Practice without theory is as futile as theory without practice
Published on: 10-25-2023
Imagine a husband saying to his wife, or vice versa, “I love you, but I do not want to know anything about you. I love you, but I do not want to hear anything you say.” Something is seriously wrong here. That is a bit like saying, “I love God, but I do not want doctrine. I want a relationship with God, but I’d rather do without theology.”
At times Adventists have been accused of being too doctrinally focused, and there’s always a danger of prioritizing doctrine in ways that exclude other aspects of faith and life. But I am convinced that rightly recognizing and cherishing doctrinal understanding need not do so, and at times we might have overcorrected so that discipleship of the mind is not given enough attention.
Theory and practice should stand together as inseparable. Faith without works is dead (James 2:26). Theory without practice is likewise dead. On the other hand, if we have practice without theory, what are we practicing and why? Practice without theory is, at best, blind and, at worst, dead in another way or contributing to spiritual death. Theory versus practice is a false choice.
Here, perhaps a better word than theory is faith. Faith and practice should be united, mutually enhancing one another. God wants us to dedicate all of ourselves to Him and His mission: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind” (Luke 10:27).
This issue of Adventist Worldfocuses on a pillar of Adventist faith—the state of the dead, which holds many practical implications, from facing last-day deceptions to the way we live and value life here and now. What we truly believe is shown in the way we live, especially in tough times.
Let us not emphasize doctrine at the expense of living out our faith, then, but let us also not neglect the equally vital task of loving God with our minds—studying and learning about God, shaping our worldviews to be more aligned with biblical teachings, and working toward “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).
As Ellen White wrote: “The question is, ‘What is truth?’. . . You are to dig for the truth as for hidden treasures. You are to find where the treasure is, and then you are to plow every inch of that field to get the jewels. You are to work the mines of truth for new gems, for new diamonds, and you will find them.”*
* Ellen G. White, Faith and Works (Nashville: Southern Pub. Assn., 1979), p. 77.