[I know, it’s been a long time. I’m done with school now, so maybe I’ll get back in the swing of things on the blog.]
For the most part, scripture doesn’t speak directly about the core doctrines of Christianity.
The Bible is mostly story, so I guess this shouldn’t be surprising, but it is a disconcerting fact for many. Properly, doctrine belongs to the Church. The core doctrines are how we sort out our life together and our experience of God as we live life together.
What then is scripture, if not a theology book? It is for praying. (Not exclusively, of course, but primarily). The psalms and canticles are the primary content of our prayers. The Gospels tell us the wonderful story of why we have a Church at al, of why we pray at alll. The Old Testament — and in this sense it is probably more appropriate to call it Hebrew Scripture — is the same but without the fullness of the New Testament. The epistles describe our life together so that our prayers can find their proper home or context.
Doctrine is fine (I know, it’s an odd thing for a trained theologian to say), but it is a second order aspect of our life together. Prayer, as fed by scripture and life together — with each other and with God — is our entry into the font of our being. From that comes our transformation, our service to others, our doctrine.
And oddly enough, this is precisely why doctrine is so vital. It is our definition of our life together with God and each other. If we get that wrong, it suggests we’re getting our prayer wrong. Doctrine is a litmus test of the purity of our life together in all its manifestations.
The Orthodox Church reserves the title “Theologian” for very few people (John, Gregory, Symeon the New Theologian), and they were all pray-ers, then poets, before becoming theologians.
This is not a new thought, but as I sort out theology with other strugglers, mostly American Evangelicals, it’s a thought that haunts me. It seemed high time to put it to words in this space.