Without going into a long introduction, I’d like to examine some of the top phrases uttered by Christians which seem to have a veneer of piety, but which, upon closer examination, reveal an appalling lack of sound doctrine to back them up.
#1: The Lord gave me this song.
This was a popular phrase back in my high school days when someone was playing at a coffee house and wanted to introduce a song they had written. I think the basic intent of the statement was to express deference and humility, but it had the opposite effect.
In the first place, the underlying inference in the statement is that the song is a direct revelation from God and not merely the product of a human seeking to express something of God and His ways to other humans through music.
This leads to some serious questions: Are we to then accept those songs as additional Scripture? Based on what authority? Is the songwriter claiming to be an apostle or prophet? Again, based on what authority? Have their claims been objectively confirmed or are we merely to take their word for it?
Another interesting conundrum this statement leads to is the fact that many times, the songs which were claimed to be given by direct revelation from God were awful. The musical structure was tedious–at least when it wasn’t trite. Moreover, oftentimes the lyrics, when not lacking completely in any Scriptural foundation, were vapid and shallow, more about the writer than about God.
I am familiar with one songwriter who recorded three albums’ worth of songs claiming that the songs were all theopneustos–inspired by God. He even titled the albums Songs from the Savior, Songs from the Savior Volume II, and Songs from the Savior Volume III: Come into His Presence.
Which leads to another question, if the songs are divinely inspired, why isn’t God entitled to a songwriting credit? In the three albums mentioned in the previous paragraph, God’s name does not appear in any of the publishing credits–only the singer’s name is shown. And given the fact all three albums sold enough to merit gold record status–or would have if they had been sold through conventional record store networks instead of through small independent Christian bookstores and directly through his coffee house appearances, I’m certain the singer raked in quite a bit of coin since the label was a small indie label created by the singer himself. So why didn’t God receive those royalties instead?
#2: “We have no creed but the Bible.”
This is an example of what, in the area of logic and debate, is known as a self-refuting argument. For several years I attended a congregation which took this stance. What became laughable was when they started printing on the backs of their weekly bulletins a statement of “what we believe.” Here is where the argument is self-refuting. The word “creed” comes from the Latin word credere, which means… wait for it… to believe. So, this congregation, which claimed to not have any “creeds,” was publishing a creed every week in its bulletins. So even if one calls it by another name, such as a “statement [or confession] of faith [which is a synonym for belief],” one cannot escape the fact that one has a creed.
Even the Southern Baptists who claim: (1) that they are not a denomination, and (2) that they have no creed, have a creed. It’s called the Baptist Faith and Message Statement. Last revised in 2000, it is modeled after the Philadelphia Confession of Faith (1742) and the New Hampshire Confession of Faith (1833). Keep in mind, the word “faith” in this usage is synonymous with “belief” [credere in Latin]. So one can legitimately title the document the Baptist Belief and Message Statement. Moreover, at the annual convention every summer, every voting messenger is required to sign a statement affirming acceptance of the Statement before being issued credentials recognizing their status. In the local congregation to which I belong, all members are required to sign an acknowledgement of the Baptist Faith and Message Statement before being accepted into membership.
Creeds actually serve a useful purpose. They provide a summary of doctrine by which we can know if we are actually understanding Scripture correctly. So any creed is only useful or accurate if it correctly interprets Scripture.
#3: We don’t need doctrine or theology, only Jesus.
Again, this is a nonsensical statement on the face of it. How do you know if what you believe about Jesus is correct? You have to have been taught what to believe! No one just picks up the Bible and comes to a proper understanding of sound doctrine by reading it cover to cover like one reads a novel.
For sake of example, what does the word “doctrine” mean? The primary meaning is, according to the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, “teaching, instruction.” According to Matthew 28:19-20, the primary purpose of the Church, as commanded by Christ Himself, is to TEACH. So if any church diminishes the importance of doctrine, they can only do so by diminishing their obedience and loyalty to Christ. If Christ thought doctrine was important enough to include it as part of the Great Commission, who are we to say otherwise?
What makes this statement even more appalling is that I have heard it come from the mouths of pastors. Yet when one looks at the qualifications for a pastor, we see that he must be able to teach [1 Timothy 3:2], and he must be able, by sound doctrine, to exhort and convict those who contradict. [ Titus 1:9]
Paul instructed Titus to speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine. [Titus 2:1]
When one looks at the New Testament, one sees that great stress is placed on teaching sound doctrine.
The whole statement that we don’t need doctrine, just Jesus, is also nonsensical because it is a self-refuting argument. Why do I say that? Because in making such a declaration, one is making a doctrinal statement.