How Will Studying Doctrine Help Me Grow as a Christian?

Posted On November 08, 2023

Written by Dr. Keith Mathison, professor of systematic theology

There is an idea, common among many young (and old) Christians, that the study of doctrine, the study of theology, is at best irrelevant to the Christian life and at worst positively dangerous. There is actually some truth to this if we misunderstand the nature and purpose of studying theology. If we divorce growth in theological knowledge from growth in Christian character, for example, the study of theology can easily lead to pride and arrogance on the part of a theological student. On the other hand, if we understand what theology is and what doctrine is, we will recognize that growth as a Christian is inseparable from it.

Think about this for a moment. When I first met the amazing young woman who was to become my wife, I wanted to know everything about her. I wanted to know what she liked and what she didn’t like. I wanted to know about her childhood, the places she’d been, and the places she wanted to go. I asked her so many questions in order to get to know her better. Anyone you truly love, you want to know better. The English word “theology” is a combination of two Greek words: Theos meaning God, and logos meaning word or discourse. Theologians have used it in several senses, but the most basic meaning of theology is “knowledge of God.” Now, Christians are called to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. If we are to love God, we must know God. And if we love God, no matter how much we may know God, we want to know Him better. Since theology is the knowledge of God, then theology is intimately connected to our love for God.

The word doctrine simply means “teaching.” In Scripture, God teaches us about Himself, about what He has done for us, and about His will for us. All of this teaching is doctrine. Is the teaching of Scripture irrelevant to our growth as a Christian? No. It’s indispensable, and this means that doctrine is indispensable to our growth as a Christian.

Studying the teachings (doctrines) of Scripture will help you grow as a Christian if it is done in a spirit of humility and if it is done in connection with your involvement in the worship of God that takes place in the local church. If you study biblical doctrine simply to win arguments and show off your knowledge, you will become puffed up with pride and arrogance. If you study biblical doctrine apart from worshiping God in the local church, you are serving and glorifying only yourself.