British evangelical writer and Anglican Bishop of Liverpool, J.C. Ryle (1816-1900) wrote in his book, Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots, that our good works don’t mean anything of significance if they are not based in sound doctrine.
Mark what I say. If you want to do good in these times, you must throw aside indecision, and take up a distinct, sharply-cut, doctrinal religion. If you believe little, those to who you try to do good will believe nothing.
The victories of Christianity, wherever they have been won, have been won by distinct doctrinal theology; by telling men roundly of Christ’s vicarious death and sacrifice; by showing them Christ’s substitution on the cross, and His precious blood; by teaching them justification by faith, and bidding them believe on a crucified Saviour; by preaching ruin by sin, redemption by Christ, regeneration by the Spirit; by lifting up the brazen serpent; by telling men to look and live—to believe, repent, and be converted.
This—this is the only teaching which for eighteen centuries God has honoured with success, and is honouring at the present day both at home and abroad. Let the clever advocates of a broad and undogmatic theology—the preachers of the gospel of earnestness, and sincerity and cold morality—let them, I say, show us at this day any English village, or parish, or city, or town, or district, which has been evangelized without “dogma,” by their principles. They cannot do it, and they never will.
Christianity without distinct doctrine is a powerless thing. It may be beautiful to some minds, but it is childless and barren. There is no getting over the facts. The good that is done in the earth may be comparatively small. Evil may abound, and ignorant impatience may murmur and cry out that Christianity has failed. But, depend on it, if we want to “do good” and shake the world, we must fight with the old apostolic weapons, and stick to “dogma.” No dogma, no fruits! No positive evangelical doctrine, no evangelization! (pg. 355-356)
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