Mark Dever has an excellent article in the most recent 9Marks e-Journal about cooperation, unity and love within the visible church as it relates to doctrinal matters and distinctions. The question is: What doctrines/beliefs are critical to biblical health and therefore the integrity of these doctrines/beliefs must be preserved at all costs, and what matters can we agree to disagree because of lack of conclusive clarity in Scripture?

I encourage you to read the article in its entirety, but here are two issues worth noting briefly.

What Must Christians Agree On?

Believe that God is one. He is Triune – Father, Son and Spirit. He is uncreated, eternal and self-existent. He is characterized by holiness, righteousness, love, justice, mercy, judgment, compassion and more. He alone is worthy of our worship. He only is our Savior (Isaiah 43:11). Belief in God entails much more than acknowledgement. It means seeking and pursuing the character and values of God as revealed in Scripture. It means treasuring the things that God treasures, valuing the things that God values.

Believe that the Bible is God’s Truth. We know God because he has revealed himself. He has revealed himself primarily through his incarnate Son Jesus Christ and his Word. Becauase the Bible is God’s Word is has authority in our lives. The Scriptures are the voice of God recorded for our obedience (John 10:4).

Believe in the Gospel. This is the good news that Jesus is the eternal Son of God. This includes Jesus’ essential personhood within the Trinity, the incarnation, the substituionary death of Jesus, his propitiating work on behalf of believing sinners, his resurrection and his bodily return in glory. The Gospel is of first importance (1Cor 15:1-4).

How Can You Tell If A Doctrine Is Important Enough To Seek Agreement Upon?

  • How clear is the doctrine in Scripture?
  • How clear do others think it is in Scripture (especially trusted and respected teachers of God’s Word)?
  • How near is the doctrine (or its implications) to the gospel itself?
  • What would be the practical or doctrinal effects of allowing disagreement in this area?

I found this article to be a helpful resource in figuring out how to discuss doctrinal issues within an increasingly pluralistic, inclusive, ecumenically sensitive church culture.