Friday, 15 May 2015

Key notions defined series: 3. Doctrine

Having completed my main review of the New Testament (and some Old Testament) texts, cataloguing almost 500 passages, I am "celebrating" that milestone by publishing a part of the paper that helps me in the processing and weighing of these texts, which is currently entitled Chapter 2: Key Notions Defined. It also is an opportunity for me to tidy up these definitions.

Here is the next one.

3. Doctrine

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. 2 Timothy 3:16[1] (NRSV)

Congregations and students of the Bible are often reminded of this wonderful verse, but how does the Holy Trinity fare? Is it definitely God-breathed and infused into the Scriptures? Is it useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness? Is it practical? This is one of the key challenges that underpins the “Trinitarian revival” picture painted by Holmes in the next chapter, taken up by many. Let us simply remember that dry, intellectual (even unbelieving) study of God is a very recent phenomenon, and that purely intellectual and vocalised agreement of “a” doctrine might have sounded very strange in much of our church history, and I suspect would still be odd, for example, in the Orthodox Church. So do not be fooled when you see the word “doctrine” in scripture. It is the same Greek word translated “teaching” [διδασκαλίᾳ] in the passage cited above . Quite frankly, it is surprising that translators still opt for this word, when the first century meaning – according to the Pastoral Epistles – was so consistently practical.

So if you see the word “doctrine” in this paper, please do not confuse it with the way the earliest Christians saw διδασκαλίᾳ: good, applicable teaching that changes your life.

[1] Another possibility reading is “Every Scripture inspired by God is also useful…”
[2] See 1 Tim 1:3, 1 Tim 1:10, 1 Tim 4:16, 2 Tim 4:3, Titus 1:9, Titus 2:1

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