Christian Doctrine

by Matt Slick

The following is an outline of basic Christian Doctrine.  It's brief, accurate, and informative.  As with any venture into learning, you must first begin with the basics.  The basics are the foundation of your Christian life.  If you learn what is here, you will be well-informed and knowledgeable.  All you need to do is get grounded in the fundamentals and from there cultivate your Christian walk: "Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity." (Heb. 6:1).  A building is only as strong as its foundation.

  1. The Bible
    1. The Bible consists of 66 books: 39 in the OT and 27 in the new. (Note: 3 x 9 = 27).
      1. The OT has 23,214 verses. The NT has 7,959 verses.
    2. The Bible took about 1600 years to write.
      1. It was written in three languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek) by about 40 authors and is internally consistent throughout.
      2. It was written on three continents:  Africa, Asia, and Europe.
      3. It was written by a variety of people: prophets, priest, cupbearer, a king, judges, fishermen, etc.
    3. The first translation of the English Bible was initiated by John Wycliffe and completed by John Purvey in A.D. 1388.
    4. The first American edition of the Bible was perhaps published some time before A.D. 1752.
      1. The Bible has been translated in part or in whole as of 1964 in over 1,200 different languages or dialects.
    5. The Bible was divided into chapters by Stephen Langton about A.D. 1228.
      1. The Old Testament was divided into verses by R. Nathan in A.D. 1448 and the New Testament by Robert Stephanus in A.D. 1551.
    6. Old Testament--a total of 39 books and 5 main divisions:
      1. Pentateuch (Genesis to Deuteronomy), Historical (Joshua to Esther), Poetic (Job to Song of Solomon), Major Prophets (Isaiah to Daniel), Minor Prophets (Hosea to Malachi).
    7. New Testament--a total of 27 books with 4 main divisions:
      1. Gospels (Matthew to John), History (Acts), Epistles (Romans to Jude), Prophetic (Revelation).
    8. Reliability of the biblical documents:
      1. The Bible is 98½ percent textually pure. This means that through all the copying of the Biblical manuscripts of the entire Bible, only 1½% has any question about it. Nothing in all of the ancient writings of the entire world even approaches the accuracy of transmission found in the biblical documents.
      2. The 1½ percent that is in question does not affect doctrine. The areas of interest are called variants, and they consist mainly in variations of wording and spelling.
      3. The OT does not have as many supporting manuscripts as the NT, but it is, nevertheless, remarkably reliable.
        1. The Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew OT done around 250 B.C., attests to the reliability and consistency of the OT when it is compared to existing Hebrew manuscripts.
        2. The Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in 1947 also verify the reliability of the OT manuscripts.
        3. The Dead Sea Scrolls were ancient documents that were hidden in a cave in Israel about 2000 years ago. The scrolls contained many OT books, one of them being Isaiah.
          1. Before the Dead Sea scrolls, the earliest existing manuscript of the OT was dated around A.D. 900 called the Masoretic Text. The Scrolls contained OT documents 1000 years earlier.  A comparison between the manuscripts revealed an incredible accuracy of transmission through copying, so much so that critics were silenced.
      4. The NT has over 5000 supporting Greek manuscripts existing today with another 20,000 manuscripts in other languages. Some of the manuscript evidence dates to within 100 years of the original writing.  There is less than a 1% textual variation in the NT manuscripts.
      5. Estimated time of writing of the NT documents
        1. Paul's Letters, A.D. 50-66.
        2. Matthew, A.D. 70-80.
        3. Mark, A.D. 50-65.
        4. Luke, early 60's
        5. John, A.D. 80-100.
        6. Revelation A.D. 96.
      6. Some of the supporting manuscripts of the NT are:
        1. John Rylands MS written around A.D. 130, the oldest existing fragment of the NT
        2. Bodmer Papyrus II (A.D. 150-200 )
        3. Chester Beatty Papyri (A.D. 200), contains major portions of the NT
        4. Codex Vaticanus (A.D. 325-350), contains nearly all the Bible.
        5. Codex Sinaiticus (A.D. 350), contains almost all the NT and over half of the OT
        6. No other ancient writing can boast of having copies so close to the original time of writing.  With the Bible, the difference is about 50 years.  With Plato and Aristotle, for example, the difference is measured in hundreds of years.
    9. Prophecy and mathematical odds of fulfillment:
      1. The odds of Jesus fulfilling 48 of the 61 major prophecies concerning Him are 1 in 10157; that is a one with 157 zeros behind it.
      2. By comparison, the estimated number of electrons in the entire known universe is about 1079; that is a one with 79 zeros behind it.
