What I believe
“But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15)
I’ve compiled a list of what I believe on the various doctrines in scripture. The views below were founded over my years of digging through the Bible. I may very well change my current view on some of the secondary doctrines below, given that I am a fallible person. We are each given reasoning skills, but we have to use them within a fallen creation and within a fallen intellect. I pray if I am wrong on any doctrine, God will reveal this to me and overturn any subconscious or otherwise stubbornness and biases I may have.
I’ve probably read the Bible at least a half dozen times and have read and listened to numerous commentaries, lectures, and sermons. Given all this, I figure I only know 5% of what can be learned from scripture! By the time I die and have read scripture many more times over, I hope to reach something like 7%. The Bible is like an onion with virtually infinite layers of knowledge. Everyday I read the Bible there seems to be some new truth that pops out that I missed before. But many things are crystal clear, such as the essential Christian doctrines. Note that the Bible was not written just for smart men to interpret it for us, its language is plain and even the uneducated are more than qualified to read and understand it (Psalms 119:130, Prov 8:8-9).
Essentials of Christianity
The following represent the very core of Christianity and are essential for salvation: The deity of Christ, the eternal Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, salvation by grace alone through Christ alone, and the core gospel as outlined by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:
Therefore, "if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." (Rom 10:9). Note that this isn't referring to a mere intellectual belief in Jesus, since "even the demons believe" (James 2:19), but a belief that is a personal relationship and a trust in Christ's promises.
I do not consider any of the doctrines below to be absolutely essential Christian doctrines. I believe most are peripheral issues for which we may legitimately disagree. Following is a summary of my beliefs, followed by a more detailed explanation.
I believe the following:
I reject the following:
Baptism: I believe that our baptism is now solely through the Holy Spirit - "John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit." (Acts 11:16). Most Christians agree that water Baptism is not a requirement (since this would put works onto salvation, which most agree is unscriptural), but believe it is important as a public display of our faith. This may be correct, but I am not convinced of this argument and believe it may not be part of our current dispensation (see Dispensationalism below). I am therefore also not convinced that infant baptism is either necessary or prudent, nor am I convinced a new believer in Christ should be compelled to be water baptized. Much of the confusion stems around the word baptism, and the fact it has different meanings in scripture. There is a Holy Spirit baptism (e.g. Acts 11:16), and after Christ paid for our sins on the cross, we no longer require water baptism, but instead the Holy Spirit baptism is sufficient (e.g. Eph 4:4-6). Given this, I still remain very open on this issue. For good exegesis of this issue, please see this article at gracepoints.com.
2nd Baptism: This is a doctrine that has its roots in the Word of Faith movement, that there is a special 2nd baptism that Christians can receive, if they just have enough faith. I completely reject this doctrine, I believe the scriptural reasoning for it is not sound and it ultimately leads to spiritual pride.
Calvinism: I completely reject Calvinism as unscriptural, especially the TULI within the TULIP: Total Depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, and Irresistible grace. Calvinists essentially believe that some people where chosen for Heaven against their own free will (unconditional election) and will succumb and be saved (irresistible grace), while the vast majority of the rest were chosen for hell against their own free will (limited atonement), with absolutely no say in the matter. They also believe that all things in our life were pre-ordained (see Psalms 139). Therefore, according to Calvinists, not only the time of our death, but all our actions were all pre-ordained by God. So Susan Smith’s kids were pre-ordained by God to fall at the hands of their mother.
While there are some surface scriptures that seemingly support Calvinism, they do not withstand under scrutiny with the rest of scripture. For example, there are over 100 verses that clearly portray Christ dying for all, not just the “elect”. Plus, there are many verses where an “elect” or chosen group or individual are not saved. We also find the context of Psalms 139 to be our days in the womb, not our entire lives. We must use scripture to interpret scripture, and in this light, it is then easy to accommodate and properly explain the verses the Calvinists attempt to use to support their view (also see Predestination and Free Will, Immutability, Once Saved, Always Saved, Total Depravation, and Openness Theology below). We have also debated this in my Bible Q&A Forum.
