise Keepers who profess to have millions of followers. They maintain that they keep America and other countries morally clean and fundamentally Christian. Yet Jack Hayford, head of Promise Keepers, said on TV a few years ago at a very large gathering in Washington, D.C.: “We will never have revival if we emphasize doctrine.” So here we have a movement of thousands upon thousands of so called Christians who feel that it is their Christian duty to drop doctrine that they may procure revival! This, too, is standing Scripture on its head.
Clay feet idols
Even our orthodox giants seem to have feet of clay on these issues. I was surprised to find A. W. Tozer saying the following in Chapter Five of his The Pursuit of God,
“God will not hold us responsible to understand the mysteries of election, predestination and the divine sovereignty. The best and safest way to deal with these truths is to raise our eyes to God and in deepest reverence say, ‘O Lord, Thou knowest.’ Those things belong to the deep and mysterious Profound of God’s omniscience. Prying into them may make theologians, but it will never make saints.”
Oh! Is that so? Most of us will have thought from our conversion on that the Bible teaches that neglecting such doctrines will neither make us theologians nor saints! Have we become so dumbed by doctrine that we have got it all wrong?
The commercial gospel
Another dumbing down of doctrine is the commercialisation in modern evangelism. I remember hearing Jim Packer at Swanick around 1958. His topic was revival and he had cut an add out of an American magazine. The add told its readers that they could not have revival until they had bought so and so’s tracts on the subject. They only cost so many dollars and revival was thus cheap at the price! We all laughed at this American mad dream but sadly world evangelism has followed suit. I looked into the web-site of a large world-wide evangelistic body just recently, to find out about their doctrine and their methods of salvation. The organisation is called Willow Creek and what I saw made me think that they were certainly theologically up the creek, if you understand my meaning. After browsing through pages of information on their commercial products necessary for a life in the Spirit, including visiting all their social, high-priced amenities, I realised that they were after a life out of my pocket. They had turned their organisation into a god and their products into ways of salvation. Christ tells us that true doctrine comes straight from God and is to present people directly before God and He has no other Mediator but Christ and that Christ has paid all that we need for full and free salvation. We do not need the para-church society which makes you not only hear their gospel but pay for their restaurants, Fitness Studios, Cinemas, steam baths, swimming pools and the like.
Being a Christian is certainly learning by doing. Those who would follow God, do His will by following His doctrine and those who do His will learn more and more of His doctrine and grow in Christian stature without the health-foods, and ways to win wealth that these modern so-called evangelical sects tell you are absolutely necessary for your spiritual balance. Let the hell-bent Scientologists tell you such Sci-Fi nonsense but we should demand from the man and woman of God that they present God’s doctrine aright or the sinner is lost.
Recently I visited a very large Christian bookstore which had formerly held the best of Reformed, evangelical literature. There was nothing whatsoever there on Christian doctrine. Most of the works, appeared to be on the occult, New Wave-New Age type myths, so-called eschatology, or ways to get rich quickly by auto-suggestion. There was a good deal of naked skin on the covers. The overall message was “Jesus demands nothing of you but loves you as you are, therefore you are duty bound to love Him back and if you do, you will be able to work wonders, grow rich and cast out demons.” No wonder the fall-out amongst modern converts appears so large! Yet, if you ask the bookshop proprietors why they have gone from meat to sour milk, they tell you that they must sell what sells.
Drop doctrine, drop evangelism
Another example from my home country. The men and women at the top of the Union Church in North Rhine Westphalia has recently declared all doctrine that distinguishes between unconverted Jews and converted Christians to be null and void. Thus the evangelism of the Jews is declared to be a policy foreign to the responsibility of the church, indeed, it is anti-Semitic! I might add that Jews are flooding back into Germany in the many, many thousands. We had seventeen in our local synagogue until very recently but we now have several thousand with many more to come.
The reason our leading elders in most denominations give is that the Jews are the ancient people of God, thus they do not need to be evangelised. Soon they will be telling us that all men are the children of God so none needs to be evangelised and thus all must live and die in ignorance of the gospel. The hungry sheep look up but the churches are forbidding us to feed them!
What is the result? Many hundreds of former Protestants (yes, I am not exaggerating one bit), are opting in Germany for the Jewish faith. Are not Jews the people of God and are not Protestants and papists obviously not? Thus most of the new Jews in our district are old Russian protestants who have been neglected by the missionary endeavours of the churches but fostered by the well-financed and carefully planned, state-subsidised missions of the Jews who appeal to their former eschatological fantasies. In Germany, Jews are supported by the government and the churches in proselytising but Christians are forbidden by the churches to evangelise the Jews.
Part Two: Divine Doctrinal Definitions
Now we must consider this dumbing down of doctrine in the light of Scriptural teaching on the subject. Now is the time to look at the Biblical meaning of doctrine and the conclusions we can draw from it regarding our public ministry and personal evangelism.
The term ‘doctrine’ is Biblical in its usage, meaning and application and can be found in its various connotations in both the Old and New Testaments.
Doctrine in the Old Testament
Though Hebrew has such a small vocabulary, there are over a dozen words used in the Old Testament for doctrine and teaching. Permit me to present three of the main ones.
In the Old Testament we find one of the meanings in the Hebrew term leqah, which means ‘what is received’, ‘teaching’, ‘learning’, ‘acceptable words’, or even ‘common sense’.
In Proverbs 4:1-4 we read:
“Hear ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding. For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law. . . .”, “He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live.”