    10. Inspiration and Inerrancy--The Bible is inspired by God. Inspiration means that God, through the Holy Spirit, caused the writers of the Bible to write the accurate and authoritative revelation of God. It is God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16) through the instrumentation of the apostles and prophets (2 Pet. 1:21).
      1. It is without error in the original manuscripts and absolutely reliable and true in all areas it addresses.
      2. Every true Christian accepts the inspiration and authority of the Bible.
    11. Scientific Accuracies in the Bible.
      1. The spherical shape of the earth (Isaiah 40:22).
      2. The earth is suspended in nothing (Job. 26:7).
      3. The stars are innumerable (Gen. 15:5).
      4. The existence of valleys in the seas (2 Sam. 22:16).
      5. The existence of springs and fountains in the sea (Gen. 7:11; 8:2; Prov. 8:28).
      6. The existence of water paths (ocean currents) in the seas (Psalm 8:8).
      7. The water cycle (Job. 26:8; 36:27-28; 37:16; 38:25-27; Psalm 135:7; Ecc. 1:6-7).
      8. The fact that all living things reproduce after their own kind (Gen. 1:21; 6:19).
      9. The nature of health, sanitation, and sickness (Gen. 17:9-14; Lev. 12-14).
      10. The concept of entropy--that energy is running down (Psalm 102:26).
  2. God
    1. God is the only Supreme Being. He is Holy (Rev. 4:8), Eternal (Isaiah 57:15), Omnipotent (Jer. 32:17, 27), Omnipresent (Psalm 139:7-12), Omniscient (1 John 3:20); etc.
    2. He is Love (1 John 4:8, 16); Light (John 1:5); Spirit (John 4:24); Truth (Psalm 117:2); Creator (Isaiah 40:12, 22, 26), etc.
    3. He is to be worshiped (Gen. 24:26; Exodus 4:31; 2 Chron. 29:28; 1 Cor. 14:25; Rev. 7:11).
    4. He is to be served (Matt. 4:10; 1 Cor. 6:19; Phil. 3:7; 1 Thess. 1:9; Heb. 9:14).
    5. He is to be proclaimed (Matt. 28:19f.; John 14:15f.; Acts 1:8)
      1. "To worship God is to serve and proclaim Him; to serve God is to proclaim and worship Him; to proclaim God is to worship and serve Him."
      2. The name of God is Jehovah or Yahweh.  It is comprised of the four Hebrew consonants. The precise pronunciation of God's name has been lost. In Exodus 3:14 God proclaims His name to be "I AM." "God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.'" (NIV)
    6. God is a Trinity--One God who exists simultaneously in three persons.  Each is coequal, copowerful, and coeternal with the other. Each person--Father, Son and Holy Spirit--is not the other.  Without either there is no God; all comprise the one God.
      1. The Doctrine of the Trinity is opposed to:
        1. Modal Monarchianism, also known as Jesus Only--There is one person in the Godhead who took three consecutive forms or modes.  First there was the Father who then became the Son who then became the Holy Spirit.
          1. Present groups are the United Pentecostal and United Apostolic churches.  This doctrine is incorrect.  It denies the true doctrine of the Trinity.
        2. Dynamic Monarchianism--Only one person in the Godhead, the Father. Jesus and the Holy Spirit are not God.
          1. Present groups are the Jehovah's Witnesses, Christadelphianism, and The Way International.  This doctrine is incorrect.  It denies the Trinity, the deity of Christ, and the deity of the Holy Spirit.
        3. Tritheism--the teaching that the godhead is three separate gods: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
    7. Christianity is monotheistic--Only one God in existence, anywhere, anytime.  See Isaiah Isaiah 43:10; 44:6, 8; 45:5, 14, 18, 21, 22; 46:9; 47:8; John 17:3; 1 Cor. 8:5-6; Gal. 4:8-9 for verses that teach monotheism.
    8. Christianity is theistic--God exists and is actively involved in the world.  This is opposed to:
      1. Polytheism--Belief in many Gods.
        1. Monolatry--Belief in more than one God but serve and worship only one, i.e., Mormonism.
        2. Henotheism--Belief in one God without denying the existence of others.
      2. Pantheism--This is an identification of the universe with God.  God is the universe.  God is creation.
      3. Panentheism--The belief that God is in the universe.  It differs with pantheism which states that God is the universe and all that it comprises.
      4. Deism--God exists but is not involved in the world.
  3. Creation
    1. God created the physical and spiritual universe out of nothing (Gen. 1:1f; Psalm 33:6; John 1:3; Rom. 4:17; 1 Cor. 1:28).
      1. He did not make the world out of part of Himself.
      2. He did not make the world out of a substance called "nothing."
    2. Specifically it was Jesus, the firstborn (Col. 1:15), second person of the Trinity, who created all things (Col. 1:16-17; Isaiah 44:24).
    3. Because God created all things, He is before all things and beyond all things.  Therefore, the entire universe is under His control.
    4. Because God created all things, He is able to provide for His creation through the means of His creation, i.e., weather, rain, plants, animals, sunshine, etc.  Some say six days; others say six long periods.
  4. Man
    1. Creation of man:
