Does Doctrine Matter?

Francis Pieper offered some guidelines to examine doctrine (teachings of the Bible), Christian Dogmatics. The Fundamental Doctrines distinguish Christians from non-Christians. Secondary Doctrines flow from the Fundamental Doctrines,a nd distinguish one Christian group from another.

Fundamental Doctrines (essential to faith)

A person is saved by God’s grace alone, by what Christ has done alone, and is received by faith alone. Therefore, saving faith includes:

1. Knowledge of sin and the consequences (eternal damnation)
2. Knowledge of the Person of Christ (true God and true Man)
3. Knowledge of the Work of Christ (redemption)
4. Faith in the Word of Christ (faith accepts the forgiveness of sins offered by the Word)
5. Acceptance of the bodily resurrection of the dead and eternal life
6. Belief in the Triune God as revealed in the Bible

Secondary Doctrines (supporting faith)

The secondary doctrines are important. Denial of these can lead to serious problems with the fundamental doctrines. Often there is a felicitous inconsistency, that is, someone believes in a wrong teaching regarding these secondary doctrines but still has faith in God’s grace through Christ. Secondary doctrines include:

1. Baptism
2. Lord’s Supper
3. Communication of Attributes (divine and human in the Person of Christ)

Non-fundamental doctrines (serving faith)

These Scriptural truths are neither the foundation of faith nor the object of faith, but these are doctrines which should and do concern the Christian. Denial of these non-fundamental doctrines may endanger faith. Non-fundamental doctrines include:

1. End times theology
2. Angels
3. Pastors (only men may serve)

Open Questions

Scripture leaves many issues untouched. Therefore, we cannot elevate a statement to doctrine unless Scripture clearly addresses the issue. Open questions include:

1. How did sin originate?
2. How is the soul created?
3. Crux Theologorum (why are some saved and not others)
4. Worship practices (as long as they do not contradict nor detract from established doctrines)
5. Role of women in the church (i.e. Voters’ assembly)

Some good food for thought. Sometimes, we find ourselves caught up in some of the non-Fundamental Doctrines, when we really need to focus on the Fundamental Doctrines.

Author: exegete77

disciple of Jesus Christ, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, teacher, and theologian

2 thoughts on “Does Doctrine Matter?”

  1. Pastor Shields, glad to see that you are up and running. I hope all is well and I look forward to reading your post. Quick though though-I agree with your first three examples of open questions but wouldn’t you say that worship practices are adiophora (except when they cease to be as the confessions state)rather than an open question. I am not really sure where to put the role of women when it comes to the voters assembly, etc, but I would assume it would be under polity which again for the most part is adiophora more than an open question. Just thoughts.
    Take care…Give me a call in Watseka sometime.


  2. Thanks, Joe. Perhaps I need a follow-on post to reflect on the difference between an open question and adiaphoron.


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