Controversy and three levels of doctrine
Ed Stetzer has given us a grid for three levels of theology. It’s simple but I think it’s helpful in deciding what’s worth fighting over when it comes to theology:
- Essential Matters – These are areas like the authority of Scripture, the deity of Christ, the atonement, and the gospel. Lose these and we lose the faith.
- Convictional Matters – These are still important, and include ares of theology like baptism and church polity. We can still cooperate with each other, even though some of the convictions may limit the amount of cooperation at a practical level. These are worth discussing, but we don’t fight over these like we do essential matters.
- Preferential Matters – These are minor and not worth fighting over at all.
Ed says that the problem with fundamentalists is that everything becomes an essential, so we end up fighting about everything. That’s clearly something we need to avoid, yet I think it happens more often than we’d like.
The other problem, though, is more common. Ed said that convictions still matter. If convictions don’t matter, soon nothing matters.
This is so simple, yet I’ve found it really helpful. Theology seems to be discussed between people who think everything is worth fighting over, and others who think that nothing is worth fighting for. Some things are worth fighting for, but the trick seems to be distinguishing between these three levels.
Thoughts? A bit more to come on this tomorrow.