It’s common for many Christians to think everyone should agree with them on everything.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s about salvation, baptism, when to hold Sunday morning services or what kind of chicken to serve at the potluck, these believers make no distinction between matters.
That’s not the calling Christ has put on us as believers, and that’s not the way that we individually or through ministries can partner well to see people from every tongue, tribe and nation come to know Jesus.
So how do you know what you should never move on and where you should be open to hearing other’s viewpoints? There is a simple framework that can help in discerning which beliefs are absolutely essential to your faith and which can be viewed in a different light.
Dr. Alan Scholes frames this in the language of Convictions, Persuasions and Opinions. Here is what Dr. Scholes has to say:
- Convictions: These are central beliefs of the Christian faith that are crucial to salvation. For example, Paul identifies the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ as “of first importance” in 1 Corinthians 15:3–5. Other examples of conviction level doctrines would include the authority of the Scriptures, the doctrine of the Trinity and the full deity and humanity of Christ.
- Persuasions: These are beliefs about which we are personally certain but can still fellowship with other Christians who disagree since they are not matters central to the gospel and/or the historic Christian faith. Examples of persuasion level issues would be forms of church government, modes of baptism (sprinkling vs. immersion) and the nature of God’s providence. Many denominational distinctives fit into this second category.
- Opinions: These are beliefs, desires, or even wishes which may not be clearly taught in Scripture over which believers may legitimately differ. Implicit in this third category is the assumption that there may be more than one correct “Christian” view on an issue. An example of an opinion level doctrine could be the order or style of Christian worship.
Having this type of framework has been extremely helpful for me to determine which doctrinal beliefs are negotiable and which are not.
Scholes’ paradigm has freed me to have greater flexibility. I still firmly believe in a certain doctrine, but I also maintain fellowship and partner in ministry with other believers that have come to different conclusions.
Even when we use guidelines, we may still find ourselves in disagreement with others about which beliefs fall into which category. In these circumstances, it is important for us to maintain a charitable and humble spirit, to search the Scriptures, to pray for God's Spirit to guide us and to seek the wise counsel of those we respect like our pastors and other spiritual leaders. It is possible for us to hold firm beliefs but interact with others in a winsome and kind way.
About the author: Scott Crocker, a Central Michigan alum, has been a staff member of Cru since the mid-1990’s and currently serves as Chief of Staff for Ethnic Field Ministry with Cru Campus. Scott is intrigued by race, religion, politics, ministry, sports and culture. Scott writes about how these topics intersect with faith on his blog http://crockerchronicle.blogspot.com.