Creation: I believe the earth is very old. After all, 6000 years is really old! I believe in a literal six, 24-hour day creation about 6000 years ago (Gen 1:1-31; Exodus 20:11), and a worldwide flood (Gen 7:19-20, 2 Peter 3:6). I believe the Bible clearly teaches a recent creation and a global flood, and I believe the scientific evidence overwhelmingly supports this. I believe when Christians or churches compromise on this, by placing so-called “science” over scripture, it puts them on the proverbial slippery slope. A center verse of the Bible is Psalms 118:8: “It is better to trust in the LORD Than to put confidence in man”. It ultimately is man's "wisdom" that trumps God's Word for those who reject Genesis as literal history (see James 4:4). Once you capitulate on Genesis, you have every reason to then question other historical truths, such as Christ’s bodily resurrection! Such an early compromise on such a pillar of scripture, which is the very foundation of the Bible, renders the rest of scripture titter-tottery and subject to further loose opinions. This is well established by the fact that all churches that accept homosexual pastors, support abortion, etc., all began with a compromise of Genesis. In fact I am not aware of a single liberal church that did not first start with a rejection of a literal Genesis. The connection is undeniable – if you compromise on Genesis, there is a greatly increased likelihood you will eventually cave on other doctrines of scripture, and in many cases to the very brink of total apostasy by denying even the resurrection.
All this being said, there are some otherwise theologically sound Christians who have compromised on some aspects of Genesis (such as the age of the earth) but have not gone down the slippery slope. But they put others they teach or influence at greater risk of this. I sincerely hope they prayerfully consider the ramifications, given that ultimately we will all be held accountable for all our actions, especially those actions that impact the spirituality of others.
Death Penalty: I believe the Bible overwhelmingly supports a swift death penalty for murder, rape, homosexuality, adultery, kidnapping, and yes, even unrepentant cursing of your parents. Do you think it was a coincidence that the later was the very example Christ used when criticizing those who thought to supercede or overturn God’s command with the tradition of men? “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying... `He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.' But you say..." (Mat 15:3-4).” Christ was not embarrassed about His Father on this commandment, therefore why should we? If you work through the logical consequences, it is brilliant wisdom that would have saved countless lives (please see Bob Enyart's article God and the Death Penalty). There were a few cases of death penalty for ceremonial law violations, but these only applied to the Israelites during the dispensation of Law and are therefore no longer valid.
Dispensationalism: I accept this theology, believing it correctly divides the “word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15). I believe we are currently in the God’s dispensation of Grace. A good debate between dispensationalism and covenant theology can be found here.
Eschatology (end times): I hold the pre-tribulation “rapture” view. For those who don’t, as Chuck Misler likes to quip, “we’ll explain it to you on the way up!” I also got a kick out of what an amillennialist friend of mine gave in response to this quip: "Who cares!" His point being that we shouldn't build our scriptural lives around this issue.
Faith Healing: I am not opposed to the idea that healing can occur through prayer, at the very least limited healing. This may seem strange, but why is it we don't hear of examples of amputee healings? I believe many of the TV “faith healers”, such as Kenneth Copeland and Benny Hinn, are con-men. We should be cautious of them due to their many unscriptural teachings (see Word of Faith movement below).
Immutability: I reject absolute immutability. This is the foundation of Calvinism, and teaches that God does not change in any way possible, since any change to “perfection” would render imperfection (a view taught by Plato and Aristotle; It is a very well-established fact that Augustine, essentially the father of Calvinism, was inspired by this pagan Greek philosophy). The Bible teaches that God does not change, but in light of all scripture it makes perfect sense that it is referring to his Holy Attributes. We know God changed in the incarnation, and that God has emotions and feels pain. Interestingly, Calvinists will of course acknowledge the incarnation, but in all other matters declare that God doesn’t change one iota, not even in his emotions. Thus, they view the scores of verses pertaining to God’s emotions, such as love, wrath, jealousy, compassion, and pain, as anthropomorphisms. This does not fit well with how the Bible often describes God as the “Living God”. Absolute immutability would seem to reduce God to a characteristic reminiscent of the worthless stone idols God warns us against.
