Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Pre-prolegomena: Doctrine and the Word of God

Doctrine and the Word of God

The next application for us has to do with how we read the Word of God.

The Scriptures is revelation from God, of God, for us. The Scriptures is God's story of the world and of the Gospel to the world. It is not a story primarily about Man although Man is in the story. It begins with God in Gen. 1:1 when Man is not present. It is a story of God creating Man, Man's fell into sin (Gen. 3), God's providence and kindness in preserving Man on the earth despite the multiplication of sin (e.g. Gen. 6-9), and of God working out salvation for His people culminating in the sending of God's Son into the world to die for our sins (the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John), and then the proclamation of that Gospel to the rest of mankind (Acts).

Since that is what Scripture is about, Scripture is not about us. It is not about our personal wants and desires, although it does answer our deepest needs. It is not an encyclopedia or dictionary for us to look up for answers to every question we might have including what to eat for breakfast. It is not a book of motivational quotes to cheer up our day, not a book of incantations to be said so as to change reality, and not a book of mantras to be said to make us more spiritual (i.e. lectio divina). The Scriptures is all about God and His Gospel message, not about our perceived needs on this earth.

To read and understand Scripture therefore is to know more about God and His Gospel. That is the center of God's revelation, and therefore is the center of our understanding of Scripture. To treat Scripture in any other way is to distort God and His Word. If one reads Scripture for inspirational quotes, for practical wisdom or any other side issue even for "Christian philosophy" apart from the center of who God is and what He has done through the Gospel, one has distorted the actual teachings of Scripture. It matters little how much you were motivated or inspired; what matters is whether whatever understanding you have gained is grounded on and gives you a deeper knowledge and love for Christ and His Gospel.

Doctrine properly defined is the teaching of Scripture in what it says. Therefore, understanding more of who God is and His Gospel is to grow in the knowledge of Christian biblical doctrine. True growth in the knowledge of God's Word therefore is growth in knowing doctrine. From this doctrine grows deeper love for God and a deeper understanding of who He is and what He has done for us. All of these helps us to love, honor and glorify God more and more in our lives (growth in affection), and helps us to obey the commands of God for us (doing) because of what He has already done for us (being).

Since this is what the Word of God is, therefore anyone who approaches the Word of God differently is in error. Those who denigrate doctrine have attacked the Word of God. Those who denigrate those who desire more doctrine likewise. Those who do not approach the Word of God to know more about God and His Gospel are in error. Those who approach the Scriptures apart from Christ are not living the Christian life. Those who treats the Scriptures as merely a simple devotional guide have missed the forest for the trees. Those who treat the Scriptures as a witness of God's working have denied the forest and the trees for the ideal of Nature.

Reading God's Word is to read with a view to understand and embrace what the Scripture teaches pertaining to God and His Gospel, i.e. doctrine. To do otherwise is sin and contrary to the authorial intent of the Holy Spirit in giving us the Scriptures.

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