Theology and Doctrine

Featuring Bob Kauflin Posted on April 8, 2010

Where do we find a right knowledge of God? In the revealed truth of Scripture. A worship leader who barely knows the Bible can't be a faithful worship leader. But how do we get our arms around everything the Bible says about God? It takes thoughtful, disciplined study.

That introduces two words many Christians are uncomfortable with— theology and doctrine. Sadly, doctrine and theology rank fairly low on the popularity scale these days. But biblical worship is impossible without them.

Doctrine is a word meaning “what is taught.” Doctrine is everything the Bible teaches on a particular topic, such as worship or holiness or the church or spiritual gifts. Paul told Titus that a leader in the church “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).

The study of doctrine isn't opposed to studying the Bible; it is studying the Bible. It's how we find out what God is like, what he wants us to believe, how he wants us to worship him.

So that means we need to be reading. We need to be studying. Because we'll be learning about God for the rest of our lives.

We Need Help

I've met guys who don't read theology books because they don't want their understanding of the Bible to be influenced by anyone else. What they're saying is: “God couldn't possibly use another person to help me understand his Word more clearly.” That's ridiculous. I need all the help I can get. So do you.

In a letter written from prison, Paul requested Timothy to bring him “thebooks” (2 Timothy 4:13). Charles Spurgeon, the nineteenth-century “prince of preachers,” expressed amazement at such a request from Paul:
He is inspired, and yet he wants books! He has seen the Lord, and yet he wants books! He has had wider experience than most men, and yet he wants books! He had been caught up in the third heaven, and had heard things unlawful for a man to utter, yet he wants books! He has written a major part of the New Testament, and yet he wants books!

Spurgeon then reminds us, “He who will not use the thoughts of other men's brains proves he has no brains of his own.”

But I've hung around enough worship leaders and Christian musiciansover the past few decades to make this general observation: We rarely read theology books.

I know that's a broad statement, and I've met some commendable exceptions. But often when I ask worship leaders what they're reading, it's secular business best-sellers, novels, music magazines, biographies, or books about sports or history. There's always something we can learn fromreading those kinds of books. But they pale in comparison to books that helpus understand what God has told us about himself in his Word. Books like Engaging with God by David Peterson, The Cross of Christ by John Stott, or Knowing God by J. I. Packer.

When someone suggests we should be reading books that are more theologically substantive, we may tend to respond, “I'm no scholar. They're too deep.” But authors of books like these can offer invaluable assistance for wrapping our minds around the Spirit-inspired teachings of Scripture. That's why we should take time not only to study Scripture, but also to learn from writers whose books challenge us and help us mine the riches of God's Word.

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