Once Saved, Always Saved: This is similar to the Preservation of Saints doctrine held by Calvinists. For years I leaned toward assured salvation upon a genuine acceptance of the gospel and receiving the Holy Spirit (see especially Ephesians 1:13-14). However, recently I have wavered on this issue due to the verses that indicate we have the free will to reject God after being saved (i.e. Galatians 5:4). I believe verses from the book of James (ie James 5:19-20) which was written to the believing Jews (James 1:1), applied to the kingdom gospel dispensation (Gal 2:7, Hebrews 8:13). I believe it is possible that while we do receive a guarantee as indicated in Ephesians 1, we are still free to reject the guarantee by God later - not by sinning, since we all continue to sin even after salvation, but by outright denouncing Christ. It is clear though that whatever your belief is regarding OSAS, works plays no part in earning or keeping salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9), we are no longer under the law (Gal 3:24-25; 5:18, Romans 3:19, etc).
Openness Theology (also called Open View): The Open View posits that the future is not settled and can be changed. Therefore, the future does not yet exist, and thus God is not outside of time (in the sense of past, present and future) - the future is “open”. God knows the future in the sense He knows what he will “bring to pass” (“Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass”; Isaiah 46:11), but does not “know” the future in the sense he can “see” it, since it doesn’t yet exist. The argument goes that God doesn't know the future any more than He knows who the boogie man is. In other words, God knows all things that are knowable. If God does "see" the future and already knows it exhaustively, can God change the future? Calvinists and many traditional Christians will answer by saying "No, God cannot change the future!" Yet this is counter to much of scripture. For example, when God told Hezekiah to prepare for his impending death, Hezekiah prayed and God "heard his prayer and added 15 years" (Isaiah 38:4-5). So you have to ask yourself, if the future is already settled and God isn't going to change it, why even bother praying?
The Open View theology seems to be a good match with a straightforward reading of scripture. While the traditional view that God sees the future also seems reasonable , there is not a slam-dunk verse in scripture that either explicitly states this, or a single verse that falsifies the Open View position (remember, OV proponents argue that God can’t see something that doesn’t exist; so if the future doesn’t exist, God can’t see it any more than He can see the tooth fairy; instead He will "bring it to pass").
The Open View is highly controversial and considered rank heresy by many, though in recent months this animosity seems to be subsiding a bit. There are many scriptures that on the surface support it (see Genesis 2:19, 6:5-8. 22:12, Exodus 32:9-14, Numbers 14:11-21, 1 Samuel 13:13-14, 15:10-12, Isaiah 5:4, 38, 46:9-11, Jeremiah 15:1-6, 18:7-10, 26:2-3, 32:35, Jonah 3:4, 10, Luke 13:34-35, Rev 8:1-2, etc). In order to reduce the above scriptures to the traditional view that the future is already settled, you have to declare them anthropomorphisms. I think it’s a reasonable and fair debate to have. One last thing to note: The idea that God is “outside of time” is yet another view that has its roots in Greek Pagan philosophy, so this should also give one pause (see 1 Corinthians 1:20, 3:19).
Predestination & Free Will: I believe scripture teaches corporate “election’, in the sense the God predestined that Christ would be sent to save those who accept Him. This would be similar to an airline company predestining ahead of time a flight from Cleveland to Denver. God offers the flight free of charge, but nobody wants to get on the flight (Psalms 53:3, Romans 3:12). God works to draw you to the flight, (John 6:44), and is “longsuffering” that you get on the flight (2 Peter 3:9), but ultimately you have the free-will to reject the free offer. As someone once quipped, "you can't earn it, but you can blow it!" I do not believe scripture sufficiently supports the Calvinistic idea that God individually picked Christians before creation to be saved. I believe our Sovereign God delegated some of His power of His own choosing (it certainly is his right!), and I believe the scripture strongly supports this. Part of this delegation was free will. We have the “power” to reject God’s will for our lives. We have this power because God gave it to us. So we can thwart God’s will, as far as it pertains to our relationship with Him (see Isaiah 5:4, Luke 13:34, etc.).
