Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Doctrine, Doxology, and Deeds

"The first Reformation was about doctrine; the second one needs to be about behavior...We need a reformation not of creeds but deeds," thus said Rick Warren. At first glance, it appears noble. It seems like we are being called to a higher level of Christianity, one that the 16th and 17th century Reformation failed to facilitate. A cursory inspection, however, would reveal something not borne out of innovation, but rehash—a rehash of Enlightenment ideals and Pietism.

Needless to say, "deeds without creeds" does not work. The net effect of this diabolical view is that many end up disillusioned with the Christian life. How can they not be when the incessant inward curving that this thinking fosters turns up nothing worthy of hope? Hope is external to man and it is found in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Now the gospel of Jesus Christ is doctrinal. It is bound up in covenant theology, in the economy of redemption, in the concepts of the atonement, justification, sanctification, and glorification, in the church and the sacraments—it is the very fabric of Scripture. These things need to be studied. They need to be studied now, tomorrow, the day after, up until the day of death or the Lord's second coming, for truth apprehended gives way to gratitude, and it is this that is the foundation of all God-pleasing "deeds."

"It is not insignificant that Paul moves from doctrine to application through doxology. As G. C. Berkouwer has said in summarizing the order of the Heidelberg Catechism, 'Grace is the essence of theology; gratitude is the essence of ethics.' There is a time to be a diligent student, to listen to the record of God's great accomplishment of our redemption and its logical inter-relationships. Yet in doxology we are caught up in it all. We put down our notepad and raise our eyes to heaven in joyful gratitude and wonder. Here is where the Spirit internalizes the message that we have heard and makes us to feel deeply that we are what the gospel announces: the ungodly who have been justified, the enemies now reconciled, the dead who have been made alive in Christ, the hopeless who now have a future. Doctrinal understanding, inflamed by wonder and praise, yields to 'our reasonable service.'...No longer being conformed to this world is not simply an act of the will. It is not the result of individual or collective effort, but the effect of sound doctrine that has been converted into thanksgiving. Apart from the renewing of the mind...we will become like the world in our thinking and therefore also in our practice."

Dr. Michael S. Horton, 'Creeds and Deeds (How Doctrine Leads to Doxological Living)', Modern Reformation, Nov/Dec 2006.

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