The Impossibility of Separating Doctrine From Life

Many Christians separate doctrine from their daily lives. This idea is manifested in the idea of “doctrine is less important than relationship.” Some who each this argue that doctrine is good and fine, but a personal, vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ is more important. This is the common way that this is taught. We hear about how Adventists know too much doctrine, but don’t know the Man behind the doctrine.

There is definitely value in reminding people that the Christian walk is not merely a thing of the “head,” but it is also a thing of the “heart.” I think this is a part of what these sisters and brothers are preaching when they push this idea, but it has the side effect of making people think that a proper and good relationship to God can be obtained devoid of doctrinal understanding. Often little definition is given for this “relationship with Jesus” beyond a comparison to a friendship.

This idea makes doctrine something that is “nice to know.” It is not important or even valuable. It is an impediment. What this view misses however is the is a valid definition of doctrine. Doctrine is not esoteric, useless, or irrelevant facts. Doctrine is simply codifying our understanding of God. Certainly it will change as we learn more, but it is simply not possible to not have doctrine. We may have a doctrine we have not thought about much. We may have doctrinal understandings that center in irrelevancy, or we may have doctrinal understandings that focus totally on things that are relevant to daily lives. We simply cannot dispense of doctrine.

While it is true that having a growing connection to the Divine life is more important than merely knowing about the Most High, it is also true that one cannot fully separate our learning about God from our real relationship to God.

In short, if you are growing in your relationship with your wife, would you stop learning about your wife? Will you get to a point that you no longer study to find out what makes her happy? Do you stop learning about her using the tools you have access to? How is that any different from learning all you can about God?

Ultimately it is a false dichotomy. You will not be growing in this “relationship with Jesus” if you have no desire to grow in your knowledge of Jesus Christ (Doctrine). In fact, how can you even know the difference between the false Jesus and the true Jesus unless you have some kind of learning to back it up. I know my wife immediately from her voice, from the way she looks, and from the things she does. How is it that I can be ready for the last day when God will have a people who “follow the lamb withersoever he goest.” (Revelation 14:4) If I marginalize or put down the very pursuit of knowledge of what Jesus is doing and will do in this world and in my own life.

In short, the separation of doctrine from life is not a viable position. The true position is to live out your doctrine. Live out your understanding of God. We don’t have to choose between putting an ephemeral and undefined “relationship with Jesus” above our understanding of Jesus. Neither do we have to choose to ignore doctrine altogether while glorifying this disconnected idea of “relationship.” We can go another road that is a doctrinally informed and lived life that is empowered by a growing relationship with the Most High.

Doctrines or Jesus?

One of the common statements made by preachers of many denominations today is that we don’t need the doctrines we need Jesus. A false dichotomy is set up between doctrines and Jesus. Jesus is portrayed as a live being in whom we have a relationship, while doctrine is seen as a dry boring addition. Some may argue that it is important, but why take the doctrines when you have Jesus?

Sometimes preachers talk about this by saying, “I would rather have the Gospel then to have doctrines!” I heard one preacher argue, “I would rather have my wife than to have studies about my wife!” That is an interesting and true statement, however we must keep in mind that doctrine is simply our understanding of God and things about God. It is out attempt to codify these things.

Separates Analytical from Experiential

One major flaw with this sentiment that we want Jesus over Doctrine is that it promotes privileging the experiential over the analytical. By that I mean this “relationship with Jesus” is more important than study about “who Jesus was and what Jesus did” which is normally doctrine.

In short how do you know the one who you are having a relationship with is the true Jesus of the Bible if you do not have doctrine to inform that knowledge? Certainly we will ever be knowing throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity. And that knowledge will deepen our experience with Jesus.

In short, both go together, you need the experience to give fuel to our Christian experience, but we need knowledge to steer the Christian experience in the right way. It is noteworthy that the Spirit will “guide us into all truth.” Certainly this include experiential and analytical knowledge.

Shallow versus Deep Knowing

Another problem is that this mindset promotes shallow versus deep knowing. Doctrine is simply a bringing together of our knowledge on a subject and attempting to test and understand it. Certainly this is a strong analytical component, but it informs our experince as noted above.

However, if we downplay the analytical, the hard work, we end up with a shallow experience that only cares about the simple things. This is the problem that Hebrews has problems with. We end up still spiritual babes because we dont’ want to go on into more truth.

Generic versus Specific Knowing

The mindset finally promotes a generic knowing. The kind of knowing that you can get in 5 minutes or by listening to the next 10 word praise song. “Jesus is Good…Jesus is Good…Jesus is Good…Yes he is.” This promotes a generic knowing that has little depth as noted above and eliminates the analytical.

I don’t want to know the generic Jesus that takes 5 minutes to get to know. I want to know the Biblical Jesus. Certainly the 5 minute knoweldge is good at the beginning of our Chrsitian walk, but if 5 years from now that is all you have, the Hebrews admonition will hit us squarely in the eyes.

I Want to Know the Real Jesus

If I want to know the real Jesus, then I need to know something about the Great High Priest. That’s Doctrine. Christ want’s us to follow him in to the holiest of All. The Bible says that we are to enter the throne of grace to obtain mercy. If you want to know Jesus, fiind out about your high priest.

If I want to know the real Jesus, certainly I will be watchful of the signs of his second coming. That’s doctrine. Lift up the trumpet and loud let it ring, Jesus is coming again.

If I want to know the real Jesus, certainly I want to know about the fact that life is only tied up in our connection to Jesus. Apart from him is nothing but eternal death which is to be asleep. That’s doctrine.

I want to know Jesus. If I want to know the real Jesus, certainly I want to know about the fact that our Salvation is demonstrated and renewed in our minds through the only day he blessed, rested, and sanctified, which is the 7th day sabbath. That’s Doctrine!!!

If I want to know the real Jesus then I gotta know about about God’s final message of warning to the world called the Three Angels message that is there to keep us in our saved state. That’s Doctrine!!


Yes we need experiential interaction with Jesus, but we cannot deprecate the doctrines as if they are problematic. It ain’t the doctrines, it is a lack of experiencing them and making them relevant. Perhaps we preachers need to find out why God gave us these doctrines instead of putting them down.