Doctrine: A Map for a Journey of Faith?

In a book titled Westminster Confession For Today, George S. Hendry wrote:  “Doctrines are not faith; they are statements of faith in propositional form…faith has often been compared to a journey, or a pilgrimage.  Doctrine may then be compared to a map.  No one would suppose he had reached his destination merely because he had located it on the map, or traced the route that leads to it (p. 13).”

Note the stark distinction between doctrine and faith.  Presumably, believing doctrine is different from the journey of faith.  Doctrine is rightly said to be propositional – as God’s Word is propositional.  But what can the journey of faith be for the believer other than putting his faith in the doctrines of Scripture?  The journey of faith is believing in God.  Believing in God is believing what He says.  What he says is the propositional revelation of Scripture.  Doctrine gets us nowhere until we believe it.  Believing doctrine is the means by which we are redeemed and justified; putting us on the journey of faith (Acts 16:31).  Not that we are justified through saying we believe (James 2:14), the Scriptures teach that we are justified through belief; which is faith (Rom 4:4-8).  However, the analogy still falls short.  Below is Gordon Clark’s commentary on this illustration:

“This illustration is singularly misleading.  Obviously a doctrine or a set of doctrines is not our ultimate destination, heaven.  But it does not follow that doctrine is merely a map.  If an illustration be needed, let us say that doctrine is the road itself.  Here we can apply the words of Luke to the effect that doctrine, i.e., the propositions Luke wrote, is ‘a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us.’

In fact, this illustration of doctrine as a map is so inept that even when corrected so as to make doctrine the road, it remains misleading.  After we arrive at a destination, we not only throw away the map, we have also ceased using the road.  But in heaven, we shall continue to believe these doctrines.  We shall continue to praise God by them and for them.  They shall remain our precious possession forever.” ~ What Do Presbyterians Believe? by Gordon H. Clark, p. 6-7.

My wife and I are studying the 1969 London Baptist Confession while reading Sam Waldron’s commentary on it alongside Gordon Clark’s commentary on the Westminster Confession; which is very similar to the Baptist one.  It has been a blessing to us and we wanted to share this excerpt and some thoughts on it.

Written by