I have had a whole lot of interaction lately over the difference between the central truths of the Christian faith and non-essential issues. This has really shown itself as a distinction between evangelicals and fundamentalists. I was thinking about writing a very involved post about the difference between an Evangelical Christian and a Fundamentalist Christian, but rather than do that I think that Michael Patton’s articles on the issue are far better than I can do:
(in case you didn’t realize it yet, Parchment and Pen is a great blog and you should read it!)
I have had this discussion with my students at ACU several times, and because I am teaching theology this semester I have had to reiterate the doctrinal points upon which I am staunch. They are simply the four pillars of historic orthodox Christianity (which Michael calls “traditional orthodoxy” in his post):
- The inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture
- The full humanity and full divinity of Jesus
- The Trinity
- Salvation by faith alone in Christ alone
That’s pretty much it. Other than those, I am willing to allow a lot of discussion and give each person the ability to stand before God on their own. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have positions or that I think that they are all as accurate biblically, I’m just not willing to go to war for stuff that doesn’t matter at the core of the Christian faith. Want to talk women in ministry? Sure. Charismatic gifts? No problem. End times? I have my thoughts on what the text says. None of those issues is unimportant, but they are also not so central that I am willing to split with a brother or sister in Christ over them. They are secondary.
That’s what makes me an evangelical and not a fundamentalist. I just can’t get worked up to fight over minor points of doctrine when there are sick people in the hospital to visit, families in our church who need help in their marriages and with their kids, and neighbors and friends who need to know the main stuff listed above.
How about you? What points of the Christian faith do you find important enough to dissociate from others over? How do you decide the non-negotiable from the important from the unimportant?