Saturday, December 8, 2007

Non-negotiable Doctrines

If someone asked you which doctrines of the Christian faith you considered non-negotiable, which ones would you list? By that I mean, which doctrines do you believe are so important that you will not compromise on them, regardless of the cost to you in terms of continued fellowship with family or friends, which church you attend, or even your life?

I asked myself that question sometime back. I was involved with a Christian organization which was composed of members from many different evangelical denominations, some of which held certain beliefs with which I disagreed. I was asked to serve on the board of directors of that organization, so I decided that I had to determine exactly which foundational, core doctrines of the Christian faith were so important to me that I could not and would not compromise and affiliate myself with any organization which would allow people who held to other views to be a part of its leadership.

It may seem like such an exercise would be easy, but it was actually more difficult than I originally thought it would be. Certain doctrines were a “slam dunk”; that is, there wasn’t even a moment’s hesitation about whether they should be included. Issues such as the inerrancy and authority of Scripture and the complete divinity of Christ are not up for grabs, despite what the post-modernists who question everything about orthodox Christianity tell us.

Other doctrines were more difficult. For example, the continuation of certain sign gifts such as tongues and healings, or the timing and nature of future events, or baptism by immersion or by sprinkling are all doctrines on which genuine believers disagree as to what the Bible teaches. So I had to decide which doctrines were so important to me that I would never compromise, though it should cost me friendships with other Christians or even my life at the hands of evil authorities who should demand that I renounce my faith. In other words, the doctrines I would choose would be the foundational convictions upon which my Christian faith is built. In the end, I decided there were eight core doctrines which rose to that level of importance. They are:

1. The inerrancy and authority of the Bible.
2. The virgin birth of Christ.
3. His complete divinity.
4. His substitutionary atonement.
5. His bodily resurrection.
6. His physical return for His church.
7. Man’s fallen, sinful condition and his inability to save himself.
8. Salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

There are other doctrines which others may argue should be added to this list, but these are what I believe are the absolute, fundamental, non-negotiable doctrines which all true Christians must believe. Other doctrines which are not specifically listed may “fit into” one of these doctrines; i.e., the doctrine of the humanity of Christ can be seen to be a part of our understanding of His virgin birth.

While believers may disagree on the details of certain doctrines, belief in the doctrines listed above is non-negotiable. If anyone claims to be a Christian, yet does not hold to these truths, there is solid reason to question the validity of his/her claim.

I do not mean that there will not, at times, be differences of opinion regarding certain details about the doctrines listed above (such as whether Christ’s atonement was limited in scope or unlimited in scope, or the timing of His return for the church), but anyone who denies any of these basic beliefs cannot legitimately claim to be a true believer and follower of Christ.

I think it is particularly important for Christians today to commit themselves to these foundational doctrines, because the Emergent Church with its complete lack of certainty about anything is attracting many to a false Christianity. It has, in the words of Phil Johnson, “canonized doubt.” As a consequence, many have been led to believe that it is arrogant to be certain about anything regarding the Christian faith. But Scripture calls us to stand firm in our faith (1 Corinthians 16:13). To do anything less is to risk shipwreck in regard to it (1 Timothy 1:19).

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