Have you heard someone say, “I don’t want doctrine or theology, I just want the Bible?”  The apostle Paul warned the church that “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.”  The word doctrine, as it is used in that text and many others, refers to instruction in the Christian faith.  Jesus commanded His church to “make disciples.”  The only way to make disciples is to instruct from the whole counsel of God.  Anyone who says, “I don’t want theology” means they do not want to study God; theology is a study of God.

Why do professing Christians make statements that are contrary to the faith they profess?  Maybe part of the problem is the lack of instruction on the improvement of knowledge.  In his book, “The Improvement of mind” Isaac Watts devoted a whole chapter to “General Rules for the Improvement of Knowledge.”  I will cite a few of his comments.  They are basically self explanatory and need little if any commentary.  They do need to apply to Christians in this postmodern world.

Page 4 – Consider the depth and difficulty of many truths, and the flattering appearances of falsehood, whence arises an infinite variety of dangers, to which we are exposed in our judgment of things.

Page 5 – Spend a few thoughts sometimes on the puzzling enquiries concerning vacuums and atoms, the doctrine of infinites, indivisibles, and incommensurables in geometry, wherein there appear some insolvable difficulties: do this on purpose to give you a more sensible impression of the poverty of your understanding and the imperfection of your knowledge.

Page 6 – Acquaint yourselves with some persons of great learning, that, by converse among them and comparing yourself with them, you may acquire a mean opinion of your own attainments.

Page 8 – (Editors note – It should be noted that this book is a corollary to his previous book on logic).  If your memory is the only faculty employed, with the neglect of your reasoning powers, you can justly claim no higher character but that of a good historian of the sciences.

Page 10 – Do not indulge yourselves to judge of things by the first glimpse, or a short and superficial view of them; for this will fill the mind with errors and prejudices, and give it  a wrong turn and ill habit of thinking, and make much work for retraction.

Page 11 – Let no day, if possible, pass away without some intellectual gain.

Page 13 – Yet you should get humility and courage enough to retract any mistake, and confess an error.

Page 17 – Offer up, therefore, your daily requests to God the Father of lights, that he would bless all your attempts and labours in reading, study, and conversation.

By his secret and supreme method of government he can draw you to read such a treatise, or to converse with such a person who may give you more light into some deep subject in an hour, than you could obtain by a month of your own solitary labour.

Page 18 – He that made our souls, and is the father of spirits, shall he not be supposed to have a most friendly influence toward the instruction and government of them [our studies].

Pastors and teachers ought to be first in line to adopt these learning principles and then teach them to the congregations.