Can Christians agree on anything? (Part 2)

Bible verse used in podcast:

  • John 13:34-35
  • 1 Corinthians 3:1-3
  • Ephesians 4:11-16
  • 1 Corinthians 12:12-17
  • Psalms 139:13
  • 2 Timothy 3:16-17
  • 1 Corinthians 15:1-4
  • Matthew 28:18-20
  • John 3:5-8
  • Hebrews 5:12-6:3

Interesting resources

Just to give some idea of what is considered foundational topics in different circles:

  1. https://carm.org/essential-doctrines-of-christianity
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_theology
  3. https://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/beliefs/basics_1.shtml
  4. https://www.equip.org/bible_answers/what-is-essential-christian-doctrine/
  5. https://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/10-basic-christian-beliefs/
  6. https://www.learnreligions.com/basic-christian-beliefs-700357

Divisions in Christianity

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 13:34-35 ESV

Such an important command from Jesus. Yet when an outsider sees the church, they see many different people who say they believe in a God of love, and yet they can’t agree on what they believe. Some denominations won’t work with others simply because they feel that others are wrong or they have traditional feuds that date back to historical context.

1 But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, 3 for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?

1 Corinthians 3:1-3 ESV

When we think about one of the big objectives of Christianity, which is to teach others about Jesus, how would we do this if we don’t work together? Sure we might not agree on everything, but we should be united in the core issues of Christianity (which we will get to at the end).

Are differences bad?

But here is something to consider, we always see division as bad, but it is? Of course the way we think of division we would consider it bad, but we have a problem when looking at divisions in the church.

13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

Psalm 139:13-14 ESV

11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Ephesians 4:11-16 ESV

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.

1 Corinthians 12:12-16 ESV

God created each of us with our own taste, desires, and so on. It should be surprising that people think differently or want different things in life. Of course, sticking to the core of Christianity, shouldn’t divide us. But at the same time, there is a problem we have when looking at these differences. 

We tend to use 1 Corinthians 12 as looking at how all of us are a part of the Bible, but that is not the argument. The argument is when you look at the different collective groups of people. One side note is the word “church” in the greeks comes from ἐκκλησία (G1577 – ekklēsia) which means an assumable or gathering of people. When looking at it in that context, each “church” is a collection of individuals who are all different. They make up a “church” and each church is different from other churches, yet it is all under one name. 

This is important because just as quickly as we say something is division, it can be turned around to then be called diversity. Not every church (a group of people) like to worship using the same songs. Some like early services, some like late ones. Some want a punctual schedule and structure, some want flexibility and open-mindedness. That doesn’t mean anyone is perfect or any one style is inherently better than the others. All churches and denominations aren’t 100% accurate on everything, and we should bring in the unity of the basic and use the scriptures as a medium to show why there is a split.

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV

This is important because it gives each person a place and family to attach to. Not everyone is going to want to stay until midnight for a worship service and not everyone wants to feel like they must dress up to attend church. Because of this, each church can be “divided” on how they decide to run the church, but this is to our advantage. Again it is only division if you think about it as such. When to start church service is not critical to whether or not you are a Christian, but it will affect how you will express Christianity. 

In a lot of ways having churches divide and force on different issues helps in many ways. For one it helps challenge people to learn and study more. You will only know as much as your own personal filters and sitting in a group of people who think exactly like you can get stale. All because a teacher has a lot of students that doesn’t mean they are teaching everything right.  That doesn’t mean they are the best teacher, doesn’t mean their style works for everyone. Each person will relate, learn, and express themselves in different environments. 

On a more global level, having different churches focus on different issues can help solve problems. Some churches have soup kitchens and house the homeless. Others focus on teaching and education. Both are important especially if that is the calling of the leaders in the church. That does not mean you should neglect other issues. If anything you should be more united and if someone comes along that you can’t help, you should be able to bring them to someone who can. But they require that you know a community larger than your immediate surrounding.

26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness–look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” 27 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ 29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”

John 3:26-30 ESV

The Epic List of Foundational Topics

Back to the question posed; what are the basics of Christianity? I decided to take the approach, let the Bible interpret itself, and see what happens. After searching through scripture, I came to a list of verses that seem to clarify this. This does not go over the Implied section; these are things that are directly stated as topics, but what they refer to may be implied. The list is compiled with basic foundational topics in Christianity according to what the Bible says:

1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you–unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

1 Corinthians 15:1-4 ESV

5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

John 3:5-8 ESV

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-20 ESV

11 About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

1 Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do if God permits.

Hebrews 5:11-14, 6:1-3 ESV

You can find many other verses through the Bible but they all boil down to the basic topics in these verses. Notices the writer of Hebrews considers several things foundational. Often the topics that are listed are the topics that many people argue over nowadays and are considered deep and controversial issues. For instance when talking about the issue of everlasting judgment. Would God send people to hell? Is hell really, it is a temporary place? Or the issue between works and faith. 

Admirably some of the topics given from Hebrew are more implied and they need to be searched elsewhere. Regardless these verses talk about things that are considered foundational and basic for what Christianity is. From these verses these are the list of topics that would be considered foundational (not in any particular order):

  1. Christ died for our sins
  2. Christ was buried for 3 days
  3. He rose from the grave
  4. This all happened according to the scripture
  5. We should understand the concept of repentance from dead works
  6. We should have faith towards God
  7. We should make disciples
  8. There is an everlasting Judgement
  9. Everyone needs to be born again
  10. There are the ideas of Baptism
  11. There is a concept of laying on of hands
  12. There is a resurrection of the dead
  13. Everything Jesus says

The idea, going forward, will be to explore these topics in the Bible. They won’t all be taken individually (or in this order) as some of them go together but each of them is important to understanding Christianity. Keep in mind these are things that are directly stated, not implied so some topics are not covered here like the Trinity; and for good reason. It is a foundational truth but actually going into it as a topic is not something you would normally teach someone right when they become Christian. Instead, these are topics that are sighted as existing. Some are blanket terms and are implied what they mean; but the topics are directly stated. 

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