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Speaker upholds doctrine’s value amid ‘post-modern’ evangelicalism

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–For many people, doctrine is “an
ugly word” today, according to Jimmy A. Millikin, speaking
at the spring convocation Jan. 21 of Midwestern Baptist
Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.
Millikin, professor and chairman of the theology
department at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary near
Memphis, Tenn., challenged Midwestern students to “keep the
faith,” which he defined as “that body of revealed truth
that was delivered to the saints.”
He cited Baptist preacher B.H. Carroll as emphasizing
“a church with a little creed is a church with a little
light. The more divine doctrines a church can agree on, the
greater its power and the wider its influence.”
Millikin traced developments which have resulted in
apathy toward doctrine. “The ghosts of classic liberal
theology are still haunting us today, denying that theology
has absolute truth and discouraging dogma.”
The legacy of such thought in today’s post-modern
evangelical church is pragmaticism, a charismatic emphasis,
evangelical ecumenism and biblicism.
“We are willing to compromise objective, doctrinal
truth for methods which will gather a crowd or grow a
church. Just use whatever works. That’s pragmatism,”
Millikin said.
“Charismatics have minimized the importance of doctrine
and glorify certain kinds of experiences and, perhaps,
special revelations,” Millikin continued. As Southern
Baptists watch television programs that present such
concepts, he said they bring that fascination into churches.
“They become impatient with any kind of strong doctrinal
statement that they feel condemns those who hold a heretical
Regarding evangelical ecumenism, Millikin said Baptists
must reject any viewpoint that claims a need to minimize
Baptist doctrines so Baptists can better get along with
other denominations, even other evangelicals.
Biblicists argue Christians don’t need theology or
doctrine, pastors just need to preach or teach the Bible.
“If you do not take the time to articulate, to gather
together the great truths of the Bible and teach them and
preach them to your congregation, you can spend a lifetime
preaching through the Bible and have a theologically and
doctrinally illiterate congregation.”
Doctrine, according to Millikin, “is the setting forth
in a systematic and logical order the various doctrines of
the Christian faith as set forth in the canonical books of
the Christian Scriptures. It is logical, orderly,
Using 2 Timothy 4:1-8 as his text, Millikin presented
four reasons why doctrine is needed today.
First, there is a doctrinal content of the Christian
faith. “The New Testament says there is sound doctrine and
there is false doctrine. They must be distinguished,”
Millikin said.
Secondly, doctrine communicates the faith to the world.
Christians are not only to give testimony of an inner
experience with the Lord, but “to give witness to the whole
truth of Christ and his redemptive word.”
Thirdly, doctrine is necessary to defend the faith.
Finally, doctrine is necessary in order to preserve the
faith. “My prayer,” Millikin said, “is that you will be
grounded in the revealed truths of the Word of God and
commit yourself to teaching them, preaching them and
propagating them.”

Gaskin is a Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary writer.

    About the Author

  • John Gaskin