As noted in my interview with the group’s convener, Grove have recently launched their Doctrine Series. Today I’m reviewing the first of these little booklets, Why Doctrine Matters by Mike Higton.
First up, this is a really short book – a booklet, which is typical Grove. That makes this readable – and Mike’s done a great job of explaining what Doctrine is, why it matters, and why Christians should care, in less than 30 pages. He roots what he writes in the story of the early Church; “doctrinal theology emerges: the practice of discussing, arguing about and elaborating upon doctrinal ideas that are important for articulating the Christian story“, which is a really helpful reminder that doctrine should not be so technical as to be impenetrable, and also that it is about something good and beautiful and true.
By stating what Doctrine is and why it matters, Mike also is able to explain what it isn’t: “doctrinal theology summarizes what is found in Scripture“, so it is distinct from the ‘exegesis’ that many of us are more used to hearing, or at least hearing sermons based on or around the Bible. That is of course no bad thing – but even those sermons are shaped, consciously or not, by doctrinal frameworks. I appreciated Mike’s explanation that “The ideas that doctrinal theologians deploy are not untouchable. They can and must be questioned—and that includes being questioned about how true to Scripture they really are” – which should reassure those concerned that the Bible gets lost, and challenge those who claim ‘no creed but the Bible’, or variations on that theme.
As is typical for Grove, Mike does a good job of suggesting answers to the question ‘so what?’. With reference to 2 Cor. 10:1, he writes that “doctrinal theology is undertaken for the sake of taking every thought captive to obey Christ“. Amen! The 4th and 5th chapters are particularly helpful at showing, in a gentle but firm way shot through with scripture, that Doctrine really does matter. I’ll close with Mike’s closing words:
“Doctrinal theology is, at its best, a service to the church’s ongoing corporate exploration and embodiment of the knowledge of God. It is only one ministry within the body of Christ, but it has an important role to play—and, by the grace of God, it is one of the means by which that body can be built up ‘until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ’ (Eph 4.13).“
Why read this little booklet?
- because it is readable.
- because it explains something important and complicated in a way that isn’t as difficult as some people make it.
- because it might just change your discipleship for the better!
From the Grove Website: We would like Grove Books to be your first call for comment on contemporary issues that is based on biblical principles, engages with best practice, and offers practical application.
We are evangelical and Anglican, and seek to engage with, learn from and speak to others.
I’m part of the editorial board for the Doctrine series, so got this book for free – but I hope that doesn’t cloud my review!