Why Study Christian Theology and Doctrine?

In the secular culture, teenagers tend to have a powerful impact on the shape of values, but not as great an impact as those adults who are in positions of power and influence. Infants, however, have virtually no impact on the shaping of cultural values. Their voice is not heard save their cries for more milk. Infants have not developed their thinking and skills to a level whereby their counsel is sought in the family or the community. They must mature, they must come of age before they are put in positions of family or community leadership. . . .There is a vast difference between childlike faith [i.e. taking God at His Word] and childish faith, though the two are often confused. A childish faith balks at learning the things of God in depth. It refuses the meat of the gospel while clinging to a diet of milk.[1] {commentary in [brackets] added for clarity}

R. C. Sproul makes an important point here that is equally valid in the Messianic/Hebraic Roots community when it comes to sound biblical doctrine and apologetics. He goes on to list 9 more problems facing most believers today that keeps them babes in the faith and susceptible to manipulation and stagnation. Learning the basic principles of Sabbath, Appointed Times, and basic Torah observance are elementary teachings. While they are exciting to learn after years of being denied their beauty and sweetness, many Messianic/Hebraic Roots people are so focused on these that they fail to recognize that maturity takes moving beyond these to foundational doctrines of the faith that many never received in their Christian churches and likewise they are not predominately getting them in Messianic/Hebraic Roots circles as well. These formational doctrines are essential for growing toward real maturity in the faith because they shape how we view others and God in significant ways that can only be truly appreciated after one studies them thoroughly. This type of study takes time…even years to develop. It cannot be acquired overnight if one did not grow up learning them.

At certain times in history scholarship is appreciated, but many times and in many seasons it is not for various reasons. Today, Christian scholarship has by and large been despised by many Messianic/Hebraic Roots groups simply because it is “Christian” and “Christians” don’t follow the biblical Sabbath, Appointed Times, food laws etc. But such an assessment is short sighted. It is equivalent to throwing out the baby with the bath water.

Fundamentally, the study of theology and doctrine are more important than most people realize, particularly in Messianic circles that often abandon the “Christian ship” completely and sail off into exclusive Talmud studies and the like, accepting those as “gospel” truth, almost without question. This, in my view, is incredibly short sighted and in some cases dangerous. It is not that the study of Talmud or Jewish sources is wrong. It is not, and we can glean many insights from studying Jewish sources, but most people today have very little if any background in sound biblical doctrine, particularly post-Reformation orthodox doctrine and the many conflicting doctrines that developed along the way and caused centuries of debate leading us to where we stand today.

It is understandable that many believers who come into a Torah understanding initially feel betrayal from Christian churches and pastors, and a number of them, like myself, have experienced outright betrayal and abuse, simply because of our acceptance of the Torah as the eternal standard for determining all truth that still applies in the life of all believers today. But any faulty behavior by pastors, even well-meaning but misinformed ones, does not “mean” or justify a complete abandonment of the “Christian ship” altogether. Nor is it fair to judge all these Christians and pastors as being “anathema” (cursed) simply because they are misinformed about certain so called “ceremonial” commandments. There are many wonderful people within the Christian community doing many excellent things for the Kingdom of God, and excelling in the weightier matters of Torah. Yes, there is much wrong within the Christian “church” today, but we are not using just weights and measures when we don’t take the time to stop, look, and listen to see what the Spirit of God is doing in those men and women that are doing good work, and are acting in holy and righteous ways that for the most part glorify God (even while remaining in ignorance or even getting angry at us when we try to point out things they should reconsider in light of the biblical truth). We need to appreciate where they are at, encourage them in the good, while continuing to model the correct behavior in the bad (which will be provocation enough) without condemning them to hell for their neglect of the light matters of Torah observance. Traditions have a foothold to be sure, and bias is rampant on those issues, but the beauty of our generation is that information is increasing, which means we have the opportunity to shine the light of truth IF and only IF we ourselves know sound biblical doctrine, AND can still bring it to bear all the more powerfully BECAUSE we know the truth of Torah. Therefore, our walks should be more powerful and provocative, but without standing next to the enemy to point a figure and condemn our Christian brethren with the spec in his eye, while at the same time making foolish statements against many Christian Doctrines they DO HAVE RIGHT (revealing a log in our own), which only serves to discredit the truth of Torah we are trying to bring that IS correct.

