Preachers: Doctrine Matters

Tuesday is for Preaching

Why doctrine matters

The following is from Kairos Journal. It is brilliant, timeless, and critical for the body of Christ to understand in our generation. Doctrine, sound expository preaching of doctrine is vital to the health of any body of believers. More vital than beautiful music, pleasant surroundings and well oiled programs–the essential orthodox doctrines of solid biblical understanding is the vital need of all people. Dorothy Sayers words are more than half a century old. They could have been written yesterday.

Creed or Chaos?—Dorothy L. Sayers (1893 – 1957)

Truer words have never been written than those that follow from Dorothy Sayers’ pen. Educated at Oxford, Sayers was a prolific playwright, novelist, and Christian apologist. She was a friend of Charles Williams, one of the famous group known as the Inklings.

Below, Sayers critiques the state of Christianity in 1940s England. Sadly, her critique could apply to nearly every generation since.

It is worse than useless for Christians to talk about the importance of Christian morality unless they are prepared to take their stand upon the fundamentals of Christian theology. It is a lie to say that dogma does not matter; it matters enormously. It is fatal to let people suppose that Christianity is only a mode of feeling; it is vitally necessary to insist that it is first and foremost a rational explanation of the universe. It is hopeless to offer Christianity as a vaguely idealistic aspiration of a simple and consoling kind; it is, on the contrary, a hard, tough, exacting and complex doctrine, steeped in a drastic and uncompromising realism. And it is fatal to imagine that everybody knows quite well what Christianity is and needs only a little encouragement to practice it. The brutal fact is that in this Christian country not one person in a hundred has the faintest notion what the Church teaches about God or man or society or the person of Jesus Christ.

As dire as she saw the condition of both the Church and the culture, she was not without hope. And her hope should be ours as well.

. . . Theologically, this country [England of her time and America of ours] is at present in a state of utter chaos, established in the name of religious tolerance, and rapidly degenerating into the flight from reason and the death of hope. We are not happy in this condition, and there are signs of a very great eagerness, especially among the younger people, to find a creed to which they can give wholehearted adherence.

This is the Church’s opportunity, if she chooses to take it. So far as the people’s readiness to listen goes, she has not been in so strong a position for at least two centuries. The rival philosophies of humanism, enlightened self-interest, and mechanical progress have broken down badly; the antagonism of science has proved to be far more apparent than real; and the happy-go-lucky doctrine of laissez-faire is completely discredited. But no good whatever will be done by a retreat into personal piety or by mere exhortation to a recall to prayer. The thing that is in danger is the whole structure of society, and it is necessary to persuade thinking men and women of the vital and intimate connection between the structure of society and the theological doctrines of Christianity.1

Footnote:

1 Dorothy Sayers, “Creed or Chaos?” in The Whimsical Christian (New York: Collier Books, 1987), 34-36.

One thought on “Preachers: Doctrine Matters

  1. Sound doctrine is vital, but some of what Dorothy is saying leads more to a in depth understanding and practice of dogma. This whimsical idea of christianity needs to be dealt with with “hard, tough, exacting and complex doctrine”, but then reading further on the battle between the philosophies of this world (Wisdom) is not dealt alone with personal piety or exhortation to pray is somewhat true. There is a need for action, action in teaching society about GODLY doctrine, This scripture comes to mind about the Rich man (Mt 19:16-22) vs 18-20 that is sound doctrine, but after reading this I see really what is missing about just doctrine.

    JESUS question’s the rich man about something which doctrine cannot answer alone. Verse 21, it communicates to the heart of what is inside of rather than what is being said. Doctrine is good, but without this personal thorn of flesh being dealt with by the master himself. It is just that Doctrine.

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