Essentials of Christianity Part 1

What is Christianity? It is one of those subjects that mean many things to many people. First and foremost, Christianity proper is a collection of theological doctrines and beliefs, which claim to teach the truth about God, man, sin, salvation, and the afterlife. These theological doctrines and beliefs are contained within the bible, which Christianity affirms as its authoritative source of trustworthy information on these and other subjects. Making the case for the inerrancy, divine inspiration, early dating, or authorship of the bible is beyond the scope of this treatment. What I want to focus on is the passages which encompass those doctrines and beliefs the scriptures themselves claim are necessary beliefs.

Clarification of what is essential and non-essential is very important. There are sects within the community which claim the name of Christianity who elevate principles to the level of necessary which are not, or deny the truth or significance of doctrines which must be affirmed. There is room for divergence on non-essential doctrines; this is testified to in Romans chapter 14, and helps to account for the many denominations within Christianity. An essential doctrine of belief is one which, if denied, excludes one from being a true Christian. Essential beliefs are said to be required of the believer by the bible, not by a particular church, theologian, or blog author. The essential doctrines and beliefs which will be covered are not essential because I believe they are, but that the bible uses ‘must believe this’ type language when the topics are discussed.

There seem also to be doctrines which are secondarily in nature essential. By which I mean there is no explicitly expressed necessity to accept as true, but the denial of which seem to be in contradiction of the teaching of the bible, and are not associated with a consequence. For example, denial of the virgin birth of Christ. There is no explicit language requiring the belief of the virgin birth, nonetheless denial of it undermines the incarnation; that Jesus is God in flesh, additionally undermining (John 8:24).

Non-essential doctrines and beliefs serve to undermine no essential doctrine; their denial comes with no consequence, and no command to adhere to them. Freedom in these areas is acknowledged by the Apostle Paul in Romans chapter 14, along with a brief and incomplete list of non-essential doctrines which were common in the early formation of the Christian church. Other examples of non-essential doctrines include: inerrancy of the bible, methods of baptism, and frequency of communion.

Briefly, there are five doctrines which require affirmation in order to be a Christian. They are: monotheism, the deity of Jesus of Nazareth, the physical resurrection of Jesus, salvation by grace alone, and finally, the gospel. These areas will be investigated in part two of this article. I would like to do justice to the subjects themselves to provide as much useful information possible.

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