Essentials And Non-Essentials

The determination of the essential and non-essential doctrines of the Christian faith.

(by RandyP )

It is with great concern today that I'll discuss the determining factors evident in the modern debate over doctrine and what is termed "essential" and "non-essential" to the Christian faith. It has become an dangerous issue I feel, especially prominent in the debate between Calvinist and Arminian viewpoints; pre-determinist and freewill wranglings. For this immediate discussion however, I will not attempt to resolve such a lofty doctrinal dispute in and of itself. Instead, my hope is to raise concern over the ease at which both opposing camps seemingly write the resulting contentions off as "non-essential" to the "saving faith".

Let me begin this proposed endeavor by insisting upon the formal grounds of contending for "the faith given us once for all" as outlined by Jude:


  1. That we not bring railing accusation against each other not even towards Satan kjv@Jude:1:9
  2. That we not speak evil of things we know little of kjv@Jude:1:9
  3. That we not be simply doctrinal murmurers, complainers, walking after our own lusts; speaking great swelling words, having men's persons in admiration because of advantage kjv@Jude:1:16
  4. That all be done to build ourselves up in the most holy faith praying in the Holy Spirit kjv@Jude:1:20
  5. That we keep ourselves in the love of God looking for His eternal mercies kjv@Jude:1:21
  6. That we have the spiritual discernment of knowing whom to show sheer compassion in this regard and to whom to urgently admonish as if to pull from the fire kjv@Jude:1:22-23
  7. That in all things we not be too timid for fear of altercation to rightly contend for the faith in this outlined manner kjv@Jude:1

These things having been afore declared, let us begin our honest and mutual pursuit.

What is to be Considered "Essential/Non-Essential"?

Better yet: in terms of scripture "who are any of us to decide such"?

There is that certainly which can be agreed upon as "essential" to "saving faith". Perhaps it is best stated in either the ApostlesCreed or NiceneCreed : belief in Jesus Christ Eternal Triune Son of God made flesh, by grace given by the Father as the atoning sacrifice for sin in order to redeem fallen man, raised from the dead and ascended to the right hand throne, Lord of all sanctified creation. Saving faith is faith in this saving grace and savior. We are washed in the blood of this savior and clothed in the righteousness that only He possesses. Are we agreed?

If to say then that these elementary facts are all that essentially matter, who then is to say who this Jesus Christ actually is? What does He know? What does He see? How does He act? Why does He proceed in one direction and not the other? what amuses Him? what offends Him? what is of primary concern to Him? how do we know that it is Him and not a false Jesus that we believe ourselves to follow? why should it matter to us if nothing but a nebulous belief in Him essentially matters?

The Apostle Peter put it in terms of "Epignosis" more than once in his second epistle chapter one; the recognition and acknowledgment of God's essential character and doings. He placed it into the immediate context of being/becoming fruitful (not lacking) with the knowledge (Epignosis) of Jesus Christ. Not only were we to be of the essential "like precious" persuasion but, we were to add to it the uncommon valor of stepping further because of it out into the more distant unfamiliar reaches of the living and working deductible knowledge involved, increasingly controlled and patient by it, the godly and brotherly operations of it, feasting heavily in the divinely inspired mutual love. Not only did he put himself to the continual task of putting us into remembrance of these further productive essentials, he also declared that if we were found lacking producing them, it was because we were being shortsighted unto blindness and/or acting as if unregenerate. kjv@1Peter:1

Let us ask then where the "Church" stands in this productive regard nowadays? The determinations we often resort to are much the same as those made by many a nominal or agnostic believer: "It matters more that one believes in something than as to what specifically one believes". What we should rather be determining is how the "Church" can presume to be operating in the productive knowledge (gnosis) of the faith without first seeking out and attaining the more essential knowledge (epignosis) of it's truest vicar Jesus Christ? And by epignosis I mean the intimate recognition and acknowledgement of the more hidden more sought out/revealed to seekers only details of His essential character.

