Recently, I was posed this question:
You often go on about the ‘essentials of the faith’ or ‘core Christian doctrine’ but you never really give an explanation of what these are OR why they are considered essential. Can you at least give me some kind of explanation about this?
So, the next few articles are going to do exactly that. With this article, I’ll define just what an essential doctrine is, give a list of the absolutely foundational Christian beliefs, and go into a bit of detail about why number one on the list is so important. In future posts, I’ll take a closer look at one or two of the core beliefs.
What is a doctrine, and what makes one essential?
A doctrine is simply a statement of belief or truth. Therefore, even if your belief statement is ‘I don’t believe in the value of doctrine”, you have just made a statement of doctrine! Make no mistake: EVERYONE HAS A DOCTRINE OF CHRISTIANITY.
Doctrines (truth statements) that are essential or foundational to the Christian faith are those doctrines that cannot be denied and still be considered a disciple of the Christ. In other words, if you deny these truths, you cannot be Christian.
This is why Paul was so adamant about Christians having correct doctrine (see the book of 1 Timothy and Gal. 1:8). Eternity with God is dependent upon a right relationship with Him. Your doctrine is your belief about Him and how to relate to Him. Your actions and attitudes are determined by your belief, and if all three are not based on the truth of the Bible, you will be ‘against God and not for Him’ no matter what you think. To be blunt, If your doctrine is false, your faith and salvation are false, and you will go to hell.
That is why determining what the essential doctrines are is so important. Here are some quick guidelines for determining whether a doctrine is essential or not:
-) The doctrine must be rooted in Scripture. 2 Timothy 3:15-17 indicates that the scriptures contain what is sufficient for salvation as well as service. Any doctrine that comes from a source other than scripture contradicts this statement. See also Psalm 19:7.
-) The doctrine must be clear in scripture. Be aware, however, that in order to be clearly taught in the Bible, a doctrine does not have to be explicitly stated. I’ll have much more to say about that when we get to the doctrine of the Trinity.
-) The doctrine must support or complement other essential doctrines. God is a Being of order and clarity; in a matter of such importance as our eternal destiny, He will not contradict Himself.
-) The doctrine must, directly or indirectly, be a necessary truth for the Gospel to be true.
Here is a list of the essential doctrines of the faith:
1. The infallibility of the Bible in the original manuscripts.
2. God’s sovereign rule over all creation
3. Human depravity
4. The necessity of God’s grace
5. The virgin birth
6. Christ’s sinlessness
7. The full humanity and deity of Christ
8. The atoning death, burial, and resurrection of Christ
9. The triunity of God
10. The necessity of faith
11. Christ’s second coming, final judgement and reign.
Deny the truth of any of these basic doctrines, and you cannot truthfully be considered a follower of Christ.
Before I launch into a look at essential belief #1, I need to clarify that Iwill not be presenting evidence for the truth of the claim – I’ve already presented some in the Signposts series – I’m only showing how this doctrine must be true for the Gospel to be true. So, let’s take a look at truth #1 – The infallibility of the Bible in the original manuscripts.
I’m surprised at the number of people who almost in the same breath claim that they are disciples of Christ, yet deny the infallibility of Scripture. To me, the the impossibility of one without the other is obvious.
If the written Word of God (the Bible) is not accurate in every respect, then either God fallible or untruthful. If this is so, then the claims of Christ are of no meaning. Every doctrine, every belief, every moral, spiritual, or temporal teaching or commandment of the Christian faith is derived from the written Word of the Living God. Morever, 2 Timothy 3:16 clearly states that all scripture is ‘God-breathed’ (inspired by God); this truth is central to all other Christian doctrine. Either the Bible is indeed accurate and reliable, or there is no eternally relevant truth in it.
You cannot fully trust in what you do not believe is true. Therefore, if the Bible is not infallible in the original text, it should not be believed. If it is infallible, it MUST be believed – or face the horrible consequences of unbelief. It really is that simple.
Now, having said that, I will be quick to point out that the majority of the ‘but the Bible has a lot of mistakes’ argument can be refuted by this article on the Old Testament reliability and this one on the New. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t forget to leave a comment.
Next article: God and Creation