As Wayne Grudem states, “A doctrine is what the whole Bible teaches us today about some particular topic.” A major doctrine has a great impact on how we live our Christian lives, whereas a minor doctrine has little impact. How we depict these will impact how we live, think, and act.
A major doctrine, which is of primary importance, is the doctrine that one must adhere to in order to have the assurance of salvation. These beliefs are the avenue through which we are saved. There are several important doctrines that fall into this category:
- Jesus is God in the flesh, the only begotten Son of God, and is co-equal and co-eternal with God the Father (John 1:1, 49; Luke 22:70; Mark 3:11; Philippians 2:5–11)
- Jesus lived a perfect life, and although tempted, He remained sinless (Hebrews 4:15; John 8:29)
- Jesus was crucified on a cross to pay the due penalty for our sins, making us thereby acceptable before God, through whom we are gifted with eternal life (Matthew 26:28; 1 Corinthians 15:2–4)
- Jesus rose physically, in bodily form, from the dead (Luke 24:46; Mark 16:6)
- We are saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ. We cannot add to or take away from Christ’s finished work on the cross as full payment for our sin; we cannot do anything to be acceptable before God – good works are evidence of our initial salvation. They are not required for salvation, but always accompany salvation (Ephesians 2:8–9)
The aforementioned doctrines/beliefs are those that distinguish the Christian faith from other faiths such as Judaism, Islam, etc. These beliefs are what makes the Christian faith the Christian faith. One cannot be saved apart from the wholehearted agreement and understanding of the aforementioned primary doctrines. They are the foundation of our faith; however, there are other beliefs that are of secondary importance called minor doctrines. These beliefs are also essential to the faith, but there are no self-inflicted A few examples (not an exhaustive list) of minor doctrines are:
- Baptism – infant vs adult baptism
- Creation – young earth (7 literal days) vs old earth (7 figurative days)
- The role of women in the church – complementarian vs egalitarian
- Communion – the real/actual body of Christ vs symbolic body of Christ
If we believe that infants must be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins (as a result of original sin), then we may in fact be denying that a true understanding and heart belief/faith in God is required for our salvation through Christ. This means we do not have to agree to follow Christ wholeheartedly as an adult if we believe we were made right as a baby. If secure as a baby, no need to do anything as an adult. It becomes more of a mental ascent than a wholehearted commitment. This is just one example of the aftermath of a particular belief.
There are consequences to the belief systems we hold true, therefore we must always seek to consider what we believe and why we believe it.
In summation, we hope you are able to see the light through the forest in that you now know what beliefs must be adhered to in order to call ourselves Christians, versus the beliefs that are essential but do not affect our salvation (even though they will affect the way we live, speak and act). Our mental health and healing from depression, anxiety, or addictions are dependent upon our faith in Christ, through whom healing is achieved; however, our salvation is not affected by whether or not we believe a baby or an adult should be sprinkled or dunked.
Stay tuned for our next blog, where we will discuss how God reveals Himself to us!