By Nathan Jones
How important could doctrine be?
Dr. David Reagan and I on our ministry's television show Christ in Prophecy had the pleasure of asking this question of Eric Barger of Take a Stand! Ministries. Eric is an authority on the cults, the New Age, and rock music today. From his past as a former drug addict and rock n' roll musician who was deeply involved in the New Age movement, Eric has emerged since he gave his life to Jesus Christ to become a great defender of Christianity in America. He joined us to answer the most frequently asked questions by non-Christians about the Bible and Christianity.
Dr. Reagan: The first question I want you to answer, Eric, is about doctrine. You said people were always asking you, "Do I really have to believe what the Church teaches about this or that belief? Do I really have to believe in the Virgin Birth, or the Resurrection?" How important is doctrine? And, what is the problem with doctrine being taught in the Church today?
Eric Barger: The Church in general, especially here in American, has switched to preaching a "self-help here-and-now" Gospel, also known as a "self-improvement" Gospel. We've substituted marriage seminars for Bible study. Now, there's nothing wrong with marriage help or financial seminars. There is nothing wrong with those. But, we can't just slap a Scripture on top and call it the Gospel. Something is wrong with that.
Our people need to hear the doctrines of the faith. Those doctrines will see them through tough times. It was those doctrines that the apostles taught again and again and again and again so that the whole Church knew what they believed. The students of the Apostles weren't dependent necessarily on going to say to their pastor asking, "What do we believe about this?" They knew what they believed because they had heard it over and over again.
We need to return to sound doctrinal preaching that prepares the Church to understand the basics of Christianity. Too often I've heard pastors succumb to the idea that the latest, greatest, newest book with a workbook that we've all got to buy for everybody in the church to go through, to spend the next six months working on a workbook rather than working on The Book.
Let's come back and look at what the Scripture says; what we'd call the non-negotiables. Certainly, there are secondary doctrines that are negotiable which we don't all have to agree on the exact same way. It doesn't mean that peripheral doctrines as I call them aren't important, but there are heaven and hell issues that we just can't budge on. These of course would be outlined in the Creeds of the Faith.
Dr. Reagan: How about it, Nathan? What are your ideas about doctrine and its importance?
Nathan Jones: People have taken this word "doctrine" and made it out to be a bad word, but it's not. Doctrine is simply what we believe. After all, how could we understand sin unless we study hamartiology? How do we understand salvation unless we study soteriology? How do we understand how churches work and function without ecclesiology? All these are big words that can sound kind of scary, but doctrine is simply categorizing what we believe. We need to understand what we believe so we can defend against the attacks that come from Satan and unbelievers all the time.
Dr. Reagan: The public opinion polls of Christians, even born-again people who say they are born-again Christian which is a Bible-believing, fundamental-type Christian, the latest polls are showing an incredible ignorance concerning doctrine. People who claim to be born-again are actually claiming that they believe Jesus sinned. They don't see why it is so important to believe in the Resurrection, or to believe in the Virgin Birth. Concerning the fundamentals of the faith, we aren't talking about peripherals here. And yet, they don't understand why these topics are so important.
Eric Barger: Yes, some claim the Holy Spirit is an it, rather than the third person of the Trinity.
Dr. Reagan: If you ask them to defend the Virgin Birth, or defend the Resurrection, what would they say?
Eric Barger: Yes, concerning the Resurrection of Christ, if Jesus didn't raise from the grave physically, and this is one doctrine that is attacked all the time, if He didn't raise physically, then we are still lost. Jesus wasn't the Savior if He didn't come out of the grave physically.
Dr. Reagan: I was in a conversation recently were somebody mentioned something so and so said, and I replied, "Yes, but he's not a Christian." They said, "What do you mean he's not a Christian? He's a Bishop of the Church. Who are you to judge him?" I replied, "I have every right to judge him by what he believes and how he lives, and I'm telling you right now, he's not a Christian. The reason is because he denies the Resurrection. You can stand in a garage and say you're a car, but that doesn't make you a car." Anybody who says he's a Christian yet denies the Resurrection, he is not a Christian. You cannot be a Christian and deny the Resurrection.
Eric Barger: We have this very fallacy being taught in seminaries and Bible schools. We have instead the spiritual resurrection of Christ being taught all over and over again. This is the kind of unbiblical teaching that our new seminarians and perspective pastors for the future are being taught.
Dr. Reagan: And yet, the Apostle Paul said that if Jesus was not resurrected from the dead, we have no hope (Rom. 4:24-45; 8:11; 10:9; 2 Cor. 4:14-15; Gal. 1:1; 1 Thes. 1:10).
Eric Barger: That's right! We of all men would be most miserable, exactly. First Corinthians 15 is a great resurrection chapter. We have 500 eye-witnesses who saw Jesus alive after He was killed. We have better proof that He's alive than the fact that we are in this room today.
Can a Christian just be a "red letter" Christian?
Dr. Reagan: Another statement I hear so often today particularly from Christians is, "The Apostle Paul said that. I only believe what Jesus said. I'm a red letter Christian. Jesus never spoke out against homosexuality and condemned it. Only Paul did that. It was Paul's personal opinion." How do you deal with such a statement?
Eric Barger: Obviously they want to take just the four Gospels, and only parts of them really. They wouldn't want to take seriously Matthew 24 and Luke 21 and Mark 13, which are some of the prophetic sections. They wouldn't want what Jesus said in the Book of Revelation. So, they'll discount Acts, all the Epistles, the Book of Revelation, and just accept only the four Gospels.
We see who these people are and those who are advocating this view. They are dead smack right in the middle of the Emergent Church Movement. They come out of a liberal background that teaches them that they can pick and choose from the Bible what they want out of it, instead of taking it all as God's revelation to us. A liberal theologian once said that he believed the Bible was a divine mailbox where you could receive messages from God. No, it is THE message, and it's no pick and choose. Either you accept all God has said or nothing.
Dr. Reagan: W.A. Criswell, who was pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas for many years before he went home to be with the Lord, used to talk about leopard theology. I asked him what that meant. He answered, "A leopard theologian is one who believes the Bible is only inspired in spots, and he knows what spots. They are the spots only he agrees with."
Eric Barger: That's right! We take up what we like and discount what we don't.
Nathan Jones: Anyway, Jesus talked about marriage and sexual purity, so He did indeed covere the topic of homosexuality.
Eric Barger: Whether Jesus mentions homosexuality being a sin outright or not, the Scriptures are clear it is from both the Old and New Testament. This has nothing to do with how much we love and have compassion for every person no matter what their sin might be. God wants to set people free. Thank God He is setting people free of all kinds of sin, and not just pet sins that people say are less than murder which is terrible so certainly that person needs God. Jesus Christ can forgive us of any and all of our sins.
In the third segment of this series concerning common questions from non-believers, we'll tackle the question, "Is there only just one way to Heaven?"