- Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Dear Dr. E: I have heard that one of John Wesley’s famous axioms was “In the essentials, unity; In the nonessential, liberty; In all things, charity.” I’m just curious: What do you think the essentials of the Christian faith are? — SEARCHING FOR MERE CHRISTIANITY IN SEATTLE

Dear Searching: 

First, I want to make it clear that it really doesn’t matter what I think the essentials of Christianity are. The Christian faith is not defined by any one person or denomination. Christianity is defined by the Bible, not you and not me. It has a two-thousand-year standing definition. None of us get to change it any more than we can change the law of gravity or the fact that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.

But that said, here is what I understand the Bible declares to be the essential beliefs of anyone who calls himself a Christian. 
First, I believe in the primacy of Jesus Christ, that he is the beginning and the end; the way, the Truth, and the life; the great I AM; the word made flesh and dwelling among us; that he is Emanuel – God with us. I believe Christ is my savior and my king, my Lord and my God, the Lion of Judah and the Lamb of God, my redeemer, my guide, my peace, my joy, my comfort, my life, and my light. I believe he is risen and incarnate: the second person of triune God, the alpha and omega, the lens of all learning, the Lord of my daily life. I believe that it is only through faith in Jesus Christ and by his grace, and not of my works, that I can be saved. As John Newton sang, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!”  

Second, I believe in the Bible; that it is true, not transient; that it is inspired, not constructed; that it is accurate, no relative; that it is not to be added to nor subtracted from; that it is to be hidden in my heart and proclaimed with my mouth. I believe the Bible – all of it – both the Old and New Testaments – is given by inspiration and breathed by God himself; that it is the inerrant, infallible, and authoritative written word of God that guides us in all matters of faith, learning, and living. 

Third, I believe in Truth – the Logos – the Tao – the Natural Law – the Revelation of God. I understand that there are self-evident truths that no human being can deny. I believe that such truths are revealed by God, not made up by man, and that they are objective, attainable, immutable, and constant. I believe that Truth gives salvation to the damned and freedom to the slave. I’m energized by the unapologetic pursuit of Truth. Wherever it leads, I am confident in the words, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” Freedom: the antithesis of slavery. Slavery: the unavoidable outcome of lies – Lies about who we are as people – Lies about what is right and what is wrong – Lies about man and lies about God. 

SEE ALSO: Ask Dr. E: How do we set a positive Thanksgiving tone with relatives we disagree with politically?

Fourth, I believe in practicing wisdom, in practicing what you preach. I believe we must be men and women of integrity, that we are to work out our faith with fear and trembling, not as though we have already attained all this, but we press on. I believe that if we love him, we will obey him. What good is it if we call him Lord, but do not do what he says? Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you mine by what I do. I believe in the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “Only those who believe obey, but only those who obey believe.” 

At the end of the day, Christianity is really quite simple and clear. Christians believe the Bible is the word of God, that Jesus is the Son of God, that Truth is revealed by God, and that wisdom, i.e., obedience, is demanded by God. 

What do I believe is essential? I believe in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and I’m saved!  

Lord, I believe – Help thou, my unbelief! 

If you are seeking guidance in today’s changing world, Higher Ground is there for you. Everett Piper, a Ph.D. and a former university president and radio host, takes your questions in his weekly ’Ask Dr. E’ column. If you have moral or ethical questions for which you’d like an answer, please email askeverett@washingtontimes.com and he may include it in a future column.

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