In 2017, Study the Doctrine of the Church with Us

Today at For the Church, I seek to answer the question ‘Why Study the Doctrine of the Church?” My essay begins this way:

In the nineteenth century, leading Southern Baptist theologian J. L. Dagg wrote this with regard to the relationship of ecclesiology to other doctrines:

Church order and the ceremonials of religion, are less important than a new heart; and in the view of some, any laborious investigation of questions respecting them may appear to be needless and unprofitable. But we know, from the Holy Scriptures, that Christ gave commands on these subjects, and we cannot refuse to obey. Love prompts our obedience; and love prompts also the search which may be necessary to ascertain his will. Let us, therefore, prosecute the investigation which are before us, with a fervent prayer, that the Holy Spirit, who guides into all truth, may assist us to learn the will of him whom we supremely love and adore.[1]

As evangelical Protestants, we are rightly often first in line to affirm that the doctrine of the church is less important than a heart twice-born. Our Reformation heritage hands us five solas and to think of an additional sola ecclesia is like adding a sixth Istar to the Third Age of Middle Earth, i.e. unthinkable. As such, evangelicals are not as often quick to affirm that wrestling with and arriving at sure ecclesiological convictions, as Dagg suggests, is a worthwhile exercise.

Why should we, then, study the doctrine of the church? To answer that, we need to clarify ecclesiology’s rightful place among and functional posture toward other doctrines.

You can read the rest of the article here.

At Midwestern Seminary, we offer the Ecclesiology PhD Seminar on a regular basis. This is a core seminar for the theology, missiology, ministry and historical theology emphases in the MBTS PhD program.

This Spring, I am pleased to announce that noted theologian and specialist in ecclesiology, Dr. Malcolm B. Yarnell, III of Southwestern Seminary, is joining me in co-teaching this seminar that starts officially on Jan 12 and meets on campus March 13-17.

We will have the students read 11 ecclesiology texts, many from different traditions and prepare reading outlines for discussion, write and present a major research paper, and complete a 12 page statement of their own biblical ecclesiology. Here is the syllabus for Ecclesiology (DR 37337).

Current PhD students can still enroll until January 12, or join us as a late registrant until January 26.

If you’d like to learn more about the Midwestern PhD program so you can join us for the study of ecclesiology in a future seminar, please visit the Doctoral Studies page. We’d love to hear from you.

Also, we have a new residential component of the PhD program starting in Fall 2017. Learn more about ‘The Residency’ here.


[1] J. L. Dagg, Manual of Church Order (Charleston, SC: Southern Baptist Publication Society, 1858), 12.

See “Why Study the Doctrine of the Church?” at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *