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Doctrine and Debate
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Doctrine means a set of beliefs or teaching. Theology in the Christian context refers to the study of different doctrines in the attempt to know God's nature more fully.

Although there is a great deal of common ground in beliefs between different Christians, since the church formed, major events and conflicts over matters of doctrine have resulted in significant rifts in the church. Various Creeds and catechisms have been written as statements of the beliefs of different Christians. Today, although Christians agree that there is a loving tri-une God and that Jesus, the Son of God, died for the sins of humanity and rose again to new life, there are still considerable differences in understanding on major themes including justification, salvation and grace.

Etymology

The Greek word in the New Testament is didaskalia, and it is variously translated as teaching, instruction, or doctrine.

Conflict and debate

Since the church formed, major events and conflict, often over matters of doctrine has resulted in significant rifts in the church. Various Creeds and catechisms have been written as statements of the beliefs of different Christians. Today there are still considerable differences in understanding on major themes in Christianity like justification, salvation and grace.

Doctrine is important. Scripture stresses the importance of sound doctrine. In the pastoral epistles there are 28 specific references to the importance of doctrine or the content of our teaching. For example,

  • Give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching (1 Timothy 4:13).
  • Preach the word . . . with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires. (2 Timothy 4:2-3).
  • Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching (doctrine); persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you. (2 Timothy 4:16).
  • Holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict. (Titus 1:9).

Major doctrine

The key teachings of Christian relate to the nature of God as three yet one, the person of Jesus as both a man and as God who died for the sins of humanity and has risen again to new life, and the purpose of humanity to live in a relationship of love to God.

Some of the key doctrines of Christianity were outlined by the early church in various creeds such as the Nicene Creed/

Trinity

The Trinity is the Christian teaching that there is only one God but that he exists in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Although this teaching is never specifically defined within the Bible the concept of the Trinity permeates throughout Scripture.

Deity of Christ

Jesus, as part of the Trinity, is shown to be God in the Bible. This teaching is distinct to Christianity. At the same time, Scripture also teaches that Jesus was fully human. This teaching that Jesus is both God and human is sometimes referred to as the hypostatic union.

Death and Resurrection of Jesus

Another essential Christian teaching is that Jesus Christ died and rose from the dead. These events are remembered each Easter. The death of Jesus is seen by Christians as God's solution to human sin and shows God's love.

Sin

Sin is understood by Christians to be any actions, words or thoughts that are contrary to God's will and are seen to cause a separation between people and God. There are a variety of opinions regarding the nature and types of sins. For example, the Roman Catholic Church divides sins into two general types, venial sins and mortal sins.

Love

A God of love is at the centre of Christianity who calls Christians to love him and each other. Although all Christians agree on this point, history has shown that not all Christians have lived in this manner.

Justification

Justification refers to the sinner being declared by God as righteous. In other words, justification is the term that describes the removal of sins from a person. In the Book of Isaiah the concept of justification is stated beautifully - Isaiah 1:18

"Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool."

There are significant differing views on justification among Christians. The Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church teach that justification and cleansing from sin requires both faith in Christ's redemptive work on the cross as well as obedience and good works. This is known as justification by faith plus works. Protestant churches teach that justification and cleansing from sin requires only faith in Christ's redemptive work on the cross, and does not require any good works on the part of the sinner. This is known as justification by faith alone, and was one of the core reasons for the Protestant break-away from the Roman Catholic Church in the Reformation.

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This article is written from a Christian perspective.
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