Christianity in America: Life or Doctrine?
Modern Christianity is not a singular belief system, but is rather made up of hundreds of different sects and denominations, each with their own unique traditions. Our understanding of our faith is in some ways shaped by societal norms. This however begs the question. Is our faith simply our way of life? Or is it a sound doctrine that accounts for our way of Life?
Machen recognizes Christianity for what it is, a historical phenomenon (Machen 31). The basis of Christianity is Christ (Jesus). Our faith circles around the idea that Jesus was indeed God in the form of man, who bore the wrath of sin and shame, was executed in the most formidable way imaginable (crucifiction), rose again three days later and removed the curtain dividing heaven and earth. The doctrine of Christianity is that faith in this and this alone, constitutes Salvation (Sola Christus).
The tension of Christianity being a life or a doctrine exists in the early church. This is something that the Apostle Paul experienced. Paul came across rival teachers who preached the gospel as means of personal ambition. (Machen 34). The gospel that was being spoken however was truthful. On the other hand, Paul also comes upon a group known as Judaizers, who preached a works-based theology, contrary to the idea of Sola Christus (In Christ Alone). Paul rebuked these individuals, stating that men believes christ, is therefore justified before God, and them immediately proceeds to keep God’s law (Machen 36).
The reason this is significant is that we know that without Jesus, there is no hope. We see in our own lives some of the consequences of the fall. In our recent election cycle, we saw earthly powers falter. If we place our hope in Jesus, whom through we are justified through God, we place our hope in a foundation that cannot be shaken. As such, we are motivated to keep the law, recognizing that we are not perfect, as we were born into a sin nature, but through Christ, are justified through God.
With this in mind, it would be fair to say that Christianity is a doctrine and a life that is influenced by that doctrine. The law exists, but because we are born into a sin nature, in the law we are not justified. But through Christ, we are justified, and so we see the law as a perspective. Our faith is based on the doctrine Sola Christus, which in turn is the construct of Christianity as a life.