A study of Christian history and the doctrine of the Reformers in particular, while sometimes hard to stomach when they repeat rhetoric we know to be untrue on certain issues, can still bring about a major, and much needed, correction within the Messianic/Hebraic Roots community today. It can also bring a much needed sense of respect for those who have gone before us and soften our hearts toward them, evaluating them fairly according to the times in which they lived. Messianic/Hebraic Roots people need to jump back into their “Christian ship” (but not necessarily return to Christian churches, that’s not what I’m saying unless one is specifically called by God to do so…rather instead, what I mean is not to abandon the Christian faith and the good doctrines it did produce) and be willing to study with all humility some of the “church” fathers and Reformation doctrines and history, while continuing to quietly model the full truth of Torah in their own lives.

In this way we will be able to remove the spec in a Christian brothers eye without leaving a plank in one’s own based on one’s own ignorance of sound biblical Doctrines that leave many sincere but ignorant Messianics open to jumping into Messianic sink holes that result in digging up old heresies and preaching them, which makes the entire Messianic/Hebraic Roots community look foolish to Christians who know their doctrine well (and rightly so).

For example, some of these foundational ignorances often occur regarding people’s view of the Person of Yeshua within the Godhead, or the 5 basic doctrines of Grace. While we think we know these doctrines of grace, for example, because we hear about the idea of “loose grace” in the church, that is not the same thing as understanding the foundational reform doctrines of grace. We do not really know these things until we can recite them to someone else along with all their presuppositional implications. Such knowledge also demonstrates maturity in understanding of the faith. Just a few minutes in a Messianic chat room or Facebook group reveals how many coming into Torah today have never had sound biblical instruction on biblical interpretive principles nor foundational Christian doctrines and presuppositional apologetics that we should all still hang on to. And since most Messianics grew up attending public schools, that means they also very likely developed an unbiblical worldview in the form of secular humanism mixed with their Torah beliefs. This is not a pretty combination in self-professed “Torah keepers.” It often ends up looking like childish faith and not childlike faith. We all need to grow in true maturity, and it’s a constant process that takes work and dedication. Without maturity in the faith we will be ineffective in our calling and representation even though we have received the truth that Torah is still the standard by which all “teaching” (i.e. “doctrine”) is to be based.

For we know that leaders and teachers have been given (Ephesians 4:12–14), “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;”

Thus we close with this. Be willing to learn Christian doctrine along with Torah instruction so that you might “Speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine (Titus 2:1),” and “hold fast the faithful word which is in accordance with THE Teaching (i.e The Torah),” so that you will be able to “exhort with sound doctrine and refute those who contradict (Titus 1:9).”

 

 

[1] R. C. Sproul, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith, (IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1992), xiii-xiv.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Barry Miller says:

    Christy,
    This is well said and each individual will have to hear the Spirit guidance for themselves. Way too much immaturity is being exhibited and yet I have sympathy for the “I have been lied to” reaction. Having lived as a layman in the Evangelical Christian world with this understanding for 35 + years. Teaching when given the opportunity, hosting Passovers and other appointed times and over all advocating for the idea that to understand first century faith one needs to learn how to explain the Gospel using Genesis to Malachi.
    I have had the privilege of see the blinders come off many people, most of whom are still in the church in one sort or another but a seed is in place. We know who we are and I suspect the constant grind of exile is a maturing factor not often understood. I personally take great solace in this passage.
    Thank you for this post,
    Barry Miller
    “I will gather those who grieve about the appointed feasts—
    They came from you, O Zion;
    The reproach of exile is a burden on them.
    19 “Behold, I am going to deal at that time
    With all your oppressors,
    I will save the lame
    And gather the outcast,
    And I will turn their shame into praise and renown
    In all the earth.
    20 “At that time I will bring you in,
    Even at the time when I gather you together;
    Indeed, I will give you renown and praise
    Among all the peoples of the earth,
    When I restore your fortunes before your eyes,”
    Says the LORD. Zephaniah 3:18-20

    1. Christy says:

      Thanks for your post. 🙂

  2. Lois Morgan says:

    Thank you, Christy!
    I hope this whets the spiritual appetite of many.
    I especially like that you included the scriptural quote about “no longer being children”, and pointing out the difference between childLIKE and childISH.
    Keep up the good work!

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