Doctrine and History are Essential for Christianity

J. Gresham Machen shows the importance of realizing that our faith is a faith rooted in history and that history leads to doctrine. For Christians, doctrine and history are inseparable. You cannot have one without the other and you cannot have true the Christian faith without history and doctrine.

…the message of the resurrection was not isolated. It was connected with the death of Jesus, seen now to be not a failure but a triumphant act of divine grace; it was connected with the entire appearance of Jesus upon earth. The coming of Jesus was understood now as an act of God by which sinful men were saved. The primitive Church was concerned not merely with what Jesus had said, but also, and primarily, with what Jesus had done. The world was to be redeemed through the proclamation of an event. And with the event went the meaning of the event; and the setting forth of the event with the meaning of the event was doctrine. These two elements are always combined in the Christian message. The narration of the facts is history; the narration of the facts with the meaning of the facts is doctrine. ‘Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried”— that is history. “He loved me and gave Himself for me” — that is doctrine. Such was the Christianity of the primitive church.

Machen is showing the necessity for sound doctrine in the Christian faith. Liberals, and in our day progressives, always seek to subvert biblical doctrine with their own doctrine. I use to think that liberals were trying to do away with sound doctrine. Machen helped me see the they are not. They are trying to do away with biblical doctrine for their own doctrine. In light of 1 Timothy 4:1, we can see the true reality: Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons.

My point: we will be drawn to one doctrine or another. Either we look to biblical doctrine, or man’s doctrine. The first is rooted in the nature of God, the latter in the rebelliousness of man.

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