Why Does Doctrine Matter?

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Why does doctrine matter? In this Seven Minute Seminary, Dr. William Abraham explains why the gospel needs to be unpacked for all Christians.

Here, William Abraham explains that contrary to popular belief, doctrine doesn’t stand in opposition to personal spiritual experience, nor Christian humanitarian action in the world. Rather, it is the vital task of articulating who the God is that we encounter in the gospel. The questions that normally result after conversion experiences, such as the nature of the afterlife, the relation between God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ, or other pressing modern issues, are all matters of Christian doctrine and theology that the Church must continue to teach and bring to life.

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Dr. William “Billy” Abraham is the Albert Cook Outler Professor of Wesley Studies at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University. He is also an ordained elder in the Southwest Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church. He is a leading authority in all matters theological and philosophical, and is the author of numerous books and journal articles.

3 COMMENTS

  1. The term “meaty summary” absolutely describes what is missing. I finally found my way to the Heidelberg Catechism and three books about it. My favorite young Calvinist met me where I was in regards to feeling frustrated that simply reading the Bible had not been very productive when he made this statement in “The Good News We Almost Forgot”:

    trying to glean an understanding from the Bible can be “a bit like trying to discover America on foot.”

    Two thing happened as a result of engaging the Heidelberg and three books about it: for the first time I felt like I was folded into God’s ongoing story of salvation and the Bible started making sense; it was like somebody had switched on a whole bank of high intensity lights. It was an overwhelming experience, because I had begun to feel like I was never destined to “get it”. I was left wondering why no one had ever had “this conversation” with me before/why I had never been exposed to this knowledge before. That was 2 years ago and I had been a good church-going Methodist for more than a few decades.

    I am the proof of what Ken Collins said in one of his books on Wesley;s theology: true redemption begins with knowledge and understanding.
    I can now talk about a triune God of holy love who is most definitely way more verb than noun; an unfathomable God of mystery who is determined to love even me more than I could ever think about loving myself. Problem is, I now also know we, including me, are a rebellious lot because we are control freaks who think we know more about ourselves than the God who created us.
    That understanding started with the Heidelberg and the books about it, but it has been rounded out by Wesley. Trouble is, there was absolutely nothing in the Wesleyan camp to give me the amazing starting point the Heidelberg gave me. It is an amazing catechism that goes way beyond a simple statement of theology/doctrine–it makes it personal; all of a sudden certain key questions and answers are no longer just about the anonymous “us/we”, they are about “me”. Truth is, I think it is so good because it is not the result of a church trying to nail down what “we believe”, but is the result of clergy from differing Protestant factions sitting down and hammering out the high points of Christianity they have in common.
    Like my favorite young Calvinist said, it is not perfect, but boy is it an amazing stepping off place.

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