July 1, 2009

The Importance of Doctrine

Last week, I received in the mail Sinclair Ferguson’s “The Christian Life: A Doctrinal Introduction,” via PaperBackSwap.com.  I started reading it earlier this week, and have really enjoyed it so far.  In the first chapter, Ferguson begins by briefly showing why doctrine is so important to the Christian life.  Towards the end of the first chapter, he gives an excellent quote:

We have the following bit of personal experience from a general officer of the United States army.  He was in a great western city at a time of intense excitement and violent rioting.  The streets were over-run daily by a dangerous crowd.  One day he observed approaching him a man of singularly combined calmness and firmness of mien, whose very demeanor inspired confidence.  So impressed was he with his bearing amid the surrounding uproar that when he had passed he turned to look back at him, only to find that the stranger had done the same.  On observing his turning the stranger at once came back to him, and touching his chest with his forefinger, demanded without preface: “What is the chief end of man?”  On receiving the countersign, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him for ever” -- “Ah!” said he, “I knew you were a Shorter Catechism boy by you looks!”  “Why, that was just what I was thinking of you,” was the rejoinder.”[i]

The question, “What is the chief end of man?” is the first question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism, a system of questions and answers designed to teach and ground young children in the doctrines, or teachings, of the faith.  The point of this quote is, that with the use of this catechism, these two men were so ground in the doctrines of the faith, that they were islands of calm amidst the turmoil of the environment.  It is my prayer that, like these men, that my knowledge of the faith would go beyond knowing in a merely intellectual sense, but would go beyond the point of affecting the the way I live amidst the turmoil of this fallen world.

[i] Warfield, B. B. Selected Shorter Writings. Edited by J. E. Meeter. Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Press, 1970. – Cited in Ferguson, The Christian Life

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