J. C. Ryle: Christianity without distinct doctrine is a powerless thing

20 12 2011

The mainline denominations in North America are in systemic decline.  Why?  J.C. Ryle, long dead Bishop of Liverpool has some thoughts on the matter that might be worth investigating.  ”Christianity” he says, “without distinct doctrine is a powerless thing.”  I think it is powerless for two reasons.  First and foremost, I do not believe the Holy Spirit will be present in power to assist the proclamation of the Gospel when it is not the Gospel that is presented to us in Scripture and handed down for centuries  in the church.  Second, from a purely practical perspective, when the borders of an organization are not clearly drawn people have a very difficult time discerning what the organization is, why they should join it, or even if they have already joined it!  The mushier doctrine becomes in a denomination the more rapidly it will decline.  God will not bless it, nor will people take the time to investigate it.

“Mark what I say. If you want to do good in these times, you must throw aside indecision, and take up a distinct, sharply cut, doctrinal religion. If you believe little, those to whom you try to do good will believe nothing. The victories of Christianity, wherever they have been won, have been won by distinct doctrinal theology, by telling men roundly of Christ’s vicarious death and sacrifice, by showing them Christ’s substitution on the cross and His precious blood, by teaching them justification by faith and bidding them believe on a crucified Saviour, by preaching ruin by sin, redemption by Christ, regeneration by the Spirit, by lifting up the brazen serpent, by telling men to look and live, to believe, repent and be converted. This, this is the only teaching which for eighteen centuries God has honoured with success, and is honouring at the present day both at home and abroad. Let the clever advocates of a broad and undogmatic theology — the preachers of the gospel of earnestness and sincerity and cold morality — let them, I say, show us at this day any English village or parish or city or town or district, which has been evangelized without ‘dogma’, by their principles. They cannot do it, and they never will. Christianity without distinct doctrine is a powerless thing. It may be beautiful to some minds, but it is childless and barren. There is no getting over facts. The good that is done in the earth may be comparatively small. Evil may abound and ignorant impatience may murmur, and cry out that Christianity has failed. But, depend on it, if we want to ‘do good’ and shake the world, we must fight it with the old apostolic weapons, and stick to ‘dogma’. No dogma, no fruits! No positive evangelical doctrine, no evangelization!”

J.C. Ryle Wants of the Times, from a sermon preached at St Margaret’s church, Ipswich, 11 June 1879


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10 03 2012
Jackie Tibbits

The majority of the considerations in the world are already accomplished by people who have maintained trying when there was no hope at all.
Once you get along the side of almost all, it is time to pause and reflect.

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