World Faiths & Religions

Frequently Asked Questions

What are doctrines and do all Christian churches have them?

Literally "teaching," the word "doctrine" can have a range of meanings.  It can refer to an individual's opinion and teaching on a given subject. It can refer to a group of teachings gathered under a heading, e.g., the doctrine of ecclesiology, from the Greek ékklesia (assembly, gathering) + logos (the word or that by which thought is expressed, speech or reason), that gathers different teachings about the origin, basis, purpose, and structure of the church. At a more formal level within the Christian tradition, "doctrine" can refer to the tenets of a particular church, e.g., the Lutheran doctrine of "justification by faith." When such a teaching is rejected, one may stand outside the "right belief" stated in the doctrine. "Doctrine" and "dogma" have different connotations and "dogma" usually refers to teachings that are promulgated by official or authoritative bodies within traditions.

While many Christian churches, both at the congregational and higher levels, do not have official or authoritative bodies shaping doctrines or a defined set of doctrines themselves, belief in Jesus Christ as the saving Son of God, however the salvation and Sonship may be understood, is a basic tenet of the Christian faith. Other basic tenets may expand the doctrinal tent. For instance, pacifism is another tenet of Mennonite churches and Biblical inerrancy a tenet of yet other churches.