Thus we see that the term ‘doctrine’ is used in the Old Testament to include instruction, the acquiring of understanding and the retaining of information which is vital for true godly living.
This life giving doctrine pervades the entire Scriptures. This is why Moses says in Deut. 32:2, “My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass: Because I will publish the name of the Lord: ascribe ye greatness unto our God. He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.”
The Double Outcome of Doctrinal Preaching
Moses goes on to tell his people of the double consequence attached to this doctrinal preaching. Those who accept it will grow like tender herbs and grass after the rain but those who reject this doctrine do so at their peril. Indeed, Moses calls the dumbing down of doctrine ‘self-corruption’ and says it is a sign of a perverse and crooked nation.
It is thus very important for us to note that according to the Old Testament, the teaching of doctrine has a life-giving evangelistic function and it is God’s means of applying grace to His people. Thus we read in Isaiah 29:24 that, “They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn doctrine.” There is also the same double promise in this last passage. Nobody can escape God’s doctrine. Those who receive it, receive divine learning, but those who reject it will still feel its force in the self-corruption and self-deceit which follow.
The second main Old Testament term for doctrine is moosahr which means instruction in the sense of chastening, being corrected. Doctrine is a divine means of correction and discipline and those ministers who denounce doctrine fail to correct the sins of their people and discipline them to follow Christ aright. It is no use merely telling one’s flock to follow Christ, when they have not the will, the intention or the capacity to do so. Much of modern evangelism and church building is thus telling camels to gallop through the eyes of needles.
Job is quoted in chapter 11:4 as saying that his doctrine is pure, using the leqah term. Eliphaz tells us in chapter 5:17, using moosahr terminology, “Happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty.” That doctrine is akin to God’s method of discipline and seen by righteous men to be such has already been shown in Prov. 4:1 “Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father”, where the word ‘instruction’ is also moosahr.
How does this apply to our ministry?
I think it worthy of deep study that in the Suffering Servant passages of Isaiah, where God’s chastisement is laid on Christ on our behalf, the word ‘chastisement’ is the very term under discussion here i.e. moosahr which also means ‘doctrine’. God’s doctrine was laid on Christ. What can this mean? In allowing His Son to die for us in this way, God the Father teaches us the full doctrine of salvation. According to God’s doctrine, he does not start by telling us that we should love Christ as if we had never sinned. On the contrary. He tells us that because we have sinned, we are doomed to death and there is no love at all for God in us and only the wrath of God can be expected for us! Sin has separated us from God, so how can we love Him as if we had never sinned? God is not there to be had this way! The way back to God can never be through our love because God would not be there to be loved even if we could love him. The awful truth is that we cannot possibly love God! We have neither the ability not the capacity. However, God, in His love to us, laid our chastisements upon His son. He laid His doctrine of salvation on Him. It was our death that Christ took upon himself. By His stripes we are healed. He did this to make us loveable, and did this to show us His love. It was to work out divine doctrine that Christ bore our sins and it was divine doctrine that rehabilitated His elect. Christ put Himself under the law, under doctrine, so that we might be redeemed from the law’s curse and God’s doctrine would not eternally damn us. In other words, doctrine is the essential feature of the history of salvation and to reject divine doctrine is to reject salvation itself and deny the efficacious work of Christ on the cross. Talk of dumbing down doctrine? Preachers who do, so do at their own peril and the peril of those God has entrusted to them!
The third Old Testament term for ‘doctrine’ is shemoogah which really means ‘a report’; ‘tidings’; or even ‘good news from afar’. The latter meaning we find in Proverbs 25:25:
“As cold water is to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.”
We could paraphrase this verse by saying, “As cold water is to a thirsty soul, so is good doctrine from a sound preacher!” It is also important to note that this meaning of the term for doctrine is used throughout all parts of the Old Testament whether, Law, Writings, Wisdom Literature or the Prophets. The Old Testament is all good news from a far country!
This identifying of doctrine with the good news, paves the way for the evangelistic preaching of the gospel. There is no evangelism without doctrine because doctrine is evangelism i.e. bringing the good news from God. There is no gospel without doctrine either, because doctrine is synonymous with good news and the term gospel means good news.
Other terms briefly
Another word is shanan which really means ‘sharpen’:
We say nowadays ‘to sharpen one’s wits’, but here the word means really that we are sharpened on God’s whetstone. No doctrine: no sharp minds. Then there is Sacal, which means ‘to make wise’ (cf. Prov. 16:23). No doctrine: no wisdom. Then there is yasar which also means to chasten. One of the most interesting words is Zahar which means to illuminate by warning. We cannot preach ‘Flee from the wrath to come without doctrine. No doctrine: no chance to flee. This secondary material is skilfully sorted and presented in Girdlestone’s Synonyms of the Old Testament, though, oddly enough, he leaves out the main terms.
The words of Deuteronomy 6:6 ff. sum up this use of doctrine the best: “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” Otherwise there can be no love for the Lord in the hearts of the faithful. If we are tempted to reject this advice, the Word urges us not to give in “lest the anger of the Lord thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth.” Those who handle doctrine negligently, scorn their own hope of salvation.
So much for the Old Testament on doctrine which clearly indicates the old maxim that the New Testament is not foreign to the Old but a continuation and development of its truths.
