August 20, 2008

Essential Doctrine

When I was getting my bachelor's, I had lost my confidence in the ABC as a denomination. As a result I started to attend a non-denominational church, mostly because of the fellowship. During my first year at seminary I made a dreadful discovery: the leadership of this church did not believe in the Trinity. I was shocked, and began a year and a half mission to understand the Trinity to the best of my ability.

One of the issues that I had was whether or not this church was Christian. They had all the marks of a Christian church, yet disbelieved in one of the most central tenets of the Christian faith. This post represents my wrestling with this idea, and forms the rudiments of some distinctions that I will later on develop in more detail.

This was posted February 5th, 2005:

This was part of another post that I am still in the process of writing on the Trinity (which I began writing in November. It will be a very long post once it is done). I took this out, but felt that I still wanted to say this. Additionally, I like what I said and I don't want to waste it. So, on essential doctrine:
  • Primary essential doctrine is doctrine that is necessary for one to be saved. One is saved by excepting Christ as Lord and Savior. Therefore, the primary essential doctrines are that set of doctrine that explain what that means. This includes human depravity, monotheism, Yeshua (Jesus) is the Son of God, the passion and resurrection of Christ etc...
  • Secondary essential doctrine is doctrine that is necessary for a church or Christian to be healthy. This is based upon believing the teachings of the Bible. Therefore, the infallibility of the Word is a secondary essential doctrine, and all doctrine that is directly discussed in Scripture. This includes certain lists of sins, the 10 commandments, the importance of church unity, etc...
  • Nonessential doctrine is self-explanatory, this is doctrine that isn't essential for anything, but is often important for one's own personal understanding of their faith. This includes creationism, post/pre tribulation rapture, once saved always saved, etc...

The point of differentiating essential doctrine is to determine what is heresy (that which cannot be tolerated by the Christian church) from error (that which is wrong but can be tolerated). My hope is ecumenical, as in I want an end to the divisions within the church, and the only way to do that is to determine what is worth fighting about, and what isn't.


TrueHope said...

In your opinion, what are the marks of a Christian church?

Jc_Freak: said...

Traditionally, the list of the marks of the church are:

Now I'm answering this way because it is important to note that right doctrine is not THE mark of the church. It is A mark of the church, and not the most important one either. The church, by definition, is that people who is commited to the mission and person of Jesus Christ, and is empowered by His Holy Spirit.

However, something must be said about doctrine. Out of the categories I mentioned, I don't believe it is possible to make a comprehensive list of secondary essential doctrines, mostly because, at that point, simple sentences no longer are appropriate. But I do have a list of primary essential doctrines, which are understood as those doctrines that are necessary to be commited to our Lord. They are:

1. Monotheism
2. God is perfect (implying that God is eternal, unmade, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, good, just, and compassionate)
3.God is spirit, not physical
4.God is the creator of all things
5.Humanity has fallen short of God's holiness, and cannot under its own power come to God
6.God desires reconciliation with humanity
7.To accomplish the reconciliation, God sent His Son, called Jesus, who is truly God Himself
8.That Jesus was born of a virgin and is therefore truly human.
9.Jesus was arrested, scourged, crucified, and then died under Pontius Pilot to justify all of humanity
10.Three days later Jesus was resurrected from the dead, and later ascended to the right hand of the Father.
11. One day Christ will return to to judge the quick and the dead, and the righteous will share in His resurrection
12. This birth, death, and resurrection, and paraousia constitutes the gospel, and is the only path through which one may be saved from the powers of darkness and one's own depravity
13.God's own Spirit, who is truly God, is sent to humanity in these last days to empower, comfort and guide
14.That these three, Father, Son, and Spirit, make up the one being who is God, and are not three seperate beings, though they remain distinct

That's my list. But it is important to note that this list isn't nearly as important to me as the fruits of the Spirit in determining who is a Christian and who is not.