Surely you see my concern here. We can not just write off the better half of our "like precious" productive Christian walk just because the offended natural minds of our "Church" are at enmity with these associated deeper doctrines.

Are we to say that because this or another doctrine is (and has been) divisive in the "Church" it is "Non-Essential"?

Is Non-Essential to Mean of Non-Interest/Non-Productive?

In far too many cases today, Christian believers take the explanation "non-essential" to mean that either it doesn't matter else it is too lofty (heady) for the commoner to ascertain. It becomes an excuse for them not to try.

I will be the first to admit that both Spurgeon and Wesley will both be there at the chief table at the bridal banquet; both were tremendously fruitful in their walks publicly despite their mutual doctrinal impasse. What then does it matter? At the same time, I must also honestly confess that I like so many others lining the intellectual fence betwixt, have remained lacking in such similar fruit, not for the lack of gnosis as to the sides they so ardently represented but, as consequence of operating from a "non-essential" (therefore "non-interested" or "dispassionate") point of view to the further epignosis as held by many modern scholars and denomination confessionals/distinctives.

May it be said that the two great men mentioned above had been made to produce the fruit that they were able to because of the private passion of theirs to satisfy this hunger for the "Epignosis" of their true Christ. The faith and diligent determination to bask in and be in it's complete influence fueled their complimentary valor to operate in it, their gnosis of what and how to act in it, their evolving temperance and patience in seeing it come forth, the influence of it making for their godliness and kindness in the hopes of it leading them into the full circle of agape love; this can not be described as being "non-essential" for it is "essential" in every way.

And yet we today leave it at just that. It's too hard. It's too distant. It's too decisive. Smarter minds than mine.... right?

Well this is the type of "Church" one gets from that. Here it is. What you see here today all around us is what it all amounts to. It is a "Church" that is largely "non-essential". A common faith given once for all not worth the effort for contending for. A common salvation Jude would have been desirous of writing extensively about had it not been for the urgency of what other men were creeping in with unawares. Peter echoed Jude's words kjv@2Peter:2 (or did Jude echo Peter's words? regardless!).

The debate surrounding Calvinism and Arminianism brings up questions about God's divine nature and our "Epignosis" of it that no believer should be negligent of seeking out; nor should they be discouraged from seeking out to it's fullest. Questions as to who the Father/Son/Holy Spirit actually are, what they know, what they've pre-determined, what other influences they've allowed for, nature of sin itself, man's condition under sin, the extent of man's will, the natural minds reaction to God's revealed truth, the true intent and interpretation and inspiration of scripture, etc.. all these things are intended to flesh out the stick figure sketch of plain "saving faith".

Fleshing faith out into productive action has to be viewed alongside "saving faith" as most essential.

Perhaps those men that have crept in unawares are the ones sitting comfortably at our love feasts saying "believe what you wish - these heady things are non-essential". ...clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots kjv@Jude:1:12


Comments?

I will gladly post comments sent to me that intelligently add to this initial discussion from either doctrinal camp as long as they follow the guidelines for contending as posted above and add to the overall edification of our readers.


  1. That we not bring railing accusation against each other not even towards Satan kjv@Jude:1:9
  2. That we not speak evil of things we know little of kjv@Jude:1:9
  3. That we not be simply doctrinal murmurers, complainers, walking after our own lusts; speaking great swelling words, having men's persons in admiration because of advantage kjv@Jude:1:16
  4. That all be done to build ourselves up in the most holy faith praying in the Holy Spirit kjv@Jude:1:20
  5. That we keep ourselves in the love of God looking for His eternal mercies kjv@Jude:1:21
  6. That we have the spiritual discernment of knowing whom to show sheer compassion in this regard and to whom to urgently admonish as if to pull from the fire kjv@Jude:1:22-23
  7. That in all things we not be too timid for fear of altercation to rightly contend for the faith in this outlined manner kjv@Jude:1

I will not allow for this to become the typical open ended user forum that otherwise distracts the discussion into name calling and grand standing issues not related to this specific topic.

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