New Testament Teaching on Doctrine
Didaskalia: The Act and Substance of Instruction
When we turn to the new Testament, we find the Old Testament teaching becomes more concrete and applicable. It is continued in two words, Didaskalia and Didachee. The first carries the meaning of instruction, with reference both to the act and the substance of it. Romans 12:6 ff tells us of the gifts within the Church and verse 7 informs us that the gift of teaching and the curriculum to be taught is a special gift of God alongside others which is, and we note the particular phrase used in Romans, the ‘reasonable service’ of the church. That word ‘reasonable’ carries the same meaning as ‘sensible’ i.e., if one wishes to serve God, the sensible thing to do is commit oneself to God’s teaching both as a recipient and provider. The Old Testament uses the word ‘doctrine’ as a synonym for ‘common sense’, and the New Testament echoes this by telling us that to follow Christian doctrine is the only sensible thing to do.
The Consequence of this Teaching
Paul says clearly that if one wishes not to be conformed to this world and wishes to have one’s mind constantly renewed, then one will find that the good and acceptable will of God is that we continue to witness to God’s doctrine and exhort our hearers to accept it. In other words, here is the Old Testament teaching again, revealed in the New, but explained in deeper depth, saying that there is no way of promoting the faith which redeems if one dumbs down the doctrines for which Christ lived and died and which are the only doctrines that can quicken man. There is no other way. Thus Paul writes to Timothy (4:12-13):
“Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.”
Here we see how this is precisely what Moses in Deuteronomy had to say. The fact that doctrine is at the end of the list does not mean that doctrine is the least important of our Christian duties but that it is a question of “last but not least” and the graces listed before it merely refer to the manner in which doctrine is to be taught.
Our doctrine-less critics would object to what I say here and tell me that it is not doctrine that saves us but the atoning work of Christ applied by the Spirit. Doctrine, they say, is empty of saving power, the Spirit is full of such strength! This is to misunderstand what the Bible means by doctrine. Doctrine is the good news that Jesus saves and the Spirit illuminates and preserves. Doctrine introduces us to the way of salvation and the working of the Spirit. “How shall they believe on Him whom they have not heard?” asks Paul in Romans Ten. Take this doctrine away and there is no good news of salvation – nothing to listen to and nothing to act on and be acted on. Modern mass evangelism seems to be built on the hunch that we ought to say little so that the Spirit can do a great work. This is forgetting that our doctrine is Spirit-breathed and our Spirit-filled responsibility is to preach it so that the Spirit can apply it. The Word of God does not return to him void, but accomplishes what He sets out to do. It is forgetting that the God of Love has chosen this very way to save souls. It is because, in the words of 2 Corinthians 5, we know the terror of the Lord to unrepentant sinners, that the love of Christ constrains us to preach to them as God’s ambassadors, teaching in His stead the doctrines of reconciliation.
The different emphasis on doctrine in the New Testament
A major difference, or rather development, in the New Testament is that the need for doctrine is emphasised more specifically and exactly and we are given studies in depth of what doctrines the subject of our teaching should contain. Timothy 3:14 ff is an ideal reference referring to the necessity of doctrine for the life of a person from the cradle onwards. We read:
“But continue thou in the things which thou hast learnt and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learnt them and that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Jesus Christ. All scripture is given on inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
Note there is no dumbing down of doctrine here. No filtering of Scriptural truths. All Scripture clearly teaches that without doctrine, there is no Christian perfection – because doctrine reveals our perfect Lord – and there are no good works without doctrine because doctrine, by the grace of God, fits us out to both know what good works are in God’s eyes and how to do them.
Power Team evangelisation and pig-kissers
In the USA there is a commercial team of body builders who hire themselves out to churches to proclaim how God has given them the power to break ice-blocks by thumping them with their bare heads. This is invariably followed by a so-called altar call, the repeating of a prayer and the signing of a decision card. On one occasion, on attending a Founders Journal conference, I heard in criticism that many hundreds of youngsters had been so thrilled by this supposed godly power that they had willingly signed the necessary declaration of conversion. The male Barbie dolls and hormone-eaters left the area and not one of these youngsters came back to the church. They had identified Christianity with muscle power and wanted to be supermen rather than strong in the faith. One pastor proclaimed that if these kind of methods did not work (obviously believing they would) he would kiss a pig. They did not work and the next service was designed as a pig-kissing ceremony and drew crowds of ‘believers’ – I am being sarcastic – to witness the event. With due Walsingham-like pomp the pig was brought in and the pastor kissed its snorting lips. This was recorded as a mighty spiritual experience by the church. Thus when my more orthodox friends are asked to accept a visiting pastor, they always cautiously ask, “Is he a pig-kisser”?
God’s doctrine is not that of Rabbi Soandso as in Jewish dialectic tradition, nor that of the Talmud or any other Jewish commentary on the Old Testament Scriptures. Neither is it the doctrine of the Power Team or the Pig-kissers. It is also not the interpretation of any private individual Christian, whether he be pope or pauper. Such reliance on private interpretations and private doctrines caused Jesus to say of those who followed Him for the wrong motives:
“In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matt. 15:9).
Doctrine must be lived out and performed
Doctrine is thus God’s teaching passed on from the Scriptures to the Christian and then onto his hearers. Of course, we also call our doctrine the Apostles’ doctrine, but not because they invented it but because they were sent out to perform it and we share this responsibility. Acts 2:42 tells us “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in the breaking of bread, and prayers.”
That the doctrines of Christ are for every Christian and are not just the prerogative of a ministerial elite in the way stipulated by the Council of Trent is seen in Romans 6:17:
“But God be thanked, that ye (i.e. all the church at Rome) were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.”
