Monday, December 18, 2006

Monday Quote: James Orr: We need doctrine

"Everyone must be aware that there is at the present time a great prejudice against doctrine - or, as it is often called, dogma - in religion; a great distrust and dislike of clear and systematic thinking about divine things. Men prefer, one cannot help seeing, to live in a region of haze and indefiniteness in regard to these matters. They want their thinking to be fluid and indefinite - something that can change with the times, and with the new lights which they think are being constantly brought to bear upon it, continually taking on new forms, and leaving the old behind. They show a desire to get away from precision of thought into a vagueness and obscurity in which nothing can be clearly discerned. What naturally occurs to one in this connection is that religion is, perhaps, the only subject on which men feel in the way described. Few people would regard it as a recommendation of a physician if he made it his boast that he was, and had always been, very hazy about his anatomy and physiology, or would regard it as a recommendation of an economist or statesman if he professed to throw behind him all that had been written or taught on political economy and the science of government, and preferred to be guided solely by his own ideas. This does not mean that there is no progress or advance to be made in any of these departments of truth. But it does imply that there is - or is believed to be - a well-ascertained body of truth in each, which it is imperative for the student in that department to be acquainted with, and without a knowledge of which further progress cannot be made.

Here let me say that I cannot help feeling that, underlying this distrust and dislike of what is called 'doctrine', there often lurks a secret unbelief in the reality of any revelation of God from which we can derive sure and satisfying knowledge regarding Him. For it seems to me that if we believe that there has really been a revelation of God Himself in this world - a real entering of God in word and deed into the history of man, culminating in the appearance of Jesus Christ and the redemption of mankind through Him - if we believe that as a result of this revelation we possess an assured and satisfying knowledge of God, of His character, of His will, of His purposes of grace, of the great hope given us in Christ, it must be felt that it is not only our privilege, but our highest duty, to apply ourselves to the study of this revelation, and to get out of it all the knowledge of God and of divine things it is fitted to yield; then, when we have got it, to try to state the things we know as clearly as we can to one another, so that we may carry about with us an intelligible notion of what we do believe, and are prepared to testify for."

'Sidelights on Christian Doctrine' Pp. 3-5.



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