      1. Man is not only the crown of creation but also the object of God's special care.
      2. Man was originally made pure--without sin.
      3. "Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.' So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" (Gen. 1:26-27; see also, 2:7, 21-23).
        1. "Let us make man . . . " is a disclosure of the divine counsel before the creation of man--"us" being the Trinitarian counsel. See also Gen. 11:7.
        2. Man was created different from the animals.  He had the breath of life breathed into him from God (Gen. 2:7). The animals did not.  Also, Man was given dominion over the animals.  Man can know God, worship Him, and love Him. Animals cannot.
      4. Is Man made of two or three "parts"?
        1. Dichotomy is a term which signifies a division into 2 parts: Body and Soul.  The words "spirit" and "soul" are often used interchangeably.
          1. "Mary said: ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.'" (Luke 1:46-47).
          2. "My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you . . . " (Isaiah 26:9).
          3. For the term "Body and Soul" see Matt. 6:25; 10:28.
          4. For the term "Body and Spirit" see 1 Cor. 5:3, 5.
        2. Trichotomy is a term which signifies a division into 3 parts: Body, Soul, and Spirit.
          1. "May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thess. 5:23).
          2. "For the word of God is living and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart," (Heb. 4:12).
        3. There is no official orthodox position on the number of parts of man.
      5. The Origin of the soul:
        1. Traducianism: "The souls of men are propagated along with the bodies by generation, and are therefore transmitted to the children by the parents." (Berkhoff, Systematic Theology. p. 197).
        2. Creationism: "The soul is a creation of God, owing its origin to a direct creative act." (Berkhoff, p. 199).
        3. Except for Adam, the Bible makes no clear remark regarding the origin of the soul.
      6. Man was created in the image of God.
        1. This means that Man has moral and intellectual abilities similar to God though not as perfect and vast.
          1. "God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness . . . '" (Gen. 1:26).
          2. " . . . and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator" (Col. 3:10).
        2. Man is above the animals in "rational ability, moral awareness, pursuit of beauty, use of language, and spiritual awareness."
    2. Man before the Fall.
      1. The Law of God was written in their hearts.  Adam and Eve were without sin and "endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness after God's own image, with the ability to keep the Law of God." (Westminster Confession of Faith, 4:2).
      2. In this state man had free and unhindered access to God.  This is exemplified in the account in Gen. 3:8 where God was walking in the Garden.
    3. Man, the Fall, and its effects:
      1. Adam and Eve rebelled against God and sinned by eating the forbidden fruit.
        1. "Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned" (Rom. 5:12, NIV).
      2. What was their sin?
        1. They listened to Satan and ate of the fruit that was forbidden by God (Gen. 3:1-13).
      3. What was the consequence of their sin?
        1. Death (Rom. 6:23) and separation from God's presence (Isaiah 59:2).
        2. Transmission of the sin nature to their (and our) children (Psalm 51:5).
        3. Creation also fell (Gen. 3:17; Rom. 8:22).
      4. How did their sin affect God?
        1. They became unfit for the presence of God (Isaiah 59:2).
        2. They became unable to do God's will (Rom. 6:16; 7:14).
        3. They became subject to the curse of the Law and death (Deut. 27:26; Rom. 6:23).
      5. Original Sin--The doctrine that we inherit our sin natures from Adam (Rom. 5:12-21):
        1. Adam was the Federal Head of all humanity; that is, he represented all people in the Garden of Eden.
          1. "For as in Adam all die . . . " (1 Cor. 15:22).
          2. The phrase "in Adam" indicates our relation to Adam, that he represented us in the garden. In the same way, our being "in Christ" indicates our relation to Jesus, that He represented us on the cross (Rom. 5:18; 6:11; 8:1; 1 Cor. 1:2; 15:22; 2 Cor. 5:19).
        2. Our sin with Adam: "Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned" (Rom. 5:12). See also Rom. 5:18; 1 Cor. 15:22.
    4. Man after Death and before the resurrection.
      1. The intermediate state:
        1. This is the condition of the soul between the death of the body and the resurrection.
        2. There is little spoken of it in the Bible, but it is a state of consciousness (2 Cor. 5:5-8; Luke 16:19-31).
        3. We are self-aware and, apparently, with the Lord (Phil. 1:21-23).
          1. For the righteous this is a time of blessedness and joy (Luke 16:19-31).
          2. For the unrighteous this is a time of suffering (Luke 16:19-31) as is exemplified in the account of Lazarus and the rich man.

 

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