C Michael Patton over at Parchment & Pen, like a good coach, has come alongside us to provide several lists of essentials and non-essentials—to help us choose our battles carefully:
Essential for salvation: These are the most essential doctrines of all essentials. This includes what every Christian should always be willing to die for. In essence, if someone does not believe the doctrines that are “essential for salvation,” they are not saved.
What I include:
- Belief in God (there is no such thing as an atheistic Christian)
All issues pertaining to the person and work of Christ:
- Belief in Christ’s deity and humanity (1 John 4:2-3; Rom. 10:9)
- Belief that you are a sinner in need of God’s mercy (1 John 1:10)
- Belief that Christ died on the cross and rose bodily from the grave (1 Cor 15:3-4)
- Belief that faith in Christ is necessary (John 3:16)
Essential for historic Christian orthodoxy: These include beliefs “essential for salvation” but are broader in that they express what has been believed by the historic Christian church for the last two thousand years, no matter what tradition. This is expressed by the Vincentian Canon, “that which has been believed everywhere, always and by all.” (The exception of fringe movements does not count). Not only must the church have belief in it, but it must also explicitly have confessed its centrality (e.g., belief that Matthew wrote the book of Matthew does not, I believe, qualify here).
Some of what I include:
- The doctrine of the Trinity as expressed at Nicea
- The doctrine of the Hypostatic Union (Christ is fully man and fully God) as expressed at Chalcedon
- The belief in the future second coming of Christ
- A belief in the inspiration and authority of Scripture
- A belief in eternal punishment for the wicked
- A belief in God’s timeless existence
- Christ is the only way to salvation
I suppose no well-read or learned believer dare to challenge the first list, Essential for Salvation. But I’m not too certain about the second list, Essential for historic Christian orthodoxy, for I have in mind “A belief in eternal punishment for the wicked.”
At any rate, these two lists were drawn up by Mr. C Michael Patton (read more…).