I have been wanting to write about theology for awhile.
I have ramped up my business postings simply because I’m working again and business has been at the forefront of my mind.
But (sorry to say, business) theology is my first love.
The conundrum that I now face after narrowing down my topic is, “What exactly do I want to write about?”
I’m sure that this is every writer’s conundrum.
I try to find the intersection between something that is educational and something that I am passionate about when blogging. I then try to articulate that lesson and my passion in one post. Sometimes I feel like I’m good at it. Other times, I don’t feel like I’m good at it.
But I digress.
The point that I’d like to make is that
“Theology is like a web. A web of beliefs.”
The most important beliefs are at the center of this web. Christians refer to them as dogmas.
Basically, a dogma is a belief that is essential for being a Christian.
An example of a Christian dogma would be the belief in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. All Christians throughout history have held this belief.
Holding a dogmatic belief is what makes a Christian a Christian!
Think of this theological web as having three circles. A circle for dogma (core beliefs). The middle circle for doctrine. Finally, the outer circle for opinions.
See the image below.
This is how we tend to construct our theology. We regulate certain beliefs to the realm of opinion, doctrine, and dogma. The beliefs that we cling tightly to as Christians tend to get placed in the center and the beliefs that we are indifferent about are placed in the outer circle of opinion.
I will give a brief definition of both a doctrine and an opinion and then I will get to the heart of this post.
The main point that I would like to talk about is that I see many Christians who complicate the Gospel and ostracize their fellow Christians because they regulate certain beliefs to the realm of dogma when it isn’t necessary to do so.
If we as Christians focus on what brings us together rather than what divides us, then I believe we can properly love one another, appreciate the differences between us, and ultimately, impact the world for Christ in a more effective and unified way.
The difference between a doctrine and a dogma is that a dogma is a required belief for a Christian and a doctrine is a required belief for specific Christian fellowship. So, one can believe in a dogma and disbelieve a certain doctrine and still be considered Christian. One cannot, however, believe in a Christian doctrine without believing in a Christian dogma. It doesn’t work like that.
Again, a dogma is an essential belief for being Christian.
Let me give you an example of the difference between dogma and doctrine.
Below is a list of the Assemblies of God essential doctrines. In order to be considered a part of the AG, one must adhere to all of these 16 fundamental truths. They are doctrines for AG fellowship.
Now, one would not call someone a non-Christian for not believing in, say, the initial physical evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Rather, that someone would just not be considered AG.
So, one can still be a Christian and not believe in a certain doctrine.
IN FACT, it doesn’t make one any less of a Christian for believing/not believing in whatever doctrine. Again, it is not the doctrine that unites the church universal. It is the dogmas that unite us.
The outer circle of the web holds Christian opinion. These are beliefs/ideas that are not necessary for being Christian or particular Christian fellowship. Christian opinions are also beliefs/ideas that are merely speculated about and do not have clear support from Scripture, tradition, reason, etc.
They are simply opinions.
An example of a Christian opinion would be holding the belief in a tripartite view of man over the bipartite view of man.
No one is going to be labeled a non-Christian because they hold one view over the other, and no one is going to be excluded from a certain denomination because they hold one view over the other.
Also, there is some evidence for both sides but honestly, Scripture doesn’t touch on this issue very much. That’s why I, and most Christians, would place this belief in the outer circle of opinion.
There is not a lot of evidence to determine if one opinion should be held over another. They are simply opinions and they should be treated as such.
They just are.
My Main Point
Now that we have covered all of those definitions, I would like to state my main point.
My main point is this… When we, as Christians, state that one needs to believe in Jesus AND adhere to another belief, we are implicitly placing that belief on par with belief in Christ and that is unbiblical.
The implied equation is this… Jesus + X = Salvation.
When it is simply… Jesus = Salvation.
“9because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.10For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”
(Romans 10:9-10, ESV)
What is the core dogma for a Christian? Believing that Jesus is the son of God and that he lived, died, and rose from the dead.
THAT IS IT.
Anything that goes beyond this, I would argue, is syncretism and a watering-down of Christ’s atoning work.
For example, I have heard a few Christians say something along the lines of, “How can someone be a Christian and also believe in abortion?”
One can be a Christian and still believe in abortion because advocating for or against abortion is not a required belief for a Christian.
It is not a dogmatic belief.
Again, the equation is not Jesus + Pro-life = Salvation.
It is simply Jesus = Salvation.
For some reason, we Christians get so passionate about our beliefs. Maybe it’s because we think about them often and do, for the most part, take our beliefs seriously.
We have to remember which beliefs are the most important though.
The most important belief is that Jesus is the son of God and that he lived, died, and rose again.
He is also coming again soon.
That belief is what unites us as Christians and that is the belief that we should focus on.
It is not Jesus + X that makes us Christian.
Having Jesus is what makes us Christian.