by Matt Slick
The word "doctrine" comes from the Greek word "didaskolos," and it basically means "teaching." It is used many times in the New Testament. Doctrine is extremely important in Christianity. By it we know who God is, what He has done, what the Trinity is, the deity of Christ, His resurrection, salvation, justification, etc. Doctrine is what defines the who's and what's of Christianity. In fact, you can't be saved without doctrine.
It is a doctrinal statement that you are a sinner (Rom. 3:23). It is also doctrinally true that the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). In fact, the doctrine of salvation teaches us that Jesus bore our sin in His body on the cross (1 Pet. 2:24) so that we could be justified by faith (Rom. 5:1) and escape the righteous wrath of God (John 3:36). Doctrine. It is important. It is vital to our relationship with God and our salvation. Good doctrine is like an anchor that prevents us from drifting into teachings that are false.
Unfortunately though, many Christians today shun the idea of learning doctrine. Too many think it is a dry and boring topic that doesn't meet their felt needs. Felt-need theology is when a person goes to the Bible to find out what needs it can meet for them. They want God's word to help them out and make them feel better. This can be dangerous, especially if the majority of the body of Christ is more concerned with how they "feel" than what God says. Truth doesn't always make us feel good. That is why sometimes people prefer to ignore the truth. The danger is warned against in Scripture: "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires" (2 Tim. 4:3). We must guard ourselves and examine ourselves to make sure we are in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5).
Putting felt needs before biblical truth, though usually not done intentionally, still happens far too much. Feeling our way through the Word of God and asking questions like "What does that verse mean to you?" is a pretty good "felt-needs" way to end up in error. Who cares what it means to us? The question is, "What does the verse SAY?" Good biblical examination is concerned with the doctrine of the word, the teaching, what it actually says. Then, once that is known, we are to change to meet its truth. Feel-good and felt-needs Christianity, so rampant in churches today, bends the word of God to the needs of the individual. This is dangerous. Biblical examination should be based on sound principles, doctrinal clarity, and how we need to change to meet God's truth. This is a God-centered approach. The felt-needs method is man-centered.
When coming to the Word of God, remember that when studying it you have two possibilities. You can seek to master the passage (Bible study) and/or you can seek to have it master you (devotional). Both are valid, and both are needed. But either way, you must learn what it teaches. You must learn doctrine so that you will be anchored in truth, God's holy and powerful truth. This is why you must learn the basics of doctrine, that Jesus is God in flesh, salvation is by grace, the Trinity is three persons, there will be a future resurrection. Hopefully, you will then also learn more advanced doctrines such as God's covenant system throughout history, the priesthood of Christ, the difference between justification and sanctification, the righteousness of God, and so much more.
Whatever you learn in the Bible is equivalent to learning doctrinal truths. Do not shy away from the anchor. Do not let yourself be engulfed by felt-needs theology, the theology of man-centered expectations and wants. Instead, submit to God's word in truth, accepting the doctrinal instructions and teachings. Then conform yourself to them by the renewing of your mind. This is what the Lord tells us to do: "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect," (Rom. 12:2).