Here again, we see that leaving sin and grasping faith, which surely are the key elements of the gospel and the goal of all true evangelism, are synonymous with accepting the form of doctrine God has revealed to His saints. This is the one and only doctrine we have and the minister or evangelist that preaches either another doctrine or none at all is an apostate preacher. This is why Paul drums it home to Timothy, “teach no other gospel” (1 Tim. 1:3). John even tells us in his second letter, verse 9:
“Whosover transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.”
Conclusion: No such thing as a doctrine-less Christianity
What can we safely conclude from this? That it is totally unsafe to reject Christ’s doctrines and there is no such thing as a doctrine-less Christianity. Evangelism without doctrine is a Christ-less evangelism and thus presents a Christ-less religion. Such a Christ-less religion is thus a Fatherless and Spiritless religion. So, in the Septuagint of Proverbs 2:17, when Solomon speaks of the false female who flatters with words and tempts people from the guide of their youth and from the covenant of their God, the word for ‘guide’ is didaskalia, God’s doctrine. Thus, according to the Scriptures, which is the only source of our doctrine, the preacher who tempts his hearers from doctrine, he who dumbs down doctrine, is likened to a prostitute who trades the false thing for false purposes. The Scriptural warning against such vendors of false promises of false love could not be stronger. Beware of the dumbers down of doctrine! Why? Because they prostitute true religion!
Didachee: The Act, Contents and Mode of Teaching
The next New Testament word for doctrine is Didachee which again means not only the act of teaching but also what is taught. Its meaning goes further still, however, and covers the mode in which it is taught. From this word we obtain our modern educational word ‘Didactics’ but the Greek word also contains the meaning ‘Methodics’, i.e. how it is taught and with what purpose. In other words, we must not only know what is right but what we must do to procure it and how to apply it. Methodics tells us how we perform a task in order to achieve certain results; i.e. the manner and way of reaching our goal. Our goal is to follow Christ’s teaching ourselves and make it palatable for others by doing the work of an evangelist. Methodics also enables us to look back and check that we are on the right road.
It is of note that one of the very first Christian books to be written was called The Didachee, a work that tells us what the first congregations believed and how they attained to it and how they practised their beliefs. An example of this usage we have seen in John 7:16-18 where Jesus says that His doctrine is of God. He then goes on, using the same word, to say:
“If any man will do his will (i.e. God’s will), he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him (that is, sent Christ), the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.”
Thus, how do we test the capacities of those who reject the Biblical doctrine as the primary source of instruction in righteousness? Do they give us their own patent recipe for salvation? Do they offer us some new gimmick; some new method of presentation; some new psychology; some new easy way; some new five-stage courses that only cost £100 pounds each? Do they promise us hundreds saved?
Great numbers can be a great delusion
It is symptomatic of modern perversions of evangelism that they look to numbers as signs that there work was not in vain. One Southern Baptist preacher told me of what pressure his Baptist equivalent of bishops and archbishops put on him to win more souls. Each pastor had to fill in monthly reports of people converted and the most efficient pastor was praised in the churches. Those who could not fill out the forms to their church leaders’ satisfaction were asked to give up their posts. Thus terrible pressure was put on the pastors which crippled their spiritual work and encouraged them to become liars for their church’s sake. The truth is sufficient to sober us on the issue of numbers. After Jesus had outlined the sin of false evangelism in Matthew 8, we read (v. 28):
“And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them with authority and not as the scribes. And when he was come down from the mountain, great numbers followed him.”
Only one conversion amongst the enthusiastic crowd
However, do not think that when you follow God’s doctrine, you will of necessity find multitudes who will beg you to lead them to Christ. We read the sobering fact after these Beatitudes that only a solitary leper worshipped Christ and said, “if thou wilt, thou canst make me whole.” According to the example above, Christ’s electing love would have failed their test.
The only way to Christ is to be separated from the masses, receive His doctrines and be made whole in believing them by His grace. It is according to Christ’s own heaven-given and heaven-bound doctrine that he touches us and says to us “I will; be thou clean.”
Part Three: Divine Doctrinal Demonstrations
Now what is this doctrine that causes some people to be astonished, others to be converted and a number to leave it out of their preaching altogether? Actually, the entire Bible, as the Word of God is our doctrine. All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for doctrine, says Paul, as we have seen, to Timothy. We are to preach the whole doctrine to the whole man, it being the work of the Spirit to make it fruitful or not. Let us take a brief look at the way Scriptures declare doctrine without trespassing on our final lecture which will be on restoring a doctrinally-based ministry.
2 Timothy 3:16: The doctrine of God’s Word
All Christian piety, all Christian, evangelism, all Christian witness must be based on all of the Word of God. The Anglican Reformers, advising their flocks through the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, told them “It is not lawful for the Church to ordain any thing that is contrary to God’s Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture that it be repugnant to another. Wherefore, although the Church be a witness and a keeper of Holy Writ, yet, as it ought not to decree anything against the same, so besides the same ought it not to enforce any thing to be believed for necessity of Salvation.” (Article XX). We must constantly live by the Word which is God’s divine way of guiding, chastising and instructing us in the way of righteousness. We must leave nothing out and put nothing in. When do we err, according to Christ? Matthew 22:29, “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.” Leave out the Scriptures, i.e. doctrine in your witness and you leave out the power of God. Are you looking for words of life? Christ says, “Search the Scriptures!
