Over 22 years ago, I began investigating The Alpha Course, which became particularly popular in America during the late 1990s. My investigation led me to study other movements within evangelical circles, aided by the newly developed Internet. Suddenly I had access to a whole new way of researching people and trends that flew across the Christian landscape, and I was fascinated.
Yet article after article seemed to go back to a singular refrain: Christians needed to know sound doctrine in order to discern whether a person or trend was okay. I would read critiques on various teachers and teachings, only to find counsel to learn sound doctrine and guard it.
This emphasis on doctrine confused me. Since becoming a Christian in high school, I’d been involved in nondenominational churches with varying degrees of Charismatic influences. Those churches held an unspoken attitude that doctrine should be minimized in favor of personal experiences of Jesus and avoiding conflict with our brothers and sisters in Christ. On occasion, someone would actually say that doctrine divides Christians and therefore we should ignore it as much as possible. (I don’t know how we got away with claiming that we followed the Bible.) Of course, the distancing from doctrine was subtle, so I really don’t believe our pastors knew that the churches discouraged doctrine to the extent that they did.
Reading those articles on discernment left me wondering what sound doctrine was and how I could learn it. Sometimes I fear that The Outspoken TULIP might leave a few of you asking yourselves what sound doctrine is. If so, that’s a failure on my part.
The word “doctrine” means, quite simply, teaching. Sound doctrine, then, refers to the teachings of Scripture. Much to my surprise, good doctrine isn’t as mysterious as I supposed, but a lot of it had been obscured by (ironically) the extra-Biblical doctrines floating around the evangelical and charismatic stratosphere. Once the Lord removed the clutter of Charismatic expectations and baptized psychology from me, He brought good Biblical teachers into my life.
I appreciate that many of my readers want me to identify false teachers, and I praise God that my posts about Beth Moore drew so many readers. Hopefully, the Lord used those posts to bring someone out of her deceptive clutches. But if I stop there without guiding people towards sound doctrine, I’m doing little more than writing a gossip column.
Certainly, you must run from false teachers as rapidly as you can! I’m thankful for bloggers and ministries who name names to expose the charlatans who sow falsehood among believers. I don’t regret having written posts warning against popular false teachers. But if discernment ministry limits itself merely to calling out those who teach distortions, we don’t adequately show others what good doctrine is! We expel the bad without replacing it with the good.
I understand that my readers need to receive doctrinal training primarily from their home churches. No blog, YouTube channel or national ministry — no matter how Biblical — should ever substitute for a local church. I love John MacArthur, and listen to his Grace to You broadcast daily, but he’s not the same as my pastors who know and love me.I enjoy several Christian podcasts throughout the week, but none of those podcasters would be on the phone with me during a crisis, helping me apply God’s Word to my specific need. No blog should take the place of pastors and teachers in one’s own church.
That said, I believe my readers come to this blog because you see things among evangelicals that don’t quite seem right, and you want clarity. You want the Lord to develop your discernment skills, and it helps when I examine teachers who are in the limelight. Just as researching Alpha started me on the road to discernment, so researching some of the topics I cover may start you on that road. I just want you to move beyond being familiar with whom to avoid.
I want you to enjoy the rich doctrines that lead you into a deeper adoration of the Lord Jesus Christ. The great teachings of Scripture, far from being musty and dull, can actually draw you closer to Him by showing you Who He is and how He thinks. Sure, sound doctrine vaccinates us against false teachings, which is critically important. But it does so much more than simply that.
Take some time this week to go through my Statement of Faith, looking up the Scriptures referenced in each section. Though far from an exhaustive catalogue of doctrines, this statement provides a starting place for learning core doctrines that will encourage your discernment. Future posts will frequently elaborate on various points of the statement, hopefully in a way that is enjoyable and inspiring.
Other ministries will help you identify false teachers. Rather than competing with them, maybe The Outspoken TULIP can augment them by answering the question that I asked 22 years ago.
But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine. ~~Titus 2:1 (NASB95)