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Can doctrine become a stumbling block to your faith?

“There is no defense against criticism except obscurity.”  – Joseph Addison

With at least 38,000 Christian denominations worldwide do you think there are some significant differences of opinion on a wide range of doctrinal topics?

Does a 10 lb. bag of flour make a really big biscuit? Is the Pope Catholic? Do one legged ducks swim in circles? Does Windows have bugs? Did Clinton have sex with that woman? Do Bears….. howl in the woods? Is Ed “Too Tall” Jones too tall?

Clearly there are essential beliefs that define and unite those committed to the Lordship of Christ and the truth of The Gospel. Those truths are so core that to not believe them is to posture one’s self outside the circle of Christianity.

In addition to these essential beliefsare lesser issues or nonessential beliefs that believers may differ on. As the thousands of Protestant denominations attest, there are many… literally thousands of issues that Christians disagree on. Most of these are non-essential areas of belief and practice (important, passionately held convictions… but not definitively essential to the Christian faith such as the sequence of events preceding the Return of the Lord, the age of the earth, the role of women in the church, baptismal preferences, a wide range of life style issues, style of worship music, many political positions, etc.).

Differences among Christians have always existed; however, most Christians ascribe to the maxim: ”in essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things charity.”  Or as Paul put it,

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. – Paul, Ephesians 4: 2-3.

But some Christians don’t ascribe to that maxim.

A passionate man writes me wanting to know Ransomed Heart’s doctrinal position on….. so and so. He writes that, while he would like to attend one of our conferences, he will not give his time or money to any organization that doesn’t believe… so and so.

Now, I genuinely respect a person’s convictions and passions. Some would criticize me for being too gracious, and while cheering on the diligent study of God’s Word and the formation of a Biblical Worldview/theology, I can get ruffled over the arrogance, mulish pharisaic spirit and the unloving posture some of us take over issues that are nowhere near the orbit of Christianity’s essential/core beliefs. (Note… I once was that guy!)

I respond to his “concern” in trademark kindness and patience receiving an immediate curt reply from him rebuking my heretical minimizing of this issue.

Breathe deep; come God… forgiveness, mercy, patience and humility fill me.

Are there really thousands of essential… cardinal beliefs we must hold to hope for the salvation of God or to bear the mark “Christian”?

Is it hundreds of non-negotiable doctrinal positions we must hold to? Is it scores of doctrines that, if not ascribed to, justify the hatred, cursing and judging of another under the guise of pursuing doctrinal purity?

I think not. I think there are far less than many of us propose. The Apostles Creed or The Nicene Creed refer to relatively few... each essential, each to be held to passionately and defended vigorously, but in total, few in number.

”In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things charity.”

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