The Scriptures are very clear that doctrine is of the highest importance to the Christian. Our religion is not merely a code of ethics, to tell us how to live; nor is it a merely an institution, in which to participate unthinkingly; nor again is it merely an experience, to perpetually seek after. The Christian religion is certainly concerned with ethics (God’s law), institutions (God’s Church), and experience (without which there can be no knowledge of God). Each of these vital elements of Christianity, though, are grounded upon and defined by the Truth that Christianity proclaims. There can be no Christian morality, no Church life, no genuine spiritual experience, where there is no Christian Truth to believe. Truth by itself is never enough, of course; but it is a necessary minimum.
As Christian young people, then, our greatest need is to understand the Truth of the Scriptures. In other words, we need to understand doctrine. Now, we live in a culture of pragmatism. That is to say, our generation is inclined to focus on what is practical, what is tangible, what is “relevant.” We like to express contempt for mere “theory,” and get our hands dirty with “real stuff.” In Christian circles, this is expressed as a preference for “action” over “doctrine.” We like to do, and we have little time for knowing. This is a very problematic way of thinking for the Christian. If we neglect doctrine, we are not neglecting pie-in-the-sky “theory,” we are rejecting God’s Truth, which is at the heart of our religion.
There is a very great irony in this general preference for “action” over “doctrine.” The irony is that our generation is the most privileged in history, in terms of access to information, literacy, and education. From childhood we are taught to read, to examine, to analyse, to predict, to estimate, to search, to connect, in order to gain knowledge of truth. Particularly in the Church, we have computer programs, websites, e-books, booksellers, and libraries full of Christian truth at our fingertips. We are awash in information, awash in truth, and so we place very little value on it. Christians in past generations who couldn’t have even written their own name, on the other hand, paid dearly for access to the truth of God’s word.
The problem, perhaps, is particularly acute among Christian youth. We have been led to believe that the hard work of thinking about our faith is not all that important. The pastors and leaders in our Churches have often assumed that we will find doctrine boring and irrelevant to our lives, and so we have come to believe that it is. So here we are, the generation of Christians with, overall, the best education, the most access to information, and the most free time to devote to learning Biblical doctrine, and we don’t care.
What are we to do? What is our responsibility before God? Among other things, I think we can start giving more attention to reading Christian literature. In order to encourage and help Christian young people in this, I am planning to regularly review suitable books here. Merely reading books, of course, is not enough. Knowing doctrine, for that matter, is not enough either. We must also pray that the Holy Spirit will bless our reading, and use it to build us up in our understanding of Christian truth; in seeking to know Christian truth, we must primarily seek the knowledge of Him, whom to know is eternal life (John 17:3).