Since 2013, I have taught the doctrine of humanity a half a dozen times. And in each class, I have put this question on the final exam: What is the most important doctrine for the twenty-first century?
I ask the question because in every era of the church there are unique theological challenges. For instance,
- In the second and third centuries, the church had to grapple with the relationship between the Old and New Testaments, as well as the errors of Gnosticism.
- In the fourth and fifth centuries, the church had to defend the deity and humanity of Christ, the proper understanding of the Trinity, and the divinity of Holy Spirit.
- During the Reformation, the church recovered the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone in the person and work of Christ alone.
- And nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the doctrine of Scripture had to be clarified, because scientific claims and critical methods of interpretation sought to make the Bible a book like any other.
These are but a few doctrinal disputes that have arisen in church history. By identifying doctrines with decades (or centuries), I am not denying the perpetual need to declare and defend all doctrines, but there are certain pressures in culture that cause the church to reassert or reinforce biblical doctrines. And when it comes to the twenty-first century, there is no more important doctrine than the doctrine of humanity.
That’s why I ask that question on my theology exam, and here is the reason. Continue reading