In this week’s episode of the Ask Me Anything Podcast, Pastor J.D. answers a question from a listener about how important it is that someone’s doctrine be correct, and whether it’s worth confronting friends or family about.
- We’ve talked before about separating out doctrinal issues by order of importance, but I want to hone in on that to answer this question.
- An Australian theologian named Michael Bird identified three levels of beliefs in the church—I’ve found this really helpful:
- Category (1) Matters essential for salvation. (think: the doctrine of Christ, the way of salvation)
- Category (2) Matters that are important to the faith and the integrity of the church. Though not necessarily essential for salvation like category 1 issues (think: inerrancy of the Bible; our understanding of sexual morality and gender and marriage, which are very serious issues.) Categories 1 and 2 are things Paul would tell us to divide over. (By the way, what to believe about items in these 2 categories are almost always spelled out clearly in Scripture)
- Category (3) Matters of indifference. These are debatable things, preferences, convictions about the best application of Christian principles, and political philosophies. We’re not saying there is no right and wrong in this category, just the importance of agreement in these things does not rise to a category 1 or 2 level. Paul refers to this as “disputed matters.”
- So to your question about when to approach someone on these issues, I think it’s always fair to have discussion about theological differences. This can help you catch onto the other person’s point of view while explaining yours.
- But I definitely think it’s important to talk about first-order issues with friends and family who claim to be believers. In fact, that’s the most loving thing you could do. Because while it feels good to claim to be a Christian and to not have to believe any of the hard teachings, that’s a false sense of security and it is out of a place of love.
And that gets to the how question: you should always do this out of a place of love for the other person, you should always do it respectfully, you should always let them present their point of view… but you should also be clear about what Scripture says.
Pastor J.D. referenced an article by Justin Taylor, linked HERE.
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