By Nathan Jones
Why is doctrine so important to the Christian faith and living?
In this "The Truth Will Set You Free" TWave Radio episode, Pastor Vic Batista of Calvary Chapel Aventura located in the Miami, Florida area and I will look at the importance of doctrine to the Christian faith and living.
Primary Vs. Secondary Doctrine
Vic Batista: We thank the Lord for the wonderful ministry of Lamb & Lion Ministries! Each of our ministries has a posted Statement of Faith that explains who we are and what we believe. Sometimes you also find that there's a little bit of a division between ministries because maybe this one doesn't see this point of view the same way you see it. These disagreements are often on the non-essentials when it comes to doctrine.
Nathan Jones: Biblically accurate doctrine is very important. As a matter of fact, nobody should pick a church home or follow a ministry unless they know what they really believe about the Bible, God and salvation. I'm referring to what's called the Primary Doctrines. The Primary Doctrines are the ones that are essential to the Christian faith. You're not a Christian unless you hold these essential doctrines of the faith.
Then there are other teachings which are called Secondary Doctrines. Those would be, for example, the teachings on the end times, or how to hold a church service. These are different doctrines that are not essential to salvation and our understanding of God. Those are Secondary Doctrines. As Christians we can have disagreements on those and still be brothers in Christ, but if we have disagreements on the essential Primary Doctrines then that is when you're really having debates between true Christianity and cults.
Vic Batista: Absolutely! We do want to make the distinction between the two so people understand the kind of doctrine they're debating. In these last days, as Matthew 24:3 and on warns us, there is going to many false prophets and many false teachers, so we have to be discerning and aware.
Nathan Jones: Exactly! We need to really know our Bibles to put on the full armor of God, so to speak. When you know what the Bible teaches then when you have false teachers trying to tell you satanic lies, then you can discern that they are lies and you can defend your faith in God from those lies. Doctrine therefore is very important.
Vic Batista: Absolutely doctrine is very important. Share a little bit about Lamb & Lion Ministries' foundational beliefs and doctrines, and also a little bit about the Bible prophecy ministry itself.
Nathan Jones: People can find us at lamblion.com. Click the About Us button and then go to the right-hand menu where it says Creedal Statement. Our Creedal Statement is what we believe about God, the Bible, Jesus and salvation. That essentially is our statement of belief. We keep it short and to the point. Some ministries can get very long, even pages and pages long. We just want people to understand what we truly believe about the Bible and what it teaches.
Vic Batista: Your Creedal Statement expresses the foundation of your faith. Calvary Aventura is part of the Calvary Chapel Movement. On our website at calvarychapel.com we also have our Statement of Faith posted on our web pages. It is very important for our churches to walk together doctrinally.
Nathan Jones: Exactly. I've attended two Calvary Chapels over the course of my life and I've also appreciated the Calvary Chapel Movement. I understand there's a lot of division right now and some Emergent Churches are starting to emerge out of some of the Calvarys, but overall I have found Calvary Chapel to be very doctrinally sound and very passionate about the Primary Doctrines, as well as very passionate about the Lord's soon return.
I just praise the Lord for you, Pastor Vic, and for Calvary Aventura! You guys are doing amazing work in teaching the primary essentials of the Gospel.
Vic Batista: Thank you, Nathan. I also want to encourage people in knowing that Lamb & Lion Ministries, Calvary Chapel, and my radio program "The Truth Will Set You Free" all pretty much line up in the essential doctrines. The things that really matter is our relationship with Jesus Christ and that salvation is through Christ alone. There are some doctrines that are non-essentials which we really shouldn't divide the Body of Christ up over these teachings. The Christian body is comprised of Jesus Christ. Trusting in God and believing in Him and that Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead are vital. We believe in Jesus by faith, and through grace we have salvation.
