Truths of the Faith

The topics of doctrine and teaching are all about truth; or they should be.

We should study doctrine because our salvation depends on getting it right.

If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed. (2 John 1:10)

The fight against heresy shaped the early Church. The Church would be different today if the early church fathers had not actively engaged in fighting heresy.

As an example of the importance of correct doctrine: a person who believes they are saved by faith only, and that their actions have no effect, if they habitually commit serious mortal sin, their salvation is at risk.

People sometimes object to the need for doctrine claiming that a relationship with Jesus is all that is needed. But the very foundations of the understanding of God's nature, of man's sin and his need for salvation, and of Christ's sacrificial death and his resurrection on our behalf are all known via doctrine. Throughout church history and into the present day there are Christians and pseudo-Christians who have made errors in these — because they have rejected Church doctrine, infallibledoctrine.

Mortal Sin: The Bible clearly distinguishes between sins that send someone to hell, and those that don't; between mortal sins and venial sins. In committing habitual mortal sins, a person's salvation is seriously at risk. Sadly, many Christians are led to believe that their behavior doesn't affect their salvation.


What does the Church really teach?

It is hard for Christians to know what the Church infalliblyteaches. In this collection of articles I discuss how we can know.

Possible sources of "official" Church teaching...

  1. Whatever my denomination teaches
  2. Whatever I interpret the Bible to teach
  3. There are no "official" Church teachings; each Christian can believe whatever they want

As I demonstrate in my articles, each of these approaches is inadequate.


Certainly the Church infallibly teaches the Christian faith; such topics as...

  1. There is one God who is a Trinity of divine persons
  2. Jesus is deity, the Son of God
  3. Fallen humans require salvation from sin
  4. Jesus' sacrificial death provides for our salvation for those who receive it in faith
  5. The Bible is inspired, inerrant, infallible
  6. The Eucharist is the body and blood of Jesus, and we can worship him in the Eucharist
  7. Our sins are remitted during baptism in faith
  8. The true faith is passed-down from generation to generation (via the Bible and other written and spoken media)

Sources of Truth

The sources of Christian truth are...

  1. The Bible
  2. The Early Church Fathers(they provide info about what the apostles taught)
  3. Church Councils

An example of the importance of studying church historyand the writings of the early church fathers is in determining who wrote the gospels and the book of Acts, and who was the audience. It is critical that we know the intended audience of a book or letter in order to properly interpret it. Many Christians today rely on modern textual criticism to answer such questions rather on those early church fathers who knew about such things firsthand because this knowledge was passed on to them from those who actually knew the information accurately.


Knowledge

Knowledgeis a key component of salvation (you must know what you believe; your faith must be directed toward the right object). Gaining knowledge takes study(perhaps this study is as simple as reading or listening to authentic teaching).

But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins. (Matthew 9:6)

Jesus performs this miracle so they will know he has the power to forgive sins.

They have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. (Romans 10:2)

Correct knowledge is a key ingredient to salvation.

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. (Hosea 4:6)

In fact, wrong knowledge leads to destruction.

And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:32)

The truth sets us free.

The apostle Paul commands Christians to study the word of God.The teachings of the apostles contain the word of God, and they wrote-down some of these which are in the New Testament.

These things write I [Paul] unto thee . . . that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground [foundation] of the truth. (1 Timothy 3:14,15)

The Churchis the source of truth. We must study the teachings of the Church (in this case, from the apostle Paul) to live lives pleasing to God which is our proper role as members of Christ's Church.


Doctrine

The New Testament clearly proclaims the Christian faith as built on true teaching and doctrine. In this vein, all generations of the Church from the apostles until today rigorously condemned false doctrine and heresy in councils and sermons. A few try to deny whether doctrine is required at all, but these claims are implausible.

The Old Testament too speaks of doctrine, but Christians agree Christ is the fulfillment of the law, so Old Testament rules and injunctions can be safely ignored. An odd side-effect of this: Christians claim the Old Testament as the inspired, inerrant, infallible word of God, yet reject its teachings as not binding.

All Christians acknowledge that doctrine has developed (changed) over time. Protestants use their modern "reformation" perspective to guide them in picking and choosing which early church fathers to accept or reject. Catholics claim to have merely received their doctrines from the apostles via apostolic succession,but the apostles simply did not teach of indulgences nor of patriarchates.

What are we to make of all this?


Guided evolution of ideas?

Certainly the modern doctrines of the Church are not stated in the exact words of the New Testament; therefore, they have developed.

I'm not saying this is bad, but rather, that doctrines developed.

Certainly the canon of scripture is a development.

The distinctive Protestant doctrines are all developments.

The development of doctrine is an important aspect of Church teaching.


Good enough for the early Christians?

The Christians of the apostolic era did not have our modern versions of doctrines and it was good enough for them. Perhaps there is no need to have any doctrinal development at all?

Certainly heretics prompted the bishops to define doctrines to avoid going off into false views. But now that these heretics are no longer on the scene, perhaps there is no longer the need for the doctrines that were developed to combat those heresies? Perhaps the purpose of developed doctrines is to refute heretics who promote false ideas, but they have no value apart from that?


My Perspective

Doctrine expresses the truths of the Christian faith; the things Christ taught, the things needed for salvation. For doctrine to have any value it must be infallible,for what good is teaching if it is in error? Therefore, the need for doctrine presupposes the need for an infallible teaching authority.

However, bishops, popes, and councils have unwittingly added to the faith in combatting heresy and providing societal and political leadership. Examples of false doctrine...

  1. In combatting Arianism, the Council of Nicaeaadded the non-biblical word "homoousia" (of the same substance) to refer to God's nature. But this is madness — God is not a substance at all!
  2. The Catholic Church added to the Eucharist the doctrine of transubstantiation. But this assumes Aristotelian philosophyto be true (it clearly is not). The eastern Orthodox churches reject transubstantiation.
  3. The Protestant "Reformers" (revolutionaries) underpinned their movement on Sola Fide,salvation by faith only. But this clearly contradicts the New Testament and the teachings of the apostolic and early Church.