The person who masters the Word of God will apply it in his daily life. This is the teaching of such passages as Eph. 2:8-10 and 2 Tim. 3:16-17. Right doctrine without right practice (especially love of the brethren) is next to worthless.
This is not to minimize doctrine. On the contrary. There are many professing Christians who use Christian language while altering the essential nature of the Christian faith. It is not only liberal theologians who are subverting Christianity by turning it into a totally different religion that is more acceptable to their tastes. True Christianity differs from all other religions in that it contains doctrine – truth claims based on the knowledge and understanding of the Word of God. True Christians cannot, therefore, reject or trivialize the central role of truth.
That said, there remains a great divide in evangelicalism between intellectual and moral values, between faith and practice, between thinking and doing. Whatever a person believes should have an enormous influence on everything that person does. I have consistently cautioned my students against an uncritical acceptance of the emerging church movement. I believe we could use less unthinking adulation on the one hand or unthinking condemnation on the other. But for many evangelicals, especially those who are disenchanted with the clericalized and institutionalized church, the emerging church has brought into focus the inadequate world view of cultural Christians who equate “church” with pastors and programs.
Thus, while we cannot and must not leave the church adrift on the sea of biblical illiteracy, we need to recognize that Christianity goes far beyond the teaching of doctrine. Biblical Christianity is ultimately a way of life, a self-abnegation of the highest order, a willingness to serve and suffer, unto death if need be. It is, I think, primarily the younger generation of evangelicals that understands this, and this bodes very well indeed for their future – if they can avoid the under-intellectualizing of Christianity and the snare of doctrinal Blobdom.
March 26, 2007
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.