None of us will arrive at a perfect theology in this life, for we are all in a learning and growing process. Some
of the views of God we hold so tightly to now will be altered or abandoned. Other beliefs we have of God will simply
be strengthened and secured in our coming years of study. And we must also be honest and admit that there are things
we will never understand about the Lord.
In our study, we must distinguish between essential doctrines, important doctrines, and opinions.
Essentials of faith are issues that believers in Christ must agree upon in order to be saved. This category
would include the resurrection of Jesus Christ, salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, and the
sinfulness of all people. Some issues in this category might not be addressed at the time of one's salvation (ie. the
Trinity), but ulimately must be accepted in order for that person to be considered orthodox (holding a correct
view of the essentials of faith).
Important doctrines, while they don't necessarily infringe upon the truth of the gospel message, are seen
as implicit affirmation or denial of Scripture's teaching. Examples of this category includes the inspiration and
authority of the Bible or the permanence or loss of one's salvation.
Opinions are all other issues. Issues in this category include the style of church music, what Bible
translation to use, or a listing of the specific details of the end times.
All three of these distinctions must be kept in their proper place, for two extreme positions
are sometimes taken. The first is to treat the essentials of faith as a matter of one's opinion. This is often the
characteristic of liberal theologies. The second is to elevate our opinions so high that they are seen as the
essentials of Christianity. This is similar to what the Pharisees did in Jesus' day. We would do well to listen to
the advice of Augustine who once said, In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity.