Tuesday, February 15, 2011

5 Essential Christian Doctrines or Beliefs

There are certain core beliefs that cannot be trimmed down, short-cut, or glossed over. They are non-negotiable.  I have been thinking about this since my last post and the responses I got to it. After doing some research and some thinking I think I've come up with a pretty good answer to what those core beliefs are. A quick Google search of the terms, “core Christian beliefs” will give you web sites listing 10, 12, 25 or more beliefs. Some are statements of belief like the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed, others are lists of individual doctrines and scriptural passages that support them. I would propose that there are five core beliefs that cannot be compromised; The inerrancy of the Bible, the deity of Christ, man's sinful nature and need of salvation, Christ's death for our sins and resurrection, and that salvation is by grace through faith.

If we don't believe that the Bible is the inspired, infallible, and inerrant Word of God then we have no basis for our faith. The book we have today was written over a period of approximately 1,600 years by around 40 different people, and yet it is internally consistent. The Old Testament is extremely accurate, and the New Testament is 99% accurate. Most of the differences that make up the remaining 1% are misspellings or word order changes. Beyond that we have the record of many of those who were eyewitnesses to the events written about in the New Testament who went to their deaths proclaiming it to be true.

The fact that so many were willing to die for what they knew to be true is very strong evidence that not only has the Bible been handed down accurately, but that what is contained in it is also true. Internally the Bible has its own proofs of divine inspiration. There are about (depending on how you count) 40 Old Testament Prophesies that were fulfilled by Jesus Christ as one example. The combined proof leaves little doubt as to the inspired nature of the Bible and the truth it contains. Implicit in this belief is that no other writing has the same authority as the Bible, and no person or organization has the unique ability to interpret the Bible.

The fact that Jesus was at once fully human and also fully God is another core belief that cannot be compromised if one is to call himself a Christian. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis; you cannot say that Jesus was just a wise and moral teacher. He was either a madman or He was what He claimed to be, God. In John 8:24 Jesus says, “...if you do not believe that I am, you will die in your sins.” John also writes In Philippians 2:5-8 that Christ was both God and man. Though there are many heresies that denied that Christ was God, questioned his humanity, or some combination of these two, it is a recognized precept of Christianity that he was both God and man at the same time. Intertwined with this is the doctrine of the Trinity, or the Triune nature of God (I wont try to explain this, the provided link has a good overview).

Man is sinful and in need of salvation. The Bible says that "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) I fail to see how this can be argued with or denied, perhaps due to a lack of imagination on my part. Even neglecting to doctrine of Original Sin there is no doubt that all of us fall short. If you are in doubt, a quick read through the Sermon on the Mount should clear that up for you. Yet, there is hope because the Bible also tells us, "[T]he wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23) This leads nicely into the next core belief.

Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, lived for about 33 years, was crucified under Pontius Pilot, died and was buried, and rose bodily from the grave and ascended into Heaven where He is seated at the right hand of God, and he will return to Earth one day. This is attested to by all four Gospels and also, in whole or part, by near contemporary non-believers such as Flavius Josephus and many other sources. While none of these non-Biblical sources gives a complete history or understanding of the life of Christ this should not be a surprise. A small religious sect in a backwater of the Roman Empire would hardly rate much mention at the time. The fact that there is any mention in these remaining writings is significant.

Beyond the historicity of Christ and the factual events, the meaning of those events is also vital for Christians to believe. His death was the penultimate sacrifice to atone for our sins. He died the death that we all deserve for our sins, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24) Christ’s death was payment for our sin, in advance.

Salvation is by grace through faith alone. Paul writes in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast." He also writes in Romans 10:9 that if someone will say, “Jesus is Lord”, and they believe that God raised Him from the dead they would be saved. Paul took this right from Jesus’ own words(see cross reference). We cannot be good enough nor do enough “right” things to save ourselves. (Romans 3:20, 28)

I think that I have covered the minimum set of beliefs that almost every Christian denomination would require a person to understand and agree with. I have no theological training whatsoever, so, as an amateur I welcome comments, complaints, and constructive criticism. 

* Edits in bold 


  1. I think that's a good summary- I'm guessing you're including the virgin birth under Christ's deity, since they're inextricably linked. I'd probably want to make it sure it was mentioned though, because it's one of the fundamentals that is strongly attacked these days.
    Also, I think the second coming of Christ should be in there as well- if I remember right, it has historically been named as one of the non-negotiable fundamentals. Obviously there's debate as to specifics, but the fact that Christ is returning is taught throughout the NT as essential to how we live our lives now.
    thanks for taking the time to think through this- you covered it well.

  2. Thank you. Thanks for bringing those two items to my attention. I found it very hard not to go too deep into each of these topics in my attempt at keeping it basic. But, yes, I will edit to add the virgin birth and second coming.

  3. friends share christ, thoes follow in his foot steps. live as he did, love as he did, i will wake with you.

  4. Very true Roy, a very high standard to live up to.

  5. These are definitely core beliefs to Christianity. Your post is well thought out, clear, and concise. Many folks I have met through the years don't take time to think out the essentials, rather they just accept what a teacher/pastor tells them on Sundays. It's encouraging when I see other Christians actively pursuing a stronger understanding of Christianity and the Bible. I have just recently started blogging and I'm looking for blogs to follow and friends to read my own. If you are interested, drop by and leave a comment.