I put a quote on my Facebook page the other day from Scott Saul, a Pastor in Nashville Tenn. He said.....
"The more you mature, the more flexible you become ABOUT non-essentials, not less."
What does he mean non-essentials? Does this mean there are some things that don't matter in scripture? Are we to have a correct understanding of everything talked about in the bible? Is that even possible?
I remember hearing a pastor once say concerning doctrine, “You are either one-hundred percent right or one-hundred percent wrong on what you believe about something the bible says. There is no in-between and there are no gray areas. God is not confused or unsure. Why should we be?”
I think the guy was correct concerning God not being confused or unsure. But for the rest of us, well, things are a bit different as far as Paul the Apostle was concerned.
In 1 Corinthians 13:12 he clearly asserts, under inspiration I believe, that we see things [things he's writing that we now call scripture] through a glass that's rather dim at times. Peter even confessed that Paul said some things hard to understand. [11Peter 3:15-16 is in the context of Escatology and the phrase "hard to understand" is better understood "not easily grasped" I believe.]
So we wind up with people often having two extremes on some things in scripture that are, admittedly "not easily grasped" and we only know partially because of being this side of eternity.[ In eternity we WILL know as we are known, but we're not there yet are we!]
One extreme view of understanding things scriptural is held by the Fundamentalists who often draw more lines than you can count in the sand of theology all in the name of their perception of "Doctrinal Truth." Too often if you disagree with them on ANY issue of doctrine, your belief is called "sin" and you a "sinner" for holding to it. Every truth talked about in the bible is a "hill to die on."
Then there is the extreme position of the Liberals, [about scripture] who are bound and determined to erase as many lines in the sand of theology as possible in the name of their perception of "grace and love." They get just as angry as the fundamentalists only they are at the opposite extreme doctrinally. As usual, reality is somewhere in between those two extreme mindsets.
But there are some legitimate essentials that relate to "Salvation" that I believe, by their very nature, are a "hill to die on." Thus, the need for some things to be called "essentials." This means that in this context only, all other things could legitimately be called "non-essentials." So a doctrine being called a "non-essential' relates ONLY to the weightier doctrines that deal with salvation or eternal life. It DOES NOT mean "non-essentials" are unimportant or less true, when correctly understood, or are not needed for knowledge and Christian living. They are important. Just not essential for the reason stated.
What might the essentials for salvation be? In essence, if someone does not believe these things that are “essential for salvation,” they simply cannot be Christian in the true sense of the word. Here are what I see as the things I would call the "essentials."
A belief that God is real. [Hebrews 11:6] (There is no such thing as an atheistic Christian)
A belief that mankind is lost and each person is a sinner in need of God’s grace and mercy and that includes me. [1 John 1:10] ( God and man are separated)
A belief in Christ’s deity and humanity as a Person sent from God. [1 John 4:2-3: Romans 10:9] (Christ is fully God and fully man without sin.)
A belief that Christ died on the cross and rose bodily from the grave for our sins. [1 Corinthians 15:3-4] (He bridged the gap between God and man whatever one's view of the atonement)
A belief that faith in Christ and His life and death is necessary for a relationship with God. [John 3:16] (He alone is the object of our faith)
As I see it, these are the key doctrines. Without these, you simply don’t have any sense of what it means to be Christian. This is where the "exclusivity" of the gospel message cuts across the ideology of the rest of humanity and creates quite a backlash for us. But that is as it MUST be for us to present Christ for WHO He is and WHAT He has really done.
All other doctrines or beliefs can be called "non-essentials" which only means they do not relate to matters of salvation or eternal life. That doesn't mean they are unimportant. It doesn't mean they shouldn't be studied and taught as one sees and understands them. But it does mean people can understand them differently and be Christian.
Now read Scott Saul's quote again. "The more you mature, the more flexible you become ABOUT non-essentials, not less."