Class 1 - Doctrinal Theology
Pat Conover, March 25, 2008
Doctrinal Theology is the simplest kind of theology and a lot of Christians think the only theological conversation is about doctrine. Roman Catholicism and Calvinism are perhaps the strongest versions of extended dogmatic statements that aim at providing a total, or near-total guide to life. The Roman Catholic version is even more detailed than the Westminster Confession of Faith.
Typical argument about theology are about the source of authority for a doctrine. The big difference between Roman Catholic and Protestant attempts at doctrine are that Roman Catholics emphasize both biblical sources and church history, particularly the pronouncements of popes who claim they have special privilege for making such pronouncements based on the doctrine of apostolic succession going back to Peter whom they claim as the first pope. Calvin and Luther protested and based their doctrine on their reading and interpretation of the Bible.
A third potential source of doctrine is contemporary divine revelation. Two examples are the book of Mormon and Christian Science based on the revelation to Mary Baker Eddy.
A doctrine is a rule for Christian living. It is supposed to be clear and definitive. A biblical version of a doctrine is a commandment such as "Thou shalt not kill." The idea is that if you live according to the right rules then you wont sin, wont be a sinner. A doctrine can also be though of as an authoritative answer to theological questions. Part of the intent is to end theological squabbling and distracting questions. Everyday people are supposed to know the answers and shape their lives accordingly without thinking very much about the questions.
If you are thinking, "Well with that kind of a description I become clear that I am just not a doctrinal person," you might want to ask yourself the following questions.
What are the rules (guidelines) I live by?
Assignment for small groups
How do I know they are right?
Let each person in the small group write down and then name for the group a rule they live by. Then discuss the rules. Then let each person rewrite their rule, if they choose. Then discuss the revised rules.
Think about the biblical concept of covenant, understandings or agreements between God and people. You may want to read 1st Chronicles 11 (David), Exodus 19; 1-6 (Moses), Genesis 17: 1-10 (Abram), 1st Corinthians 12 (Paul). You can find my paraphrase of these scriptures under worship resources on www.patconover.com.