We may pay lip-service to what has just been said but in our practice we tend to base all our teaching on the NT only. Indeed, the idea seems to be prevalent that the OT has one form of righteousness (see Wesley) and the NT another. There was no church in the OT etc. No relationship between faith in the OT and the NT and especially no covenant relationships, no relationship between circumcision and baptism etc.. It is as if the two testaments present two totally different religions with two Gods. The OT God of Works and the NT God of grace. All Scripture is God given and all Scripture is profitable for doctrine. This is most noticeable in the case of the ordinances. In the established or national churches, be they Roman, Lutheran, Presbyterian or Anglican, there is often a tendency to live merely in Old Testament concepts. They show this in their attitude to baptism as a guarantee and even seal of salvation in the way many Jews viewed circumcision. Some strive to build the Church on Old Testament case law thus sending men to Christ to be saved but then back to Moses for their sanctification. On the other hand, we have those who take a dispensationalist stand regarding the NT as a total breech with the Old, with no trace of the church before post-resurrection times and see church ordinances as having no continuing growth from OT times but being entirely new concepts. The Lord’s Supper also cannot be fully understood without taking into account the entire history and theology of the OT which is continued in the NT. The Old is in the New Revealed, the New is in the Old concealed. Any doctrine which does not take into account the whole revelation of God in His Word is a dumbed-down doctrine.
The everlasting, pan-Biblical covenant
There is such a thing as the everlasting covenant which reveals the hand of God in redemption from Genesis to Revelation, from the beginning to the end of the world and even gives us insight into the eternal plans of God which were activated in the fullness or the centre of time in the Incarnation. This lasting covenant is a covenant of grace. Note that even the greatest men of God prove they are but men at best in this matter. The greatest Baptist ever, John Gill, and the greatest Methodist ever, John Wesley, both looked on the Abrahamic covenant i.e. God’s covenant with the man who is described as the Father of the Faithful, as a covenant of works. We, of the more Reformed tradition see Abraham being justified by faith in Christ, through His imputed righteousness, as Jesus himself testified. There is one saving faith in the Bible, whether as revealed partially in the OT or fully in the NT.
Mark 4:2: The Parable of the Sower or the doctrine of distinguishing grace
We note in this parable that it is the preached word that is spoken of as doctrine i.e. evangelism itself. Here we see the doctrine preached falling on different soils. In such faithful evangelism to all kinds of people, we see the electing hand of God in choosing His people and the terrible consequences of refusing that hand. We note, too, that Christ points to two levels in the same preaching, the first level is the parable and the second the doctrine it contains. He shows that to some the mysteries of the Kingdom of God are revealed as well as the good story contained in the parable. But to those outside of the Kingdom, no mysteries are revealed but the hearer only receives a mere parable in the form of an entertaining story. Thus, that kind of modern evangelism that merely tells us the interesting story, without the doctrine, is really holding back the glorious gospel of salvation in Christ.
The deep and surface structures of preaching
Sadly, there are false preachers that only aim to give the surface structure of the entertaining story and do not appear to be interested in the deep structures of divine revelation themselves. I remember a doctrine-less preacher complaining that someone said that his ministry was ‘pure entertainment’, and such it was. But he was really happy to be thus criticised. He boasted, “Yes, my entertainment is pure, it is not polluted like that of the world.” But people who are only given parables without the doctrine are not given pure preaching at all but the hungry sheep look up and are not fed. Such preaching could not be more polluted as it is poison to the soul. Such preachers sow corrupt seed which can never germinate, be the soil ever so receptive. Nor can such corrupt seed ever be used to point to the Bread of Life.
We notice here, too, in this parable, that Christ not only preached doctrine, but He outlined clearly what his story meant and how it is applicable to the lost and the saved.
Mark 12:38: Beware of the long-clothed scribes. The doctrine of a humble, godly life
Here again in this passage of warning, Christ’s preaching is called His doctrine and in this doctrine, he warns His hearers against those preachers that display themselves in the pulpit and not Christ, and love to be in a prominent position in public and claim the eyes of rich widows, wealthy businessmen and church dignitaries. William Cowper warns us in Tirocinium of the ministers who feel their careers are made when they hob-nob with celebrities and noblemen:
Behold your Bishop! well he plays his part—
Christian in name, and infidel in heart,
Ghostly in office, earthly in his plan,
A slave at court, elsewhere a lady’s man!
Dumb as a senator, and, as a priest.
A piece of mere church-furniture at best.
and in Expostulation he tells us:
When nations are to perish in their sins,
’Tis in the church the leprosy begins.
The priest, whose office is, with zeal sincere,
To watch the fountain, and preserve it clear,
Carelessly nods and sleeps upon the brink,
While others poison what the flock must drink;
Or, waking at the call of lust alone,
Infuses lies and errors of his own.
His unsuspecting sheep believe it pure;
And, tainted by the very means of cure,
Catch from each other a contagious spot;
The foul forerunner of a gen’ral rot
But we are told nowadays to be popular in the pulpit, to condemn nothing and no one, to accept all on equal terms and to promote the freedom of homosexuality, prostitution, drug-addiction, gambling, and claim, to boot; that Mohammed, Buddha and Christ are merely different images of the same Person and we are all God’s children. It is interesting to note that you do not get Buddhists and Mohammedans preaching thus, but you do get so-called Christians and they get Orders of the British Empire and even Knighthoods for doing so! Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees!
