The Heart of the Matter

Concentric Circles of Importance

Concentric Circles of Importance

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34-35

“..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.” – Romans 10:9

I am convinced that we – as Christians – make the central nucleus of theology far too complicated. The fact that we have many churches, and that they – most often purposefully – do not “get along”, is proof enough of this.

The verse in Romans above sums up the critical things needed for salvation, and the body of Christ is all those who are “in Him”. Would we not be better served to unite around these simple, joyful, things rather than concentrating on the beliefs where we are different? Keep the necessary core (salvation), and embrace each other in Christian love (as Christ commanded) and see what happens in the body of Christ.

At our Thursday evening Men’s Bible Study this week, I drew the circles you see in the graphic above, and printed out 50 or 60 Christian beliefs and doctrines on pieces of paper. We each took 5 or 6 of these and took turns around the table placing them in the circle where we felt they belonged, having discussions on several (most). This was an invigorating exercise and promoted a lot of discussion and thought around central tenets of the faith.. very heady and healthy stuff. We should know why we believe what we believe.

Here is the way I described the circles:

Essential for Salvation: These are the things that are – without question – required to become saved, according to Scripture. Hint: The verse from RomansĀ  above sums it up fairly well.

Essential for Orthodoxy: These are the well-accepted beliefs of the Christian church. Think of these as the beliefs that one might hold in order to hold office in their local church. I am aware that churches have differing views of “orthodoxy”, but 80% – 90% of beliefs that end up in this circle are commonly accepted by Christian churches.

Important but not Essential: These are beliefs that a Christian really should hold (because they have a good base in Scripture) but they are not required for orthodoxy.

Not Important: These are beliefs that may or may not be common and have little bearing on Christian life and walk.

Pure Speculation: These are things that we think up and are not generally refuted by Scripture but certainly have no Scriptural base.

I would urge each reader of this post to think about each of the beliefs I’ve listed below, and think about where you would place them on the continuum of importance, and why. Don’t complicate the center circle with your current understanding of theology, with personal bias, or with the way you were raised; look at Scripture, study, and then – perhaps – move your beliefs in accordance with what you find.

  • God is perfect
  • God is omnipotent
  • God is omnipresent
  • There is only one God
  • Trinity (three in one)
  • God is sovereign
  • God has always existed
  • Christ was 100% man
  • Christ is 100% God
  • Christ came to earth
  • Christ was born of a virgin
  • Christ died
  • Christ descended into Hades
  • Christ was raised from the dead
  • Christ ascended
  • Christ will judge the living and the dead
  • We cannot earn salvation
  • We will be resurrected in the body
  • Existence of free will
  • Sin separates us from God
  • Sin came into the world through Adam (and Eve)
  • Christ will return to take us home
  • We are all sinners, in birth and action
  • We should attend church regularly
  • We should express love one to the other
  • Baptism
  • Communion
  • Existence of Paradise (where saints go when they die)
  • Hades (where non-saints go when they die)
  • Hell (the ultimate end of unsaved sinners)
  • Heaven (where God and Christ are and where we will someday be)
  • Living a good life
  • Bible is inerrant in the original language
  • Bible is inspired by God
  • Avoid divorce
  • Be a virgin when you marry
  • Temperance in the body
  • Demons exist and are numerous
  • Spiritual warfare happens
  • Role of women in the church
  • Necessity of prayer
  • Necessity of Bible study
This entry was posted on Friday, March 13th, 2009 at 21:20 and is filed under Men's Ministry, Theology. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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