A couple years ago, I experienced a crisis of faith so severe that I nearly left the Christian faith.
And the frustrating thing is,
I think it was entirely preventable.
In two sentences, here’s what happened: I had confidently lumped all kinds of questionable things into my personal “this is what you have to believe in order to be a Christian” category. But then, later, when I became more well-read and exposed to different views, my confidence in several of those secondary things began to crumble, so my faith likewise took a big hit.
Having gone through that, I’m now keen on reminding people that there are only a few crucial things we absolutely have to agree on in order to be Christian.
You know, things like the deity of Christ, the resurrection, salvation as a gift, etc. Then there are millions of other secondary things we can have different perspectives on.
But, oh! How often we mix and
confuse our own personal beliefs
with core Christian doctrines!
Whether we’re talking about politics or lifestyle choices or cultural values, the line between our opinions and the essence of Christianity gets blurred so often—and to our own detriment.
As usual, C.S. Lewis put it so well:
“We are to defend Christianity itself—the faith preached by the apostles, attested by the martyrs, embodied in the creeds, expounded by the fathers. This must be clearly distinguished from the whole of what any one of us may think about God and man. Each of us has his individual emphasis: each holds, in addition to the faith, many opinions which seem to him to be consistent with it and true and important. And so perhaps they are. But as apologists it is not our business to defend them. We are defending Christianity; not ‘my religion.’ When we mention our personal opinions we must always make quite clear the difference between them and the faith itself.”“Christian Apologetics,” by C.S. Lewis
I’m sure we can all think of people who are so ridiculously fired up about some issue that they’ve elevated their stance on it to a level of far greater importance than it needs to be.
But I’m not talking to those people—
I’m talking to you. (And to me.)
Ask yourself: which personal opinions have you allowed to reach fundamental / non-negotiable / never-ever-compromise-on-this status?
Brothers and sisters, the body of Christ is diverse. Different perspectives abound. Nuances are real. The Bible—and life itself—are complex.
- Can you enjoy fellowship with someone who’s a member of the opposite political party?
- Or with someone who holds different views on your favorite Bible doctrine?
- Or with a sibling who disagrees with you on some issue you feel passionate about?
There’s a reason Paul called us to pursue unity—not uniformity.
u·ni·ty | noun | the state of being united or joined as a whole
u·ni·form·i·ty | noun | the state of being uniform, or the same
Differences in beliefs and opinions
are necessary and healthy and good.
Yes, there are certain core Christian beliefs that should be seen as non-negotiable. That’s the main reason early Christians wrote down creeds—to spell out essential doctrines to the faith. Creeds like this one:
I believe in God, the Father almighty,The Apostles’ Creed
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
Remember—there are uncountable other issues that fall outside the bounds of fundamental beliefs. Tread those waters carefully. Treat others who disagree with you with the respect and dignity they deserve.
Above all, as C.S. Lewis reminded us,
let’s carefully delineate between central
Christian ideas and our own opinions.
If we can keep those categories separated in our minds, as they should be, then we’ll likely avoid unnecessary faith crises for ourselves—and may just prevent others from stumbling unnecessarily as well.