Why Doctrine Matters on Campus

One of the most intriguing things I have learned as I have been in campus ministry for 2 years now (which isn’t very long), is that contrary to popular opinion, young adults want doctrine.  When we think of college-aged people, we tend to think of them as more free feeling, and liberal in their approach to spirituality. While there are always those who are, it’s even more interesting to realize this:  most are not.

First of all, we should define what “doctrine” really is.  Doctrine comes from the Greek word διδασκαλία (didaskalia) which literally means “teaching, instruction, or precepts.” So in essence, doctrine is the teachings of God found in the pages of the Bible.  So today, our meaning in the church of doctrine is the same as it was in the 1st century:  the teachings of the Holy Scriptures.

Now why does this matter on campus?  Well, here is why:  people in the young adult stage of life are not into unclear things. They can see past people who pretend to know everything yet know nothing.  They can point out, rather accurately those who stand strongly for something versus those who don’t.   They like the ability to separate the truth from lies, and by doing so, they get to the root of what they believe.  In short, they like to know what they believe, why they should believe it, and how do draw those conclusions accurately from the Bible.

Now, there is a problem in this.  We often set traditions as doctrine.  What do I mean?  I mean that we make things up that God never intended, or insert our own opinions to help us feel more comfortable in our faith, and thus we impose it on everybody else. We want everyone to think like we do. We need to understand that there is a grave difference between traditions and doctrine.  Jesus had this to say, And he said to them:

“You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! … Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that” (Mark 7:9;13).

So by keeping traditions over doctrine, we render the words of the Bible, the truth of God, inoperable in our lives.

Doctrine is important because without the right beliefs and practices taught in the New Testament, we can’t be saved.

“Watch your life and doctrine closely.  Persevere in them.  By doing so you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4:16).

Doctrine is the stuff that God commands us to do or not to do, such as the requirement of baptism for salvation (Matt. 28:19-20;Acts 2:38; 1 Pet. 3:21), or that the whole Bible is inspired, or straight from the mouth of God (2 Tim. 3:16), or the abstinence from sexual sin (1 Cor. 6:9). If God tells us to do something, we must do it; vice-versa, if God tells us NOT to do something, than we need to stay away from it.

So why is this important on campus?  Because people want to know the correct way to follow the Bible!  They have been burned by “religion” and traditions—they crave structure and sound teaching, but often, all they are left with is a mixture of Christianity and pop-culture.  That’s where accurate teaching, and sound doctrine come in.  It is our job to teach the right things so that future generations will pass it on! God needs men and women who are zealous for Him and His word—doctrine causes that to happen.  Jesus says,

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Do you know the truth?  Just something to think about.

– Scott

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