Doctrine Divides; Love Unites
The Confusion of Terms
The Distinction between Theology and Doctrine
The False Premise
Doctrine Divides; Love Unites. This was the opening statement of Dr. Michael Youssef in his message on November 8, 2020, titled Fear in the Battle. He was not advocating this as a true statement but refuting it.
It is interesting that I have heard this statement in various forms in recent days by individuals who choose not to study doctrine and or selectively choose which doctrines are important and which are not.
This website is dedicated to doctrine. I have stated on my home page I believe every part of doctrine is important or worthy of study. Defining what is God’s doctrine is essential.
In a video of a message by Dr. R.C. Sproul, Dr. Sproul explained the difference between religion and theology. Religion is:
how people who have certain beliefs about the supernatural behave in their personal lives and in their cultic lives.[i]
The goal of his lecture is to define Reformed Theology. So he never quite clarifies what theology is but rather defaults immediately to a defense of Reformed Theology. The closest he comes to a definition of theology appears to be that it is a God-centered approach to faith.
What he misses, and this is so often missed, is that he is defining a system of doctrine, rather than doctrine itself. It is the study of the Scriptures from a pre-defined point of view. We call this a bias.
When I was teaching at Moody Northwest,[ii] a young student came to me with a tape of one of Dr. Sproul’s lectures. Her father had recently accepted the Lord and she wanted to give him something to help him learn more about the faith. She asked me to listen to the tape and see if it was an appropriate gift for her father.
I listened to the tape and was astonished at one statement Dr. Sproul made. He said "Anyone who is teaching dispensationalism is teaching the doctrine of demons."
I reversed the tape and listened to the statement five times to ensure that I was hearing it correctly so I could remember it. When I returned the tape to the girl I told her it would not be wise to give this to her father. It would only confuse him.
Dr. Sproul was right to draw a distinction between religion and theology. But we must also draw a distinction between theology and doctrine.
Theology, (theos, God + ology, as the study of), is the study of god. Whether it is a study of Allah, Buddha, Yahweh, or Christ, it is still by definition, Theology. Any study of God or god is theology.
The term, Doctrine, is the transliteration of the New Testament terms, didache, and didaskalia. Both are translated doctrine. As Christians, we should discipline ourselves to adhere to biblical terms as much as possible.
When a term is transliterated, it makes word studies even easier and less prone to error. Even when the translator must choose another word or phrase, the contexts of Scripture hold sway over any other etymological meaning.
I have prepared a detailed word study of doctrine, to show the importance of sticking to the Bible itself for determining God’s truth. Also, on this website, you will find numerous references to and studies regarding love, including my original doctoral thesis on the meaning of love in the New Testament and my book, the third part of which is an updated, more readable form of the doctrine of love.
To find the terms for love on my website, use the dropdown menu to the left of the screen. Then do this using the Ctrl + F feature to find the term in each article.
The False Premise
To say that Doctrine Divides; Love Unites indicates an error in many ways. Here are the most significant for our day:
- It is a total misunderstanding and/or misuse of the term doctrine as transliterated from the Bible.
- It is a total misunderstanding and/or misuse of the term love as translated in the Bible.
- If it is used knowing the proper meaning and use of these terms, then it is a willful misuse of the concepts.
- It harmful to the Body of Christ today by adding confusion regarding biblical Christianity.
- It provides grist for detractors to blaspheme the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and His body, the church.
For a full word study regarding Doctrine (see)
[ii] Moody Bible Institute Northwest Center for External Studies.