Christianity: The Essentials Part 1 – The Non-essentials

I was reading an article about forgiveness today. I was inspired to do a blog about it, cause I think forgiveness is an essential that we don’t talk about much at all. But it should be! I’m an advocate of the fact that there are a few things that are completely essential in Christianity, and everything else that we put up for debate needs to be with the realisation that it’s not incredibly important to God’s Kingdom or our eternal destiny.

So I decided I should not just blog about forgiveness, but do a short series of blogs on the things I personally classify as the essentials (you can feel free to have your own list that’s different from my own). To start off this short series (after all, any list of essentials should aim to be shorter, rather than longer, without leaving out anything important. That is after all, the definition of essential), I thought I’d make a list of a few common topics that are NOT essentials. Then we have them out of the way as we head into talking about the essentials. So here it is…

Things that aren’t essential

  • How we were created. It’s important THAT we were created by God. We are His children. It’s not important how. No one’s going to hell because they believe in theistic evolution or a God-inspired big bang rather than traditional creationism or intelligent design. Creation is a common and fun topic of discussion, but make sure you don’t take it more seriously than the essentials.
  • Literal or figurative interpretation of certain questioned scriptures. Most of scripture is obviously very literal. The recorded history of Israel, the gospels, the psalms, the epistles and most of the rest of scripture is obviously unquestionably literal. Some people take passages like the book of Job or the first eleven chapters of Genesis and say “well maybe these aren’t literal”. Maybe they aren’t. Maybe they are. I’m not qualified to argue with those who have spent their lifetimes studying what makes a written text poetic or a script or a history. The essential thing is that they contain truth. Nothing in them contradicts anything about the nature of God, nor does anything in them contradict any of the truth contained elsewhere in scripture. They are truth, whether or not they are true in the sense of being factually recorded history, and this is hard for some to swallow, but it shouldn’t matter because it is not essential! Jesus told parables to make a point, and whether God also did this elsewhere in scripture is His business. It’s not particularly important for us to know. As long as we don’t throw the baby out with the bath water and start to question the whole bible.
  • Knowing how God judges those who have lived in the jungle forever without the opportunity to ever hear about Jesus is not essential. It’s important to search these people out and learn their cultures and languages and tell them about Jesus, but it’s not essential to fret about God not being big enough to know what to do with them when they die until such time as we are able to reach them.
  • Knowing why suffering occurs is not essential. In any case, we know WHY it happens. The earth has to have earthquakes, earthquakes cause tsunamis, air currents sooner or later cause tornados etc. Famine happens cause of our own greed and selfishness. We know why these things happen. Inevitably we will continue to put God on trial for it, but I fail to see why. He knows what He’s doing doesn’t He? It’s sad, but knowing why these things happen is not essential. Trusting in Him is.
  • I could go on… it’s not essential whether we play rock music or hymns in church. It’s not essential to have church services on a Sunday morning. It’s not essential to know which day is actually the sabbath, as if God cares. It’s not essential to wear your best clothes to church. All of these are either traditions or conveniences, and anyone who puts too much weight on them is going to cause themselves unnecessary stress sooner or later.

The posts to follow will be about what is essential. In my opinion anyway. I hope you agree, cause then I’ll know I’m on the right track :)

4 responses to “Christianity: The Essentials Part 1 – The Non-essentials

  1. Doubtless the new earth will be tectonically more stable, but also the building codes will probably be a lot more reliable :P

  2. All we can know for sure with suffering is that God created a very real world… I reckon you bring out a good point, Shirley, in that through wrestling with some of our questions we can come to a deeper understanding of who God is.

    But at the same time, this side of heaven we aren’t ever going to understand everything and thats where faith comes in.

    Also on a big tangent (just because I can) I don’t think that the world has to have earthquakes, at least not like some we see today. Seismic activity does need to happen but once the earth is restored I reckon moving of the plates will be a lot smoother…

  3. I don’t think that’s the kind of “why” people generally ask for. When they ask “why” something happens, they don’t want to be told that Adam and Eve disobeyed God so we live in a fallen world. They want to know “why” this particular event happened, and that’s what I was referring to in this post. But you’re quite right, life isn’t perfect and that’s essential to knowing why we need Jesus, which is why it’s going to be covered in a later post :)

  4. Great post, Josh! The point on suffering: it is not important to know why. Well, I think to some extent, it is important. Such as to know that we live in a fallen world, and therefore life isn’t perfect. And so we wait for Jesus to come again and restore everything. Sometimes knowing why there is suffering helps put things into perspective. But at the heart of it, we just want assurance that God still cares about us in the midst of suffering.

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