Afternoon, from my sunny corner of the world. I had planned on my next blog piece being on the late, great Billy Graham, but its taking me longer than planned to formulate my thoughts on the tougher aspects of the piece. So I’m side-stepping that one for a moment. It occurred to me that before I go examining all the finer points of faith and doctrine (my current, nerdy fascination, but I’m owning it because I love this stuff), its a good thing to put out there what the non-negotiables are for me.
Christianity has varied streams. So many denominations, movements, and phases have made up, and continue to make up, the church worldwide. Some of them are pure, wonderful and a delight to be part of. Others, there in our imperfect history, are a little darker.
In this mixed bunch, there are a lot of big and small doctrines that are fun to examine, look at and talk over. Some of them are straight forward. There are others that I simply don’t know what I think about. (I.e. Predestination. The case for and the case against both seem strong. Eeek! The book of Revelation and end times theory = scary!) Still fun to examine I guess, but a little trickier for me.
But there are some things that you can’t shake me on and I reckon they’re a great starting point as I go on this journey (along with those reading! A far bigger number than I expected on month one – thanks/wow).
These are the hills I’ll die on, if you like. I’m not even going to attempt to explain them in one blog post, because each topic is huge. But these are the things that make me a Christian, the things upon which I believe most if not all of us can agree.
- The Trinity: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
- Jesus as the son of God
- The Holy Spirit as our helper and counsellor
- Jesus death and resurrection for the atonement of sins and reconciliation with God
- Full emersion water baptism
- Baptism in the Holy Spirit
- Salvation by grace through faith and not of works
- Salvation by repentance from sin, and only through Jesus Christ
- Eternal life(i.e. life after death, and its two big divisions there. That both start with H. And one is scarier than the other)
- God as the ultimate judge
These are my big ticket items – the non-negotiables. There are some where I think it’s ok to agree-to-disagree. For example, praying in tongues. Some people believe every Christian should do it and do it a lot. Others believe it should only happen by inspiration and with interpretation. Both theories have strong biblical roots.
Why examine the rest? Because of 1 Timothy 4:1: “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons.”
That sounds kinda heavy to me. So I’d rather not “give heed to the doctrines of demons.” I don’t, for one second, think God demands perfection of us. If He did, Jesus wouldn’t have stood in our place as the ultimate sacrifice. I believe there are things in the Bible that could be argued biblically from two different vantage points and both could sound true. For those things, I don’t think anyone risks eternal damnation if their interpretation differs from that of another Christian.
But I do believe that a responsible faith is one that is deeply personal, well-examined, and well-informed. I do believe that there is a way to live out faith in the modern era in a way that is compassionate to the broken world around us while still being right in the eyes of God. I’ll screw up. So will you. We all will. But if we dedicate ourselves to a life of getting to know God better, then our world will be a better place.
I’ll be back next week with the Billy Graham post – what he’d do differently and why we should listen.
Thanks for reading! Have a fab weekend.