Doctrines and Spiritual Formation

I think I am probably one person who gets whacked very hard by the people around me (knowingly or unknowingly) of being too hard up and rational about my faith. It is not unusual for people to be turned off by me when I talk to them about doctrines and theology. In fact, I have been accused that my theological training has made me an unempathetic and cold person (which I must say that they are wrong since I am probably one before I start my theological training.). But my focus is not to whack back on the people who whacked me, since it is not going to be a fruitful session. My focus here is in doctrine, in relations to my series of posts on spiritual growth. 

I shall start off from a finding I found from Christianity Today:


This statistic may not happen in Singapore, considering that Christianity here tends to be more conservative than those we find in USA, but I think in terms of the differences between what we believe and what we practise, it is almost on par. What do I mean? 

Let's take a step back and examine this common trend in normal day practice. This is what we call 'espoused theory of action v.s. theory-in-use. According to Argyris and Schon, "when someone is asked how he would behave under certain circumstances, the answer he usually gives is his espoused theory of action for that situation. This is the theory of action to which he gives allegiance, and which, upon request, he communicates to others. However the theory that actually governs his actions is his theory-in-use, which may or may not be compatible with his espoused theory; furthermore, the individual may or may not be aware of incompatibility of the two theories." 

How does that apply to theology and doctrine? Because most of the time, we do not realise that we do not practise what we believe in. In the finding above, the phenomenon is contributed via biblical illiteracy which leads to them creating their own image of God. Here in Singapore, it is possible for us to espouse belief in words and show disbelief in our action. For example, if we really believe that God is sovereign, then do we then do things as if everything hinges on our effort? Let me concretise this for you. 

Back in my younger days in ministry, we have a habit of meeting after every LG meeting to do AAR and we go into details on how we can disciple the people around us. To qualify, there is nothing wrong with this. But the details we go into, it was as if we do not trust our own people to seek God themselves (to go into the other extreme is not a good thing either) and that we need us to guide them. On hindsight, there were good intentions but somehow, I don't think we have practised the sovereignty of God in our spiritual formation. 

Another classic example: the case of the missing boyfriend/girlfriend. Most of us, Christians, would probably hear that Christ is the one who makes us complete and we will give verbal assent to it, but how often do we see Christians seeking a potential companionship to make their lives complete? Again, I have to qualify one thing before I move ahead and before you move too far ahead of me. I believe that a man's ministry reaches its full potential with marriage. I have expounded on Genesis 1-2 in a previous post on that which demonstrates why this is the case. But this does not mean that the ministry of a single is not valuable, neither does it mean that a single is less valuable as a vessel of God. Nevertheless, as heart-wrenching to see people being caught up with this spouse/companion thing in order to complete themselves, when they do that, it is pretty clear that we are not practising the belief that Christ is the one who completes us, not the spouse. 

What am I saying here? Our own spiritual lives hinge on our understanding and living out of the doctrines we think we know. We claim that doctrines are not important. We claim that theology is not important. We want to live out in faith and be filled with faith. We want to be 'practical'. But right living is preceded by right thinking. What we know and think about with regard to our faith affects how we live. It is quite possible for me to diagnose what a person believes about God when I can discern his line of thought. We do not realise that if we are not taught properly our doctrines, we fail to live out our Christian life correctly. We think that we are being 'Christians' if we focus not on theology and just go out and do it, but little do we know that we are espousing a form of theology when we think that. 

So for the sake of your spiritual formation, be educated in doctrines. Attend your church's basic Christian doctrine classes if you have not done so. Allow the Word to transform your mind. It is not a sin to focus on doctrines and theology. 

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