As I was thinking about how to launch this series, it occurred to me that I should be very clear to state that doctrine (what you believe) does matter. The “the Gospel…and” ideals of legalistic fundamentalism are upsetting, but I actually see red when I come across those who play fast and loose with the tenets of the faith, “the Gospel…minus.” I simply don’t understand how a person can claim to be a Christian, but deny the literal Resurrection (kind of a major feature in the faith). Or deny that Jesus explicitly identified Himself as God (see pretty much the entire book of John, large chunks in the other Gospels, the Epistles, Revelation…you know, the entire New Testament). Or deny the reliability of the Bible (“I’m a Christian but I don’t believe the Bible” is entirely contradictory).
In case that opening paragraph doesn’t spell it out for you, let me be explicit: I hold to conservative, evangelical doctrine. If you think that means I vote Republican, am complementarian to the nth degree, hate music, movies, and culture of any sort, shun any translation that isn’t King James, avoid make-up or fashion and am, in general, a Debbie Downer total party-killer, then this series is just for you! Being doctrinally conservative doesn’t mean any of that. It does, broadly, center on:
* Biblicism, a particular regard for the Bible (e.g. all essential spiritual truth is to be found in its pages)
* Crucicentrism, a focus on the atoning work of Christ on the cross
* Conversionism, the belief that human beings need to be converted
* Activism, the belief that the gospel needs to be expressed in effort – What, Exactly, is Evangelical Christianity?
A Christian should have a high view of Scripture without getting wrapped up in things like numbers of soldiers in lists or whether or not the 6 days of creation were literal, 24-hour days (more on that later). Nature directs us to the existence of God (Romans 1) and the Holy Spirit most definitely and actively speaks to people (John 16:5-15), but it is the Bible, with its narratives, poetry, wisdom, allegories, letters and apocalyptic portions that reveals what may be intimately known of God. Its depths can never be plumbed.
A Christian owes her life to the work of Christ in the Atonement.
A Christian knows what his life was before conversion, before bowing in repentance and submission to the Lord. He wants other people to know his experience.
A Christian sees the brokenness of this world and reacts to it with the compassion of God. She reaches out to work for justice.
Breaking down those categories further would take years and more posts than you could possibly want to read on the subject. Yet it is important to distill some points and define just what it is that a Christians have historically believed:
– GOD –
There is only one God
God is Trinity; Father, Son, Holy Spirit (a mystery)
God is omniscient (all-knowing)
God is omnipotent (all-powerful)
God is omnipresent (everywhere)
God is righteous (holy)
God is spirit (no body)
God is the creator of everything that exists
God is infinite and eternal
God is immutable (unchanging)
– HUMANITY –
Man was created by God in the image of God
– SIN –
Sin is to break the rules as defined by God, whether recklessly or unknowingly
All people have sinned
Death came into the world through Adam’s sin
Sin separates us from God
– EVIL –
Satan is real, but he is not the equal of God
Satan and his cohorts, all fallen angels, work to bring chaos and destruction to the world
– ATONEMENT –
Jesus is fully God and fully man (hypostatic union)
Jesus was born of a virgin, Mary
Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life
Jesus died for the sins of each and every person in the world
Jesus’ death was a substitutionary sacrifice (in our place/for us)
Jesus resurrected from the dead in physical form
Salvation is a free gift of God (we cannot earn it)
The Holy Spirit lives in those who accept Christ as Lord and Savior
– ETERNITY –
Those who reject Jesus Christ will go to Hell
Those who accept Jesus Christ will live forever with Him
– BIBLE –
The Bible is the inspired Word of God
– LAST THINGS –
Jesus will return to the earth
There will be a final judgment
God will create a new heaven and a new earth
The lovely thing about these points is that they provide the believer with structure and room to question. Jesus will return, but what will that look like? How did God inspire the authors of the Bible? Two people can both be sincere, orthodox Christians and have disagreements within these boundaries. What cannot be disagreed on are the boundaries themselves. Boundaries are fences; they create division.
One cannot be both within and without the fence.
For all the posts in the Not the Fundamentals series, go here.