Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Proximity and Priority

This post is a quick addendum to this earlier post. A friend of mine suggested that I make a point that was implicit in the earlier post a bit more explicit by, well, explicating a bit.

Specifically, the implicit point was this: I categorize doctrines into groups by importance. Perhaps that sounds bad to some of you; maybe you'll forgive me if I humbly suggest that you do it too. For instance, if someone came up to you with a gun, pointed it at your head and said, "Admit the possibility that the rapture may happen at the end of the tribulation rather than the beginning or the middle, or I will shoot you in the head." — would you cry as Patrick Henry did, "Give me premillenialism, or give me death!" or would you simply admit the possibility? I would do the latter because, on that particular doctrinal question, I'm not particularly sold either way and, more importantly, I don't think it affects whether or not you are a Christian.

Basically, I break my categories down like this:
  • Doctrines that indicate whether or not you are a Christian: doctrines in this category are pretty vital, and include things like God is Trinity, Jesus Christ is fully man and fully Divine, salvation is by faith alone, the authority of Scripture, etc.. If you and I disagree on doctrines in this category, then you and I do not worship the same God, and if you and I do not worship the same God, then we are not both Christians: we need to sit down and have a conversation.

  • Doctrines that indicate which church you should go to: these are doctrines like Calvinism, infant baptism, church government and the role of women in ministry. They are important to a lot of people and if you have a strong disagreement with a particular church on one of these issues, perhaps you should join a different church — none of the doctrines I place in this category affect whether or not you are a Christian.

  • Doctrines that indicate whether you are trying too hard: I hesitate to call these doctrines, but I will for the sake of consistency. Doctrines falling into this category include __millenialism, styles of music, and flavors of fried chicken (if you're a Baptist). If you get into an argument about any of these issues, then you're probably in sore need of a vacation.

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4 Comments:

Blogger Bingham said...

Hopefully I will get a vacation before having to take a shot in the head.

This may sound nitpicky but your statement (one of us may not be a Christian) makes it sound like there is a possibility you might not be one. What is wrong with saying that you are right about salvation because you believe what God says about it? What is wrong with saying that if a person disagrees with God on salvation then they are wrong and not a Christian and on their way to hell? That is the very conclusion that is come to just prior to realizing the need for salvation. So why not say it? Why are feelings so often tiptoed around when eternity is at stake?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008 2:19:00 AM  
Blogger treeinforest said...

I edited my post a bit to make my intended meaning a little clearer, but I'm going to answer your question here.

There's nothing wrong with being forthright with a person who holds to wrong beliefs about doctrines that affect salvation, as long as it is done with love and respect. However, I much prefer to start by having a conversation in which I do not back down on things I know to be true according to Scripture, rather than to start by drawing (and speaking) conclusions about the salvation of someone who claims to be a Christian, though perhaps that's not what you meant.

Here's the reason: I think it's quite possible for someone who is in fact saved to be mistaken about a doctrine in that category, particularly a new believer.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008 7:25:00 AM  
Blogger The Blossers said...

Helpful post. Thanks Jon.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008 10:53:00 PM  
Blogger cate mcmillan said...

flavors of fried chicken??

i may have been gone awhile, but doesn't it just taste like chicken?

Saturday, September 20, 2008 8:39:00 PM  

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