Recently, Bill Gates' "Common Core" program for U.S. Education faced massive opposition. The Christian common core of the gospel has faced massive opposition over the centuries, but has stood the test of time. It's important to understand that there is common ground on the rock of truth in Christian theology that overlaps doctrinal differences. This underscores our common basis for fellowship and community within the universal Christian Church at large. On the other hand, promoting false teaching on core issues is labeled as heretical and unacceptable according to scripture.
If you are familiar with the teachings of pastor Rob Bell and his book, “Love Wins” - then you are probably aware of his promotion of universal salvation for all people. Rob Bell teaches that there ultimately is no eternal punishment for those who reject Christ, but that all people are eventually welcomed into heaven by God's grace. His belief that, "We can have all the hell we want.” - doesn't really mesh with scripture. Based on Bell's example, it is fairly obvious that accepting God as a gracious being is not enough to establish practical common ground for us as Christians, that is, if you believe that doctrines repeated throughout the Bible form the basis of the Christian faith.
So, what is the true common core basis of Christianity? While there is a lot of “liberal theology” today, most Christian scholars who regard scripture as the most dependable and accurate basis of spiritual truth would agree with the following list:
List of Core Essentials of The Christian Faith
1. The Divinity of Jesus Christ
2. The Resurrection of Christ
3. Salvation in Christ Alone
4. Salvation by Grace
5. The Gospel
6. The Trinity
7. The Virgin Birth
The biblical “gospel” is an essential component of the Christian faith. And this concept includes a number of sub-themes, including the roles of baptism and original sin in the concept of salvation. Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox believers presently adhere to the above list of basic points, with some minor exceptions here and there. Catholics and Orthodox leaders believe that true salvation is only possible through affiliation within their organization, but salvation in scripture is defined more as a matter or personal faith, as Luther emphasized. Extra-biblical ideas in Catholicism and Orthodoxy, however, do not qualify these as cults.
Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons and other identified cults do not accept and oppose a number of points from the above list of basic points and, therefore, they are defined as non-Christian cults by Christian denominations. While there is not 100% full agreement on how grace is realized in salvation, such as the differences between Calvinists and Armenians, there is still agreement that God's grace is an essential component of Christianity in these two camps. And most evangelicals agree that a person must be "born again" spiritually in order to be considered a true believer, as Jesus outlined as necessary in John 3.3.
I welcome mutually-supportive fellowship with any Christians who believe and embrace the above doctrines and principles. However, I would not be very open to supporting the work of any person or organization that opposes any of the above points.
As an exercise, it may be helpful to distill the essentials down to a simple phrase:
TRUTH and LOVE in CHRIST
If you focus on only one of these elements and /or disregard the need for any one of the other three elements of the above phrase, then you are likely pretty far off on your doctrine. The true hope of the gospel is based on a core of love and a rock of truth in Christ, who forms the foundational basis of attaining eternal spiritual life and true fulfillment.
The Beetles were too simplistic in their aphorism, “All you need is love.” Because love without the truth of Christ is ultimately not going to address the deepest needs of society and individuals, the need for reconciliation with God, our creator. And Rob Bell is off the mark in presenting a theory of God's love which denies and opposes essential truths of the gospel message. And there are many teachers today who promote a “health and wealth gospel”, a false gospel according to I Timothy 6.5, at the expense of the “truth and love” emphasized in Christ's own messages. The Apostle Paul warned us to avoid teachers who present a "different gospel" in Galatians 1.6-9 that place an emphasis on wealth and/or a prosperous life, or pleasure, as opposed to emphasizing the subjects Jesus emphasized, such as the need for living in humility and serving others as "better" than ourselves, rather than selfishly trying to satisfying our own needs and desires above all.
A quote often attributed to St. Augustine of Hippo offers some simple wisdom on this subject. The quote reads:
“unity in necessary things; liberty in doubtful things; charity in all things.”***
If you believe that any of these doctrines or points are not essential or are in error, you are welcome to present your ideas in the comment section below for discussion.
***Note: In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas (commonly translated as "unity in necessary things; liberty in doubtful things; charity in all things" or more literally as "in necessary things unity; in uncertain things freedom; in everything compassion") is a Latin phrase. It is often misattributed to St. Augustine of Hippo, but seems to have been first used in 1617 by Archbishop of Split (Spalato) Marco Antonio de Dominis in his anti-Papal De Repubblica Ecclesiastica
Post edited and revised on 11-20-15
Tags: essentials of the Christian faith, the common core of Christianity, common ground for Christians, the scriptural basis of Christian beliefs, light of hope, core of love, rock of truth, Rob Bell quote on hell, Rob Bell quote on salvation, universal Christian church, common ground on the rock of truth