Unity Vs. Division
Vic Batista: Then there are other teachings that Bible prophecy ministries such as our programs "The Truth Will Set You Free" and "Christ in Prophecy" that we also hold together when it comes to end time views. We are like-minded when we talk about the Pre-Tribulation Rapture, right, Nathan? Uniting behind our eschatological views is also important?
Nathan Jones: Yes, though eschatology isn't Primary Doctrine, I believe a proper interpretation of the Bible will lead people to the same understanding of end time events. Certainly there are disagreements over the timing of these end time events. We can agree to disagree on those, and it doesn't affect our shared faith in God. It doesn't affect our understanding of who God is and our salvation. We can get along.
Unfortunately, I see Christians as generally an ornery bunch who spend a lot of time arguing and bickering over the little things, parsing participles and going nuts over what color the choir robes are. We miss the point of the essential doctrines. What we put in our Creedal Statement we believe are the essential doctrines of the Bible. Without them you are not a Christian unless you believe these doctrines. Those are what's worth bickering over.
Vic Batista: That is one of the things that I've noticed even within the Bible prophecy circle. There are some who believe that we are going to have to go through the Tribulation, or we are going to be raptured half-way through the Tribulation.
Nathan Jones: There are some that don't even believe there is going to be a Tribulation! I would say those who hold to those views are interpreting the Bible incorrectly, but again end time views are Secondary Doctrine.
Nathan Jones: One of the guiding principles for our ministry and I think for anyone who studies the Bible is to take the interpretation of the Bible literally. If the plain sense makes sense, look for no other sense, otherwise you will end up with nonsense. That is a motto of our founder, Dr. David Reagan, and that saying is so true. We can get into so many weird and convoluted interpretations of the Bible when we don't take the Bible literally, understanding of course that there's symbolism, poetry, history, and all sorts of other literary styles across the 43 authors of the Bible guided by the Holy Spirit. We need to take those literary devices literally as well. If the Bible makes a symbol, take the symbol literally. If it is a poetic device, take that literally as a poetic device.
When we start spiritualizing the Bible, making it say whatever we want it to, we give it meaning that clearly is not there. That's when our interpretation falls apart. That's when false doctrines starts creeping in, and that's when you start hearing cultic teachings.
Vic Batista: Absolutely, and it ties into one of the signs of the end times — there are going to be a lot of false teachers and a lot of false prophets. We are seeing this phenomenon happen everywhere.
Nathan Jones: Exactly. At least for the Western cultures historically, the Bible has been taken literally. It was considered inspired by the Holy Spirit and infallible without error. It has been taken as the authoritative Word of God. And then around the 1920's, the German School of Higher Criticism came and started questioning everything about the Bible. "Did God really say that?" Just like Satan asked in the Garden of Eden. "Did God really say that?" That is just what they did.
These "scholars" started picking the Bible apart. Then they started saying there are many things about the Bible that don't line up, which isn't true. People listened to them and lost their faith in the Bible being the authoritative Word of God. And, when you don't believe that the Bible is the Word of God, then you don't trust it, so you have to make up your own view of what you think God is to fill in the blanks. That's when you really begin to wander off the biblical reservation because you end up with all sorts of crazy ideas about God.
All Christians need to embrace the Primary Doctrines by believing that the Bible is the inspired, infallible, authoritative Word of God. It is our one and only source for understanding who God truly is. When we stick to the Bible, we get a clear view of who God is.
Vic Batista: Excellent, Nathan, and very well put. That is why we filter everything through the Word of God. We encourage people to read their Bible. We encourage people to study the Bible. We encourage people to study Bible prophecy and eschatology, because these are things that will open up our eyes to the truth of the times that we are living in and also that the Lord is going to soon return. This is why doctrine is a very important subject matter. Not many people tend to think that doctrine is very important, or that doctrine matters, but our Statement of Faith does indeed matter.
In the second and last segment of our discussion on the importance of doctrine to the Christian faith and living, Pastor Vic and I will discuss the Doctrine of End Times.