Pastor's Blog

Pastor's Note - October 27

In the sermon last week, I talked about theological triage, and the importance of categorizing Christian doctrines into greater or lesser importance. Not all matters of theology are as crucial as others. “First order” doctrines are truths that you should die for. They are the doctrines that determine Christian orthodoxy; the things we die on a hill for; the things that are essential to the Christian faith. I would list things like the deity of Christ, the humanity of Christ, the Trinity, the virgin birth, the bodily resurrection of Christ, the future return of Christ, the authority of Scripture, and justification by faith as first order doctrines (to name a few). “Second order” doctrines are those that don’t determine Christian orthodoxy, but might keep people from worshiping together in a local body, as disagreeing on these issues would make it difficult to do church together. These aren’t “die for” issues, but they may be “divide for” issues, and they might include things like infant baptism and egalitarianism vs. complementarianism. “Third order” issues are those that shouldn’t keep you from doing church together, but should make for good, even fun, debates within the church. These might be things like Arminianism vs. Calvinism, the nature of the millennial reign of Christ, or the age of the earth. What about the use of spiritual gifts? As I mentioned on Sunday, this should probably be a third order issue. However, third order issues can become second order issues pretty quickly, depending on how they are emphasized or practiced. For example, if someone says that tongues are required as evidence of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling, then what should be  a third order issue becomes a second order issue, as it would be pretty hard to do church together if you disagree on that topic! There will be variety in how we do our triage, but I still think it’s a helpful exercise. At the very least, it helps us recognize that there are some topics that all Christians ought to agree on, and there are others that, though important, aren’t as essential to Christian orthodoxy. How about you? What items are worth dying for, dividing for, or debating? What are your first, second, and third order doctrines?

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