By Leroy Forlines
Frequently, people make the remark that doctrine is dry and impractical. Such a remark must be an indictment against the way some people present doctrine rather than against doctrine itself. When doctrine is merely the academic development of a particular teaching or set of teachings, it may be dry. It should be vitally related to life.
Any study of Christian doctrine must be practical. The beginning point for such a study is the purpose of redemption. Is redemption designed just to provide forgiveness of sins, escape from hell, and eternity with Christ? Or is it also designed to restore that which was lost in the fall?
Unquestionably, redemption is designed to do both. This being true, when we have won a person to Christ, we have taken only our first step of redemptive responsibility with him. He or she must be nurtured in the Christian experience. He must grow into the likeness of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29).
When the church fails to recognize any significant responsibility beyond conversion to its members, it sees very little need of doctrinal knowledge beyond that which is needed for the simple presentation of the Gospel. Since some people tend to think of doctrine only in the formal sense, they may not even think about much of what is said in soul winning as doctrine. However, all such statements as “Jesus saves,” “all men are sinners,” “the wages of sin is death,” “God loves you,” “God wants to save you” are doctrinal statements. It is obvious that doctrine is very useful in soul-winning.
It should also be obvious to the person who has spent much time at soul-winning that a good grasp of pertinent doctrines is certainly to be desired.
When one recognizes the usefulness of doctrine in carrying our soul-winning responsibilities, it should be easy to see that doctrine can also be useful in Christian growth and development. Christian growth is a lifetime experience. It has many facets. Does it not follow that all Christian doctrine may be useful in the fulfillment of the total scope of redemption? Should we not be careful how we say that some doctrines are important while others are not? Would it not be strange for God to give us so much doctrinal truth, and only a part of it be useful to us?
The first step in making doctrine practical is to recognize the fact that it is a needed and helpful tool in the fulfillment of redemptive responsibility. The next step is how it can be used as an effective, practical tool.