Romans 6:17 ff.: The doctrine of deadly sin and the gift of life
In this passage, Paul outlines the doctrine that is to be preached, calling it by that name, and saying that “the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life.” Paul also goes on to explain what kind of a holy life that must be, a sin-free life of holiness and righteousness.
Here again, we see the grave weakness of such as the Alpha Course which tells you that sin can be removed but sin is never really defined because the Lordship, Sovereignty, wrath and justice of God are never defined. I.e. they never tell us what the nature of sin is seen through God’s eyes but see sin merely in the need in man to love God and thus get right with him. That man is dead in trespasses and sin and an abhorrence to God in his fallen state appears to be too much ‘negative thinking’ for the Alpha authors.
I Timothy 1:3: The doctrine of the right use of the law
Here Paul exhorts us to teach no other doctrine. And what is the doctrine that he here portrays? That the law must be used lawfully and to use the law lawfully means to apply it to those who live contrary to the sound doctrine that the wages of sin is death. The law must therefore be used to convict a man of his sin and show what sentence is upon him should God withhold His hand of grace.
Now here we have an enigma indeed. Nowadays it has become theologically fashionable to say that the law is abolished by Christ and is no longer a doctrinal indicator of man’s state before God. Others are now telling us that the law is for the Jews only and God condemns Gentiles by a different pattern. Similarly, we would also expect them to say that God saves the Jews by a different pattern and many of these people, who deal in soothsaying about the future instead of making people right with God now, do indeed tell us that there is one way of salvation for the Jews and another for the Gentiles. But the law, we read from Genesis to Revelation is part of the preached Word and Paul lays down the law whether he is writing to Gentiles or Jews. Surely the one truth that echoes through the entire New Testament is that Jews and Gentiles come under the same conditions of salvation.
The gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, they tell us, was written by a gentile for the gentiles but note how the law is constantly applied there to drive a person on his knees before God. Here Paul is speaking to Timothy whose pastoral duties in Ephesus was to all kinds of men, irrespective of background and race. Here we see how subtle is the devil. It is sadly a mark of modern belief, going from the most extreme High-Calvinist Hardshell to the most freewill Arminian that they neglect the fundamental doctrine of the damning powers of the law which is used as a chastising and disciplining Schoolmaster to bring both Jews and Gentiles to Christ.
This use of the law lawfully, Paul calls “the gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.” Then he goes on to say, “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry.” This ministry was, as we well know from Paul’s journeys, was to Jews and Gentiles. We note, too, that when Peter gave preferential treatment to the Jews, Paul ‘withstood him to the face.’ It is also worthy of note that Paul who starts off his letter to Timothy telling him to charge some that they teach no other doctrine and relates this to the lawful then continues in Timothy 4:16 with the advice:
“Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt save thyself, and them that hear thee.”
Titus 1:1 ff.; Ephesians 1:4 ff.: The doctrines of election, predestination and perseverance
I know that we are advised today to keep quite about the doctrines of grace dealing with election, atonement and perseverance and many of our top Reformed evangelists tells us that they are for believers only. Thus they contradict their own calling by curbing the doctrines which make people believe. Yet they say that what they leave out is for believers only! At that rate they will never gain believers and start teaching believers under false pretences! Listen to what our wise Fathers under God said of predestination and election. Note, too, that they keep to the language of Scripture (especially Romans 8:28-30 and Ephesians 1:2-11) throughout.
“Predestination to Life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby before the foundations of the world were laid he hath constantly decreed by his counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honour.”
Read the entire 17th Article to learn of the “unspeakable comfort” that this doctrine affords in opening up, establishing and confirming the salvation which is to be enjoyed in Christ.
Titus 2:14: All doctrine is centred on the vicarious atoning life and death of Christ
In the Epistle of Paul to Titus, the apostle emphasises that true doctrine is the gospel itself and thus the contents of our preaching and witness. This gospel deals with a knowledge of the truth in Scripture which is to promote the doctrine of Christ’s vicarious sufferings for His elect, whom God set apart before the foundation of the world. These chosen people are to walk in holiness of life, that is not be lip-servers to the gospel alone but doers of it. This means that sin must be taken seriously and the necessary teaching given so that sin might be overcome in Christ and a purity of life and witness maintained. Based on the doctrine of their salvation, all Christians of every age and of each sex have their special calling to the work of God in bringing in Christ’s kingdom. A special feature of this Christian calling is to combat heresy and error and to rebuke the traditions of men that so easily take the place of sound doctrine in church life.
Titus Contd: The Doctrine of witness in family, church and society
Part of this doctrine, according to these Bibline letters, is that the Christian must play his part in society and in relation to the secular powers. He is no rebel, revolutionary, bother-causer or scandal-monger. He obeys this doctrine because he knows that the kindness and love of God has appeared to him personally and changed him and can thus change others.
This glorious doctrinal gospel teaches us that it is His grace which justifies us, His Spirit that is put within us, His love that indwells us and His mercy that keeps us. This grace, mercy and peace is given us because He has adopted us into His Family and made us the heirs and inheritors of eternal life.
I Corinthians 11:23: The doctrine of the Lord’s Supper
Here we read that the right celebration of the Lord’s supper is a doctrinal duty of the saints. In this matter most of us gravely err. I have no quarrel with open communion if it is restricted to our brethren in Christ but there is a solemn warning attached.
“Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.”
