It has been said that we live what we believe. John Piper recently wrote an article on evangelicalism and doctrine. (Doctrine means belief or teaching. In our context, that means the teachings of the Bible.) He quotes from Ronald Sider’s The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience to support his view that doctrine, right doctrine, matters to how Christians live. Not, I think, what we acknowledge as true, but what we believe is important. What we think about, and how we think shapes how we act. Romans 12:2 tells us to, “be transformed by the renewing of our minds.” Right beliefs develop right actions. Let me acknowledge up front that I don’t see this as a cut and dry issue. Nor do I think that every person who claims to believe the teachings of Christ has been transformed by them. Many examples can be given of people who hold to all the right doctrines, but are unloving. Of course, there’s a simple response to this – that they don’t hold to all the right doctrines.

Foundational to Christianity is love. It has to be when the very essence of God is love. He is relationship, three-in-one.* The very thing that defines us, that we proclaim and profess, that cannot be denied despite all of our denominational differences is that God loved us to His death. The virgin birth, the life of demand and stress, the teaching and the touches of hope and grace and peace, the quiet submission to torture, the obedience to the Father and the giving of life on the cross… were an act of love for us.

Our religion, our movement, our faith, our hope was born out of the cross… out of love. We love because He first loved us. 1 John says that anybody who does not love his brother, isn’t living in Jesus, isn’t living by truth. I’m guessing that the majority of examples that we could all provide of people who “have all the right doctrines” also have problems forgiving others, being generous to those in need, serving the marginalized of this world, and generally just don’t have much love. I agree with Piper that “God gives good press to good doctrine” (probably more than I agree with him on most things). But I can’t get over that God has given the best press to the following teaching:

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40 (NIV)

*Can love even exist outside of relationship? Some theologians think that the three persons of God, Father, Son, and Spirit, were not three before Creation and that They will return to the same state after the Second coming. I don’t see how this is possible if God IS love. The description of the three-in-one is most congruent with the teaching that He is, was, and will always be and that He is love.

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11 Comments(+Add)

1   Aaron    
March 25th, 2010 at 3:35 am

Some theologians think that the three persons of God, Father, Son, and Spirit, were not three before Creation and that They will return to the same state after the Second coming.

Wha?? That’s the first time I’ve ever heard of that doctrine. Who teaches that? I’m heading into Seminary in the Fall so I’ll get to enjoy all those wakka-doodle theologies that seem to be so entertaining. :)

2   Rick Frueh
March 25th, 2010 at 7:38 am

We have created a myopic view of doctrine. Those that insist that they have the correct doctrine almost always mean the sovereignty of God, the Trinity, the inerrancy of Scripture, election, and a host of others that seem to be most revealing on the volumes of systematic theology. Just look at the different sections of theology and they deal primarily with truth in the abstract in the sense that it is not tethered to any specific set of behaviors. The doctrine of the Trinity requires no definable behavior pattern; the same for much of the “cardinal” doctrines.

But where are the “institutes” of doctrine that deal extensively with our calling to the poor; or our calling to walk in love; or our calling to be clothed in humility; or our calling to be like Jesus in general? There are a handful of redemptive doctrines that should never be compromised, however there are many doctrinal commandments that apply directly to how we are to follow and exemplify the Living Christ. And to attach this to Christian’s post.

In theory Piper is exactly correct. What we do is what we believe, and all the rest is religious babble. And the church has let the doctrines of love, grace, mercy, humility, forbearance, forgiveness, and the life of selflessness slip away. The emphasis is doctrinal integrity, fulfillment in our own lives, verbal evangelism, and helping to build the local church. The call to crucified discipleship has also been severely watered down so as not to affect the average western lifestyle. The post brings forth a profound question: Who is Jesus and who are we?

I suggest the answer to that question can only be found by completely breaking our present model and uncomfortable asking the Potter to remake the original model, and then our challenge will be: “Are we serious about being a follower of the pancultural Jesus whose gospel and ministry demands more than doctrinal acknowledgement and actually brings undeniable light and love into a world of undeniable hate and selfishness?”

We have yet to respond to that question since it is so rarely being asked. And when it is asked, minus all the hedonistic and nationalistic accoutrements, will we even believe it is a spiritually legitimate question and that Jesus is the true and living Christ?

But for the time being these statements…

So then, any of you who does not forsake (renounce, surrender claim to, give up, say good-bye to) all that he has cannot be My disciple.

Instead, in the true spirit of humility (lowliness of mind) let each regard the others as better than and superior to himself [thinking more highly of one another than you do of yourselves].

IF THEN you have been raised with Christ [to a new life, thus sharing His resurrection from the dead], aim at and seek the [rich, eternal treasures] that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. And set your minds and keep them set on what is above (the higher things), not on the things that are on the earth.

