Sounds pretty pious and humble at a quick glance, doesn’t it? Having that intimacy and privacy with our great God and Savior uninterrupted and as simple and beautiful as the Apostle John’s leaning on the Lord’s side as his beloved Apostle. What can be more beautiful than that? It sounds so easy and practical not to have to do any study at all but to just walk with the Lord, doesn’t it? It’s actually very appealing to our modern mindset to put the Bible away and just walk with the Lord.
That, however, is the very problem. I turn to Michael Horton for stating the problem better than I ever could,
“For many Christians, words such as doctrine and theology – and especially systematic theology – conjure up images of intellectual pride, divisiveness, and the presumption that we can put God in a box, neatly explained by our categories and formulations. Of course, we are nearly infinitely resourceful in using good things with corrupt motives and for less than noble ends. We can exhibit spiritual pride also in our experience or morality However, it is the goal of good theology to humble us before the triune God of majesty and grace….Theology simply means “the study of God,” and doctrine means “teaching.” Since the main message of Scripture is the unfolding mystery of Christ, who reveals his Father and reconciles us to him, theology is a central concern of every believer. It would be off if we told our spouse or other loved ones that we wanted to spend time with them and experience their fellowship regularly but did not want to know anything about them – their characteristics, accomplishments, personal histories, likes and dislikes, and plans for the future.
Yet when it comes to God, people often imagine that it is possible to have a personal relationship with God apart from theology. In fact, some Christians assume that knowing doctrine and practical living are competing interests. The modern dichotomy between doctrine and life, theology and discipleship, knowing and doing, theory and practice has had disastrous consequences in the life of the church and its witness in the world.” 1
I would add that without Biblical theology we wouldn’t even know who to have a personal relationship with. If we don’t need Biblical doctrine then why shouldn’t we hold Buddha’s hand and walk in the sand with him? Or maybe have a nice spiritual dinner with Mohammed; there is no compelling reason to have a personal relationship with the Triune God of Scripture apart from Biblical theology. Without it everything is up for grabs.
Some might say, “ok, theology is good if it’s used in a balanced way.” Sounds much like “drinking is good if not abused.” Are we seriously going to lower the Bible to that? Both of Paul’s letters to Timothy and the book of Titus’ main message are to guard our doctrine and the Church from false teachers and to grow in the knowledge of God. His main emphasis is on doctrine and the application of it. There is no “balance” between theology and practice with Paul, there is both theology and practice at the same time. They are not mutually exclusive, they are one, and yet they are distinct.
True theology will make the heart burn with a passion for the true God. Without it we would never know we are supposed to worship God. Without it, we wouldn’t know that no other gods exist before God or ever will, and thus we are commanded to worship only one God manifested in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and what is revealed of each of them.
Let’s read the Nicene Creed and see whether we could ever believe in these things by only seeking a “relationship” with God apart from the Bible,
We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made; who for us and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried, and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father. And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end.And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets. And we believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. And we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.” 2
If we don’t need doctrine, then not only will we not know we are commanded to worship Yahweh, but we will be in sin for worshiping gods of our own imagination.
The very phrase “It’s not about doctrine, it’s about a relationship with God” is a doctrine. Rejecting doctrine and advocating a “relationship with Christ” without it is not only unbiblical, it is an excuse for laziness and an open invitation to heresy and idolatry.
“Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” – 1 Timothy 4:16, KJV.
1 Horton, Michael S. “I. Why Theology? Drama, Doctrine, Doxology, and Discipleship.” The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology For Pilgrims On The Way. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011. 13-14. Print.
2 “The Nicene Creed.” Creeds of Christendom. Web. 04 Jan. 2012. <http://www.creeds.net/ancient/nicene.htm>.