The Blog of Gordon Pruitt the Pastor of St. Matthew's United Methodist Church in Richmond Virginia

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

what are the essential beliefs? Are there any?

A 17th century Moravian named Rupertus Meldenius said, "in essential beliefs we have unity and non-essential we have liberty." I have seen many Methodist churches quote this when talking about their beliefs or doctrines. What is interesting is that John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist church never shared exactly what he believed those essential beliefs were.

In the first chapter of Rob Bell's book, Velvet Elvis, Bell writes about a similar topic. He writes about trampoline springs and blocks. Bell says this about the springs,

"when we jump, we begin to see the need for springs. The springs help make sense of these deeper realities that drive how we live every day. The springs aren't God. The springs aren't Jesus. The springs are statements and beliefs about our faith that help give words to the depth that we are experiencing in our jumping. I would call these the doctrines of the Christian faith. They aren't the point. They help us understand the point, but they are a means and not an end."

Bell contrasts springs with bricks.
"Somebody recently gave me a videotape of a lecture given by a man who travels around speaking about the creations of the world. At one point in his lecture, he said if you deny that God created the world in six literal 24 hour days, then you are denying that Jesus ever died on the cross. It's a bizarre leap of logic to make, i would say. But he was serious. It hit me while i was watching that for him faith isn't a trampoline; it's a wall of bricks. Each of the core doctrines for him is like an individual brick that stacks on top of the others. If you pull one out, the whole wall starts to crumble. It appears quite string and rigid, but if you begin to rethink or discuss even one brick, the whole thing is in danger. Like he said, no six-day creation equals no cross. Remove one, and the whole wall wobbles."

I think i agree with Bell but i not only have springs but i also have bricks. One spring for me is the creation story. I believe Adam and Eve were real people but if it was proved as many people believe that they are fictional characters being used to point to spiritual truth it would not change my faith or cause my faith to crumble. The creation story is a spring that helps me gain a greater understanding of who God is.

A brick in my belief system is the physical resurrection of Jesus. To me, without the resurrection, you don't have anything. If it was proven that Jesus did not resurrect that would cause my faith to crumble.

Below are 2 slides from Dan Kimbell's blog from a few weeks ago that touches on the same topic that i agree with for the most part.

What are your essentials and non-essentials?

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