The other day, Eddie Arthur shared a blog article titled “Issues with my tribe.” He is there referring to evangelicalism and he highlights two particular concerns, namely that despite our protestations, we don’t take the Bible or our doctrine seriously enough. Clues towards those conclusions are found in our Sunday services. In terms of taking the Bible seriously, he suggests that we cannot hide behind the argument that we give a lot of time to teaching through books of the Bible when very little Scripture is read in our gatherings. Concerning Doctrine, he argues for the use of creeds to help people learn and summarise the key things we believe.
I don’t have any particular problem with those things. I have written before about making our gatherings Scripture rich. I’ve talked about the need not just for expository sermons but for expository worship. So, I’m not writing here to disagree with Eddie. I think he is right, we don’t take scripture and doctrine half as seriously as we think we do or any way near as seriously as we need to. However, it would be possible to have more readings and more creed recitals and be no closer to taking those things seriously.
The exhortation of Scripture is
“may the word of Christ dwell in you richly”
And it is when that is happening, corporately and individually that we can claim we take Scripture and Doctrine seriously. This should mean that there is a sense of our gatherings being soaked in God’s Word but also that in our decisions as church members and leaders together, and our actions in our day to day life that we show that same soaking in Scripture.
This means that it should leak out in our prayers and our songs. Eddie observes that whilst people defend the absence of readings on the basis that we sing it, too often that isn’t the case and songs are scripturally weak or even heretical. So, a good sign that we take Scripture seriously will be when it is leaking out more and more naturally in our songs. As it happens, I’m a bit more optimistic about where we are on this. Yes I’ve seen one or two songs straying into the heretical and plenty into the soppy but I do see evidence of lots and lots of Scripturally and theologically rich songs. However I recognise that this may vary from church to church.
However, the crucial thing for me is whether or not we instinctively are aware of what God’s Word has to say on matters that we have to make decisions about. By this I don’t simply mean that we can find a proof text that supports our position. Rather, that we have an understanding of the whole content, tenor and direction of Scripture so that we can see how our decisions fit into God’s redemptive plan. Indeed, taking doctrine seriously is part and parcel of taking Scripture seriously because at its best, doctrine is about summing up what Scripture has to say on any given matter.
It’s for this reason that the long running strapline of faithroot.com is “What we believe affects how we live.” So, the real test of whether or not we take Scripture seriously and doctrine seriously will be seen in our lives. It will be seen in what we say and do to others, in the things we prioritise and how we go about making decisions and relating to one another. It will be seen by whether or not we are growing in Christlikeness.