About Doctrine (part I)
Some things scare us that ought not. Some things get a bad reputation when they should be honored. Doctrine is one of those things. Life will provide you with experiences that will teach you this well as you watch doctrine, more often than not, take a back seat in your 21st century Christian walk.
So why is this? To answer let us first consider another word: “zeitgeist”. This is just a fancy way of saying “the spirit of the age”. Pick any given time or place in history or the present and you’ll find that there is a general way of thinking that is found acceptable in that place or age. You are now living in a time and place, or within a zeitgeist, in which your society has embraced a way of thinking that denies objective truth. That is to say that “truth” is subjective, which simply means that it is derived from a person’s own internal opinions and not reality. You will hear it stated like this: “What is true for one person is not necessarily true for another”. Of course this is an absurd and unworkable zeitgeist, but nevertheless, it is the source from which your society’s values are plucked and you need to understand that.
The word “doctrine” is in some ways similar to the word “zeitgeist” because it means “teaching”. When you think about it, it would be silly to assume that our society woke up one morning and said to itself, “Today we think we’ll just disconnect ourselves from a historical understanding of truth and instead make up our own truth as we go.” No, we know that didn’t happen. Our society’s way of thinking was instilled over time. It was first incubated in universities and finally found its way via the graduates to the public schools and it eventually became the doctrine of the public institutions of education and finally our society. Consequently, most everyone you will meet in your lives, even in most churches, will have been programed to think in this way from his early childhood on, and it will never occur to him to question the origins of “the thoughts that he thinks”. It will be as normal to him as the sun rising in the east. Anything different will be seen as strange and foreign.
With all this in mind let us now consider another word: “indoctrination”. You might notice the word “doctrine” as the root of that word. To teach people to think in a certain way is to indoctrinate them, much like one might program a computer to process data in a certain way. That’s probably the reason words like “doctrine” and “indoctrinate” are unpopular words, in the same way “brainwashing” is an unpopular word. Why is this? The simple answer is that Man is proud. He does not want to humble himself before God. And he does not like to think that he is not ultimately sovereign in how his own brain processes the information it receives. He does want to think that he thinks as he does because of his own preferences and rationale. But like it or not, we have all been indoctrinated, or brainwashed if you wish, to interpret our world through a certain set of lenses. The question is never IF we have been indoctrinated, but rather by whom?!
Pontius Pilate rightly asked Jesus, “What is truth?”, though he didn’t give Jesus credit for knowing the answer. But Jesus claimed to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life, so perhaps we should go to our Bibles and see what we can draw up from that deep well of truth, for as you might imagine, it is by no means silent on this subject. You see, your Creator knows that you will be indoctrinated into one way of thinking or another, indeed he created you to be. The only question is, will you give yourself over to be indoctrinated into whatever the current zeitgeist is, or will you indoctrinate your own self into a Godly way of thinking? With that in mind let us go to His Word and see what God has to say about doctrine.
Paul urges us in Romans 12 to “be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” So what is Paul saying here but to re-indoctrinate ourselves into a new way of thinking?
But that’s not all. As I renew my own mind I learn that God has plans for you, my children, and He commands me to indoctrinate you as well. He commands parents in Deuteronomy 6:
“And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.”
So not only are you under my authority while you are young, I am also under God’s authority and therefore am responsible to Him to indoctrinate you.
There are too many passages to post them all here, but let me add just one more that, as you know, is one of my favorites in which God contrasts the two basic kinds of indoctrinations of our minds:
For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. (Rom 8:5-8)
Now I realize that all this talk about indoctrination sounds kind of bad. But I remind you that the question is never IF we are indoctrinated, but by whom? Will we ultimately be indoctrinated by the “prince of the power of the air”, or by consuming the Bread of Life which is the Word of God? That IS the question. There is no third option.
In my next letter I will continue on this subject by answering the question, why is doctrine shunned in this day? But let me finish this letter by saying that God is the ultimate “brain-washer”. I may try to indoctrinate you and myself in obedience, but it is God who ultimately does the work. For this reason we must all pray and ask God that He would carry this out and finish this work in us and each other, and that His will will be done in all of us.
So, may the words of your mouth and the meditations of your hearts be acceptable in His sight.