In the last post we proposed several principles that together were called the agile manifesto for doctrine and theology. The first principle was: focus on the essentials of the faith over the non-essentials.
This of course opens up a number of questions. Is dividing doctrine into essentials and non-essentials a valid pursuit? If it is then which doctrines are essential? How do we go about figuring out what is and what is not essential?
The doctrines that one adds (or does not add) to their list of essentials can be very subjective. I have recently taught a class on discerning doctrine and we wrestled with these ideas. Much of my thinking on essentials has been shaped by reading Scripture, reading the extant writings of the early church, and reading a series of posts over at the Parchment and Pen, particularly the Essentials in a Nutshell (which also was described here and here).
Fundamentals of the Faith
When wrestling with which doctrines are essential the first thing we need to do is define what an essential doctrine is. What I mean when I use the term essential doctrine are those truths that define Christianity. Without holding these doctrines as true a person could not be saved. The essential doctrines should unite all Christians. They should also divide Christians from non-Christians. Continue reading