If you are a Christian then you have convictions. If you are a Christian who knows other Christians, you probably have realized that we don’t all agree on everything.
As a result, it is incumbent upon those who name Christ to consider how we engage with those who have different doctrinal foundations and ministry expressions.
The two loudest arguments we hear are those who tend to be overly critical and those who tend to be overly accepting.
On the one side, folks want to limit their full affirmation and support of a teacher and ministry to those within their “tribe” (referring to people just like them). Others, resisting this, build a big tent and welcome as many people in there as they can.
As I have thought about this more and more, I find it ironic that both sides are after the same thing: influence.
One side wants to protect people by minimizing it and others want to influence people by expanding it. It is truly fascinating to watch and observe.
Because I care about truth and influence, I have attempted to think through the issue a bit by providing some basic reminders. I realize these could be greatly expanded, but I don’t think they can be reduced.
1. Don’t elevate secondary issues, but you better not forget them.
There are primary doctrinal issues and secondary doctrinal issues. There are truths that, if we do not confess them, then we cannot be a Christian (Resurrection, Trinity, Gospel, Return of Christ, etc.).
Then there are other doctrines that, as Dr. Mohler has said, are “secondary doctrinal issues.” Some of these items may be forms of church government, age of the earth, eschatology, etc.
Good gospel-loving brothers can unite and have good fellowship together while disagreeing strongly about something like Baptism (c.f. Ligon Duncan of the PCA and Mark Dever from the SBC).
At the same time, we should not act like these things are not important. We shouldn’t feel embarrassed about our eschatological conclusions, beliefs on church polity or cessationist/continualist conclusions. If you hold these views then you have (hopefully) formed them through careful study of the Scriptures.
You make your conclusions and convictions based upon truth.
The truth, of course, should never be benched. This is my concern over the gospel-centered movement and the prevailing tolerance tide that is rolling in on the shores of younger, gospel-bumping guys like myself.
If you are embarrassed by your doctrinal convictions, and you believe that they are truth, then it is not a reach to say that once the gospel falls out of vogue then you will be ashamed of that too. Don’t think for a second that all minimization of secondary issues is solely done out of love for the gospel. There is an unhealthy amount of fear of man mixed in too. I know because I have to check myself.