This book by Paul Helm helps us understand a foundational part of Christian doctrine—Revelation. The book is unashamedly and delightfully doctrinal in nature. ‘Doctrine’ is the body of truths that are affirmed by Christians as comprising the fundamental truths of the Faith.
We need to be aware of the framework of doctrine because we always hold an assumed set of doctrines as the lens through which we view life and through which we read Scripture. Basic assumptions about God, Church, sin and salvation inform our understanding of the Bible and are hopefully renewed, challenged and revised as we read and re-read the Bible.
In many circles doctrine has fallen out of favour in preference for attempting to merely read the Bible exegetically and with regard to its salvation-historical plotline. There are a number of reasons ignorance of doctrine ought to be redressed:
Firstly, We live in a post-Christian context. Doctrine gives people ignorant of the Scriptures a hard hitting injection of adrenaline in the sense that doctrine is the sharp edge of scripture; its conclusions, shape and application. We want people to read the Bible for themselves, and some time becoming familiar with the doctrinal framework of Scripture is one of the best ways to get people growing.
Secondly, We rejoice in the fact that there has in recent years been a recovery of engagement with Scripture. There is a veritable feast of commentaries, expository sermons and interpretive guides available. Efforts of believers to make use of these resources in a way that addresses the doctrinal challenges their churches, outreach and daily lives offer are severely undermined by ignorance of Biblical doctrine. Doctrine helps us digest exposition, and enables us to provide coherent stable answers to the burning questions of life and ministry.
Thirdly, The Bible opens the door not to merely intellectual knowledge but a living passionate relationship with God. Relationships between humans are mysterious and profound—how much more so a relationship with God? When we seek to cultivate a relationship with God and fail to make use of doctrinal knowledge, it means we deny our relationship one of the ways we can get to know God. It is as odd as saying you want to keep in touch with a family member by phone calls and emails but never text messages. Why not use all methods of communication available?
So this book aims to not only introduce readers to a key doctrine, it alerts us to wise ways to think doctrinally. The doctrinal insights shared have real life impact—they change our thinking, worship and living. The brevity of the work helps us focus on that which is most important, and offers more of a feel for the sweep of doctrine than might be experienced through a more detailed, larger tome.
Paul Helm spent many years teaching philosophy at the University of Liverpool, then at King’s College, London, where he was Professor of the History and Philosophy of Religion, 1993-2000. Among a number of books he is the author of The Beginnings,(1986) The Callings,(1987) and The Last Things, (1989) (Banner of Truth), andThe Providence of God (IVP 1993).