Seeking social and political respectability through the communion service
In the 18th century there was a Test Act, ensuring social and political respectability for those wishing to have a government post or a political position. Occasionally appearance at the Lord’s Table gained acceptance in the establishment. Thus an ordinance of God was often abused for political gain and personal prestige. Though we have no Test Act, times have not changed. Have you noticed that our modern society of child-abusers, same-sex abusers, prostitutes, and the like who are as far away from God as the East is from the West, always demand church acceptance before going on to demand social and political acceptance? Their strategy is then that if the churches accept them, they are thus given God’s imprint of respectability which no state can gainsay. What a devilish plan that appears to dupe our churches and our lands! It grieves our hearts to find ministers of the gospel in all denominations inviting to the Lord’s table such practising abusers of themselves with mankind. A generation ago, nobody in their right mind, Christian or non-Christian, would have put homosexuals and lesbians into positions of authority in the church but now we not only invite them in their unrepented sins to the Lord’s Table but we ordain such to administer the same and put such polluted minds in authority over our Christian brethren and our apparently Christ-less countries. Surely this is one of the worst signs of the dumbing down of doctrine we have and a cause for general repentance. How sad it is to see national churches and Free Churches alike going the way of all flesh and teaching surrogate doctrine that ought to make all of us vomit.
2 Timothy, Chapter Four: The doctrine of exhorting with all longsuffering and doctrine
Paul tells us here to preach the word: be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with longsuffering and doctrine.” He tells us that a time will come when people will not endure sound doctrine but if we wish to do the work of an evangelist and make full proof of our ministry, we cannot neglect doctrine. Furthermore, this doctrine entails confirming faith and building up the flock in the faith. Christianity is not merely a means of evangelism as if we were to bring in the sheep and then leave them to graze as they wish. We are to establish and feed the churches with the doctrine of God.
1 Corinthians 6:19: The doctrine of glorifying and worshipping God
We are not in the church merely for the joy we may experience in the Lord or even for the fellowship this affords us. We are here to promote God’s glory and to worship him in spirit and in truth. Thus doctrine not only brings us in and builds us up, it provides the nucleus for our spiritual worship. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 6:19 ff,
“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
This means that we must worship God in Spirit and in truth which are the two sides of Christian teaching. Thus, when the Bible speaks of doctrine, it is invariably connected with worship. Indeed, one cannot have true worship without true doctrine. This is why Jesus says of the Scribes and Pharisees,
“This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but there heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”
Jesus is especially strict with such false worshippers in Mark 7 who have their own forms of worship built on denominational traditions instead of Biblical doctrine.
1 Timothy 1:12: The doctrine of thanksgiving
“And I thank God . . .”, as in 1st Timothy 1:12 where, after speaking of doctrine, Paul thanks God for the privilege of being enabled to believe the gospel and stand firm in the faith.
One of the oddities of the Alpha Course in Germany has to do with thanksgiving, or rather the lack of it. After the third session of the ten weeks’ course, the partaker is now considered a born again Christian and he is soon whisked off to a weekend course where he learns to sing in tongues, prophesy and interpret dreams and visions. To celebrate the end of the course, a party-meal is prepared to which also further potential Alpha Course people are invited. At the meal, however, the partakers are told not to thank God for the food because this might be off-putting for the more sensitive partakers.
Acts Chapter Two: The doctrine of prayer
Prayer is always coupled with doctrine and we find the young church meeting together as recorded in Acts chapter two, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread and prayers. Imagine young converts coming together today in a doctrine-less congregation. They sing, I am H-A-P-P-Y and other ‘rousing choruses’ with the help of any instrument going, their main intent is to make a ‘cheerful noise’. One or two of the children or young girls come forward with a slip of paper and read a prayer that is too banal to be repeated here. Then a play is performed without any attempt to describe what it is all in aid of and then guitars are strummed and drums banged again. Forms of ‘worship’, if I dare use the term for this, are then practised which are more comparable with a gang-show stunt and a Palace of Variety show with lots of projections on the walls moving around in circles and heavy noises broadcast at eardrum-breaking frequencies. I recently visited some Logos meetings and now know what hell on earth sounds like. Spontaneous praise and prayer is discarded for the repeated, again and again singing of a lyric that pleads ‘Rhyme or bust’ and an interview takes place with a pop star, sport idol or pin-up girl. More often than not, however, a CD or film takes over the entire worship and Canned Christianity takes over from prayer, preaching and praise. This is the Brave New World of the Surrogate church.
Part Four: Divine Doctrinal Deductions
The deceptive nature of dumbing down the gospel
Coming to a general conclusion, we note that one main weakness of modern evangelism is that the ‘come as you are’ call is so often deceptive. It gives the hearer the impression that he can come to Christ when he wants and how he wants and does not take into account the tremendous burden of sin that separates man from God. The Alpha Course tells us that it is entirely up to us whether we open the door to let Christ in or not. Nor does modern mass evangelism, on the whole, explain how Christ can take away our burden but sinners dead in their sin are told that they must love Christ as if they had never apostatised, i.e. never sinned. In other words they are asked to present themselves to God in an unfallen, Adamic state. As if they could? They are dead in trespasses and sins!
