Principles Defined

A principle is defined as:

  • A fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior, or for a chain of reasoning, such as the basic principles of Christianity.
  • A fundamental quality or attribute determining the nature of something; an essence.

Two other definitions of the word principle are:

  • A rule or belief governing one’s personal behavior, such as struggling to be true to their own principles, or she resigned over a matter of principle.
  • Morally correct behavior and attitudes, such as a man of principle.

Therefore, to believe a principle is more than knowledge alone, it includes adopting it as a life governing standard.

A person would not be thought of as being principled if their principles do not act as a basis for their behavior. A principle that is not associated with a corresponding behavior is not actually a principle. It more closely represents a doctrine.

You might ask, “Isn’t a principle just another way of saying doctrine?” While there is some similarity, doctrines are, in my opinion, different in one important way. Let’s look at the dictionary definition for doctrine.

  • A belief or set of beliefs held and taught by a church, political party, or other group, such as  the doctrine of predestination.
  • A stated principle of government policy, mainly in foreign or military affairs, such as the Monroe Doctrine.

Missing from this definition is the idea that doctrines should form the foundation for a way of life. Individuals or church groups can hold particular doctrinal beliefs, but as doctrines, they make no requirement on the moral quality of a person’s life.

Therefore, I prefer to use the word principles because they are linked to behavior. And that has a familiar ring to it … sort of like faith and works. James wrote the following on this subject:

14 What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?

15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food,

16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?

17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.

18 But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”

19 You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.

20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? (James 2:14-20)

Principles, like faith, require that they be acted upon.

I hope you will find the principles posted here in the future to be useful in at least one area of your behavior, that of understanding the Bible on your own.

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