“In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, charity. In all things, Jesus Christ.” -Augustine
I still remember my conversation with the young adult in Chicago. He was upset, again, about an issue at the church where I was serving as an Associate Pastor. This is a true story but for the sake of anonymity we will call this guy “Mark.” Mark never seemed to be happy with the church regarding what they were doing or teaching.
I explained to Mark that the there are core doctrines that we need to be unified on and then there are going to be tons of doctrine that we can disagree on and that is totally OK.
Al Mohler defines defines essential doctrinal beliefs like this, “First-level theological issues would include those doctrines most central and essential to the Christian faith. Included among these most crucial doctrines would be doctrines such as the Trinity, the full deity and humanity of Jesus Christ, justification by faith, and the authority of Scripture.”
I now realize, sadly, that there are people like Mark who are going to bounce around from church to church because they are elevating their pet doctrines to a place of importance that they do not belong.
Dan Delzell defines pet doctrines like this, “A “pet doctrine” is a doctrine in this gray area that is being pushed, and driven, and promoted to such an extent that it starts to dominate the discussion. It also has a way of dividing believers. If nothing else, it creates a niche where some Christians decide to “rally the troops” around their pet doctrines. Oh they would probably say they are “Gospel-driven” rather than “pet-doctrine driven,” but their actions regularly belie their declared intent.”
I hope I was led by the Spirit when I asked Mark this, “Do you realize that you are probably going to have to find a group of 20 people who believe exactly like you do and that is about as big as your fellowship will ever get?” It makes me wonder, how much damage has been done by Christians who take secondary doctrinal beliefs and shun others who disagree with them?
John Walton was my professor when I was at Moody Bible Institute and I still remember him saying that we always need to be ready to learn something new every time we open up God’s Word. This kind of attitude means we are open, humble, teachable and recognize that we don’t have all the answers. I pray to God that this describes the kind of man I am.
Let’s focus on the essentials. Extend grace on the non-essentials. And let’s get busy making disciples of Jesus Christ.
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