Doctrine vs. Practice

What is more important:  doctrine or practice?  Is the belief in the trinity or the deity of Jesus more important than how we live our lives?  Is the belief in the doctrine of salvation more important than living our lives as Jesus taught us we should, as Jesus lived his life?

Epicurus, a Greco-Roman philosopher, said that humans prefer theory and word play over performance or action.  The reason is theory is always easier than action. [1]  Theory or belief is just learning; it does not cost us much to learn something and say we believe it.  To put our beliefs into action involves effort; it involves time; it involves repetitive behavior not just one action; it means we must change.

Epicurus also said theory is like having food in the pantry and practice is like eating. [2]  Food in the pantry is nice to look at and it is comforting to know it is there.  However, food in the pantry does absolutely nothing to nourish our body.  In the same manner, having a belief does nothing for us unless we put that belief into practice.

Yes, we must have a belief about what our actions should be before we perform any action.  But as we have said before in this blog, the Biblical definition of belief involves following Jesus’ teachings as well as believing in them.  That is why James said:

So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.  But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. James 2:17-19 ESV


[1]   Luke Timothy Johnson,  Practical Philosophy:  The Greco-Roman Moralists.  Chantilly, VA:  The Teaching Company, 2002, p. 35-39.

[2]   Ibid., p. 44.

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