My mother used to say to people who were looking the worse for wear in her blunt Yorkshire manner, “Tha lewks like death warmed up, lad!” But sinners do not even look like death warmed up. They are death stone cold! It is deceit indeed to pretend otherwise. This is why I wrote my booklet The Free Offer and the Call of the Gospel. Not because I would withhold the gospel from any man, as some have declared is my belief, but because I believe we should preach the whole gospel to the whole man and not a doctrine-less gospel that merely speaks to man’s pride and tells him that he can be saved if he only wills it. This is the so-called categorical imperative doctrine of Emmanuel Kant by which man boasts “I ought, therefore I can”. Kant was the man who sought, with Lessing, to displace the Holy Spirit with their deifying of man’s reason. Modern evangelism is often pure Kantian and therefore pure cant.
Christians are not of the mass and do not exercise any mass capacities or abilities to become Christians, even though modern evangelists seem to think that mass evangelisms and mass forms of hysteria are psychological gifts to lead men to Christ. This was all good enough for Finney, and his modern followers who have even less doctrine than he, but not for Christ. We are peculiar people who have been rescued from this world by a peculiar, special manner
Woe be unto me if I preach not the gospel!
When Paul, in 1 Corinthians 9:16 said, “Woe be unto me if I preach not the gospel’, he was talking about the doctrine which had been committed to his stewardship: i.e. which was to be practised. Furthermore, he tells us that if he did not keep and live according to this doctrine himself, he would be a castaway. What we notice therefore about doctrine as preached by Christ and the apostles is that it is eminently practical, not because it ignores doctrine like the Pro-Christ practicality but because it is also eminently doctrinal. Indeed, Matthew 28:18-20 ought to be taken as the last word on the topic. The call to evangelise is the call to discipline, baptise and teach. Where these four are one, Christ says, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” No Christian can be of practical use in his calling without being doctrinal.
A practical Christian must be a Doctrinal Christian
In preparation for this talk, I have been amazed how so many preachers tell their congregations that doctrine is all right for the theoretical theologian but not for the practical pastor or needy soul. What nonsense! What do such false prophets know about doctrine? Christ the great creator of all that is, is also the greatest practical soul-healer. He practised what He preached and actually bore our sins and actually atoned for them and actually paid the price for our redemption. To preach this high calling of Christ to us-ward would be ridiculous if we did not also practice what we preached and lived out all that Christ has done for us in our daily lives and commitment to the gospel. A doctrinal man must be a practical man, otherwise he has no doctrine as all our doctrines are fulfilling the work of Christ in the gospel. Therefore, if anyone dumbs down the gospel, it is our Christian duty to instil Christian sense into him. We need not be ordained ministers ourselves to carry out this duty. Ananias put Paul right and Priscilla and Aquila took Apollos to task. What we must certainly do is see that we omit nothing from our gospel but preach and perform it practically.
The ‘doctrine divides, service unites’ myth
The slogans of the Life and Liberty and Life and Work movements in the early part of last century were originally initiated to vindicate the national and catholic character of the Church Of England. Sadly, they petered out into the Ecumenical Movement and the World Council of Churches. “Doctrine divides, service unites’, they told us. The outcome of the matter was that William Temple’s temple soon had its veil rent and, without the doctrine, the Church of England was so divided that many now think that an internal re-union is impossible and many Evangelicals have opted out. It is no wonder that a reaction set in after this bogus call to unity and the C of E suddenly realised that they needed a doctrinal basis on which to stand. Instead of looking at what they had, the glorious Thirty Nine Articles, the Lambeth Articles and the Irish Articles, they set up one of these endless, often useless, committees to work out something new. However, when their findings were published in 1938, they were not called ‘The Doctrine of the Church of England’ but merely ‘Doctrine in the Church of England’ and a liberal interpretation of doctrine was drawn up. Incidentally, the idea was that a doctrine must be worked out which would appeal to the educated man. The idea seemed to be that simple Biblical truths were for the simple minded and thus simply not acceptable. Paul, following Christ, believed that profound matters could be stated so simply that babes in Christ could grow on them. In this way, God uses the foolish of this world, we Christians, to confound the wise.
By way of ending this paper, I would suggest that the Bible sums up this view that ignores Christ’s saving work and stresses clearly our duty to contend against it in 2 Corinthians 4:1-7:
“Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; but have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the God of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not us.”
George M. Ella is a historian, author and biographer. His writings may be accessed at the online archived, ”Biographia Evangelica”.
George M. Ella, born February 1939 in Yorkshire, England, has lived most of his life on the European Continent. He is a retired Senior Civil Servant formerly employed in teaching, post-graduate teacher-training, chairing examination boards and curricula work. He holds degrees from London, Hull, Uppsala, Essen, Duisburg and Marburg universities with doctorates in English Literature and Theology. Dr. Ella has written regularly since the seventies for a number of magazines and newspapers and published numerous books on Church History, including biographies of William Cowper, William Huntington, James Hervey, John Gill, Augustus Montague Toplady, Isaac McCoy and Henry Bullinger besides works on doctrine and education. He is currently finishing the third volume of his series 'Mountain Movers'; a biography of John Durie; a work on Law and Gospel and further study material for the Martin Bucer Seminar. Dr. Ella is still internationally active as a lecturer and is a Vice-President of the Protestant Reformation Society. He is keenly interested in missionary work and has written on the spread of the Gospel amongst the Same people of Lapland, the people of India and the Native Americans. This present volume follows Dr. Ella's 'The Covenant of Grace and Christian Baptism', also published by the Martin Bucer Seminar. George Ella is married to Erika Ella, nee Fleischman, a former government administrator, and they have two sons Mark (41), Director of a Polytechnic College in Bremerhaven and Robin (39), Leading Senior Physician in a newly-built Geriatric and Psychiatric clinic in Dessau.