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The Importance of Doctrine

The Importance of Doctrine

“Daddy, did God make telephone poles?”

It was another one of those endless and seemingly unimportant questions that a kid will ask at the end of a long day that makes a parent go slightly insane.

Luella and I had been teaching our children that God created the world and everything in it, and as our family drove to Burger King, my son looked out the window at the telephone poles that lined the street, mulling over the “doctrine of creation” in his little brain. Justin was very young at the time, so he didn’t actually know anything about doctrine, at least at an academic level. But his question was still deeply theological.

Why was our little philosopher thinking about those telephone poles? Because he was a human being; he was simply doing what God designed us to do.


You may be a plumber, a Fortune 500 CEO, a housewife and stay-at-home mom, a music teacher, or a professional athlete, but you’re also a full-time thinker. Some of us think improperly and inconsistently, and some of us reveal our thinking more publicly than others, but if you’re a person, you think. You’ve never had a thoughtless day in your life.

Little children, like my Justin, never quit asking questions. Teenagers constantly obsess over what’s fair and unfair. Husbands and wives argue because they’ve interpreted a particular situation differently. Older people look back over the years and try to make sense of it all, often paralyzed by regret.

You see, we all do it—we think.

Thinking about life, and our desire to understand, is a deeply and uniquely human thing to do. It gets to the heart of how God wired us to operate, yet it tends not to get the publicity that it should. Most of the time we don’t realize that we’re thinking, and we fail to understand the profound significance it has on our lives.

Every day, at some point and in some way, we’ll try to make sense out of our lives. Some will dig through the mound of artifacts from our past, looking back on their journey and trying to figure out “if only” they had or hadn’t done this or that. Others will endlessly toss around their current situations, locations and relationships, evaluating certain responses compared to others. Still more will gaze into the future, hoping to somehow divine what’s to come and prepare themselves for it.

Chances are, you’ve probably done all three already today. Or, if you’re reading this in the morning, it won’t be long before you do.


Every human being has constructed a superstructure of life assumptions that functions as the instrument they use to make sense of life. It can be the result of a combination of things, such as upbringing, education, life experiences and personality traits, but we all look at life through this interpretive grid.

This is vital to understand: Thought always precedes and determines activity.

I want you to stop and write down that sentence. If there’s only one thing you take away from this long article, it needs to be this concept.

Make it personal: My thoughts always precede and determine my activity.

It’s crucial that you become more conscious of the vibrant mental activity that so influences the choices you make, the words you speak and the things you desire.

You and I don’t act out of instinct like the rest of the creatures in the animal kingdom. We don’t do what we do because of what we’re experiencing in the moment. Rather, we think, speak and act based on the way we’ve thought about and interpreted what we’re experiencing.

Social experiments have proven this time and time again. If you place three different people in the very same situation, they can have three remarkably different reactions. Why? Because each individual has interpreted that situation through their personal thinking grid.

A variance in interpretation will always lead to a variation in response.


Let me connect all that about thinking with the importance of doctrine.

The God who designed you to be a thinker is the same God who inspired the writers of the Old and New Testaments to pen his truths. God hardwired us to view life through an interpretative grid, and he also gave us his Word to shape that grid.

The Bible is a book, filled with doctrine, that defines what is good, right and true. A loving Creator gave it to his dependent creatures so they would know how to properly make sense out of life. Or, to phrase it differently, the Bible is the tangible result of the “Meaning Giver” explaining foundational truths to the “meaning makers” he created.

Every person who has ever lived exists in desperate need of the unfolded mysteries that make up the content of Scripture. Without it, we wouldn’t know how to think about life. We wouldn’t know for sure if what we knew was true, and we wouldn’t know if what we thought we knew was good and morally right!

When you understand the Bible in this way, it no longer becomes relegated to the hallowed and separate corridors of institutionalized religion. No, on the contrary, the Bible is a life book given for life purposes, so that everybody everywhere would use it to understand life, and ultimately the Author of Life.

Naturally, since Scripture contains doctrines, these doctrines shouldn’t be reserved for academic seminarians. They’re living and divine tools of salvation, transformation, identity and guidance.

That’s why I’m writing this series. I want to help you think about the complex doctrines of the Bible and help you see how they impact your everyday thoughts, words and actions.

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Paul David Tripp is a pastor, author, and international conference speaker. He is the president of Paul Tripp Ministries and works to connect the transforming power of Jesus Christ to everyday life. This vision has led Paul to write many books on Christian living and travel around the world speaking and teaching. Paul's driving passion is to help people understand how the gospel of Jesus Christ speaks with practical hope into all the things people face in this broken world. Paul and his wife Luella reside Philadelphia. They are the parents of four grown children.