I love Christian doctrine. Perhaps that's because of the way I was brought up.

No, it wasn't that my church taught me to love doctrine. In fact, it taught me to hate it by emphasizing all the things that our group had right that everyone else had wrong. In my youth, doctrine was not about being illuminated by the truth, it was about memorizing arguments that would prove other Christians wrong.

But when I finally broke out of that sectarian "remnant" mindset, I discovered that there was a classical Christian tradition that was not bankrupt (as I had been taught). There was indeed a rich foundation, built up out of biblical truth. I fell in love with what I thought I had despised.

There were several doors into my new experience: C. S. Lewis's Mere Christianity was one, as was John R. W. Stott's Basic Christianity. Much less celebrated, but equally important to me, was J. I. Packer's I Want to Be a Christian (later renamed Growing in Christ).

At some point—I can't remember quite when—I realized that one of the best ways to know what is central to Christian faith—what is "Mere" or "Basic"—is to meditate on the Apostles' Creed. That was an important element in Packer's I Want to Be a Christian, and I discovered that he was doing what others had done before him: Using the Apostles' Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments as the framework for Christian instruction. Loving music and being curious about church history, I soon realized that this was the same pattern that Martin Luther had followed. And not just in his catechism but in his hymn-writing. That Saxon Renaissance man made these three texts memorable by converting them into rhyming verse and setting them to music: Wir glauben all' in einen ...

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