Skip to main content

Why it is Essential to Know the Essentials

Last week I completed the first year and first third of the total course work for the Master of Theological Studies at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Of the classes that I am taking in pursuit of this degree, all are online except one (Leadership Practicum). I will be fulfilling this requirement during a unique experience. I just completed History of Christianity I and will be taking History of Christianity II during the second term of the spring semester.
History of Christianity I covered the apostolic age through the middle ages up to the reformation. History of Christianity II will cover the reformation to the modern church age. Following that class I have been blessed to go on a trip with the seminaries Historical Theology professors (Dr. Owen Strachan, Dr. Jason G. Duesing and Jared C. Wilson) to fulfill the Leadership Practicum requirement. We will be going on a historical tour of New England; studying the reformation as it occurred in New England, as well as the gospel work going on there today. My wife will be taking part in the experience alongside me.
This recalls a concern that I have regarding historical theology. My concern regards some of the post that I have seen on social media. Social media is a strange phenomenon, because of this I have been on and off social media a few times in the past. At present, I endeavor to remain on social media in order that I might keep up with those who I know and love.
The problem that I have noticed is a tendency, by those on social media to make non-essentials an essential. I will explain by comparing two men and their beliefs; let’s call them Bill and Bob. Bill and Bob both believe that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit; one God in three persons, a Holy Trinity. Both men believe that Jesus is the God Man; fully God and fully Man except in sin. Both men believe that Jesus death on the cross was a sin sacrifice; Christ died for our sins per the scriptures. Both men believe that on the first day of the week Jesus rose bodily from the dead. Both men believe that Jesus will return and all the dead will rise to face Him in judgment; the goats to eternal punishment and the sheep to eternal life. However, the two men disagree on how to interpret Genesis 1-3. Bill believes Genesis 1-3 to be an historical narrative of creation and the fall of man. Bob believes Genesis 1-3 to be an allegorical narrative on the sovereignty of God and total inability of man. Which one of these two men’s beliefs are orthodox?                           
The correct answer throughout the history of Christianity is that both Bill and Bob’s beliefs are orthodox. A word of warning; if you chose one man’s beliefs over the other there is a chance that you are not orthodox in your beliefs. Notice that I did not ask which man was correct with regards to Genesis 1-3, nor do I endeavor to do so, but I only asked which one of these two men’s beliefs are orthodox. Orthodoxy is based on one’s beliefs regarding the essentials alone. How one interprets Genesis 1-3 is not essential to the Christian faith, it is an important discussion, but not essential to the Christian faith.
These two men can have a brotherly discussion as to why each believes his view of Genesis 1-3 is correct. The conversation must occur where both Bill and Bob affirm the other to be a Christian based on his faith in the essentials alone. They also must end the conversation on those same grounds. If at any time Bill or Bob believes the other to not be Christian, because they do not hold the same position on a tertiary belief like the question in prose, though holding to the previously mentioned essentials, he has crossed the line and is the one in need of repentance. He needs repentance, because he is adding too orthodoxy by making a non-essential an essential.
Dr. Duesing, my last instructor and provost at the seminary described seminary as formal, structured, discipleship. I have learned so much during this past year. Therefore, if you are willing, pray that I continue to grow in faith and knowledge of God, the Father, His only begotten Son Jesus Christ, and the church. May I also grow with regards to love; love both for the church and the lost. Blessings to you all in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.