For [as far as this world is concerned] you have died, and your [new, real] life is hidden with Christ in God.

Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

…are just words for a sermon but not manifestations of a believer’s life.

3   Pastorboy
March 25th, 2010 at 8:59 am

We are studying John 13 at this time at our church, and the Doctrine of foreknowledge, omniscience, and election comes through quite clearly. But so does the doctrine of the church, and how we ought to love one another:

13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, l you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, m that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, n a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

Context, please- These were the same disciples in Luke who were battling over who was the greatest and who would have the preferred seat in the Kingdom. Jesus was teaching them very clearly that the example He was setting there was one of loving submission to one another- and that would be ultimately demonstrated on the cross the very next day.

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

This is not a new command as much as it is a clarification of an old one: The church, that is, redeemed people, those who have been born again, ought to demonstrate the same type of love for one another that Jesus Christ demonstrated in His life, and in His death on the cross. This self-abasing, self- sacrificing agape love is what we ought to demonstrate to one another within the church. This loving on another should also translate into a compassion for lost people outside our fellowship, that is, like God’s common grace demonstrated in His kindness towards all (air, food, housing, physical abilities, etc) we ought to demonstrate towards the world, all in the name of and for the glory of Jesus.

Doctrine, Doctrine, Doctrine! But you do not believe what you do not live, as His disciples, the command is to love one another. Do we believe that doctrine? The command is to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15) Do we believe that doctrine?

It is an ill sign when a man dares not look a Scripture in the face, and an evidence of brazen impudence when he tries to make it mean something less condemnatory of his sins, and endeavours to prove it to be less sweeping in its demands….

Some want to shape the Scriptures to their creed, and they get a very nice square creed too, and trim the Bible most dexterously: it is wonderful how they do it, but I would rather have a crooked creed and a straight Bible, than I would try to twist the
Bible round to suit what I believe.

Charles Spurgeon

4   Neil    
March 25th, 2010 at 9:02 am

I have also never heard the teaching that God was once – nontrinitarian and will return to such…

Aaron, what seminary?

5   Phil Miller
March 25th, 2010 at 9:17 am

It’s kind of ironic that right after I read this post this morning, I went over to, and this book came up in the “more items to consider” slot.

Now I can’t say anything about the actual content of the book, but it seems sort of odd to me that a book with the title What Christians Should Believe is 464 pages long… It’s like, “oh you want to follow Christ? Read this, and get back to me in a few weeks”. I’m also kind of amazed that it seems they are claiming that are 13 essential doctrines. That seems like too many by a factor of 3 or 4. Again, I’m just going from the press release about the book.

6   Rick Frueh
March 25th, 2010 at 10:44 am

#5 – As I suggested, with all the books and volumes and CDs about what we should believe and to a lesser degree how we should act we should be a close facimile of Jesus Christ by now.

Unless what we say and teach things that are so within reach that they really don’t resemble anything like the New Testament.

7   Christian P
March 25th, 2010 at 10:48 am

Aaron – That’s what happens when people begin to ponder the reality of God beyond the revelation of God. I don’t think any good theologian thinks that, but there are those who have proposed it. But if we let revelation shape our understanding of God, then I can’t help but see how God being love focuses our discussion of who God is. Which brings me to…


I agree in general with your comments (to a point, which I will address in a minute), but I completely disagree with this statement:

The doctrine of the Trinity requires no definable behavior pattern

My post relies on and concludes that the behavior (or life transformation) that you cry the church has ignored is founded in and supported by the very nature of God. It is inescapable of the doctrine of the trinity.

8   Rick Frueh
March 25th, 2010 at 11:06 am

Christian – My point was that certain truths are esoteric and basically ethereal. I have never shown love or grace or mercy because I believed the Trinity. I have never done any of those things because God is a spirit.

The truths/doctrines that are directly related to human behavior are different than some of the doctrinal truths that are usually considered “cardinal”.

The fundamental doctrines usually do not include alms, the poor, mercy, humility, etc..

9   Aaron    
March 26th, 2010 at 3:57 am

#4 – I’ll be heading to Western Seminary in Portland, OR. I got my acceptance letter today and I’m freaking out praising God for His blessings in my life and His influence in my heart. I would have laughed at someone five years ago had they told me I would be going to Seminary to be a pastor, let alone be anything more than a luke-warm Christian.

God always gets the last laugh and I find myself laughing with Him in His Glory. Praise God for all He does in our lives. :)

10   Neil    
March 26th, 2010 at 11:15 am


11   John Hughes    
March 26th, 2010 at 12:26 pm

Congratulations Aaron!