Roman Catholicism: I am a former Catholic. I reject many of their teachings, including the glorification of Mary, praying to saints, a works-based salvation, purgatory, etc. However, I believe plenty of Catholics are saved because they cling to the core essentials. I know many Catholics who truly believe Christ died for their sins and they have placed their faith in Him. I think those who claim all Catholics are going to hell are making God out as some Ogre in the sky who requires something more than our acceptance of his free gift in Christ, and thus unwittingly and ironically end up themselves placing rules on salvation.
Speaking in Tongues: I have many good Christian friends who believe they have this gift, but I remain skeptical this gift still exists (1 Corinthians 13:8). I am open to the possibility that there may be isolated cases where a believer has been given this gift, such as in situations where a missionary may be given the gift to communicate the gospel to a group of people who do not understand the native language being spoken. I have trouble with the idea that believers can speak in tongues personally to God in their own private setting (see 1 Cor 14, especially 1 Cor 14:9). I don’t doubt they truly think it is the Holy Spirit guiding them, but I believe it is of their own mind’s creation and not from God, and in the end what can result is spiritual pride (I say this from experience when dialoging with those who claim this gift; I have been told on several occasions that I am not as spiritual as they are since I lack this "gift"). This private speaking in tongues without an interpreter is also a common practice among those in the heretical Word of Faith movement (see below). Please read all of 1 Corinthians 14, which is a rebuke by Paul of those who were misusing this gift in the early church.
Total Depravity: I reject the Calvinistic idea that man is “totally depraved”. Man is inherently flawed, falls far short of the glory and righteousness of God, and cannot earn his salvation. But it seems obvious from scripture that man can occasionally do some good (i.e. the good Samaritan, Luke 10:33-36).
Women in the Church: Women play a very important and prominent role in scripture, but the Bible is clear that they cannot hold a position of authority over men within the church. So I disagree with churches that ordain women as pastors or any other positions of authority over men. The Bible is very clear that men and women are equal in God’s eyes (Galatians 3:28). But we have different purposes in God’s plan. A hammer is no more important than a saw, but you can’t use a hammer to cut a board in two, any more than you can use a saw to drive a nail.
God gave the reason why women should not have authority in the church, because they are easier to deceive (see 1 Timothy 2:12-14). While this is a politically incorrect thing to say, most people don’t deny its wisdom, even most women will tell you they prefer to bring a man with them when dealing with a used-car salesman! By allowing women to hold leadership positions in churches allows Satan easier access to introduce deception in the church - we see this clearly with the positions held by churches who have women Pastors, such as acceptance of abortion, homosexuality, and other socially liberal viewpoints that are contrary to scripture. One the other side of the coin, women are less obstinate and were after all the first whom Christ appeared to, and the first to actually believe that Christ rose from the dead. Also note that women are called to teach over half the world, namely women & children.
Word of Faith: I believe this movement holds many heretical views, and is chalked full of false teachers (Copeland, Hinn, Hagin, etc). I believe any church associated with this movement should be viewed with great caution. I do believe there are plenty of believers within the Word of Faith movement, but many of the doctrines that are taught are both unbiblical and dangerous (such as slain in the spirit, holy laughter, Christ died spiritually and was tormented in hell, 2nd baptism, and to a lesser degree, speaking in tongues).
Well, that should cover most of the peripheral doctrines of Christianity and my own personal view on them. Again, I believe the above peripheral issues are not critical to salvation and we can legitimately disagree on them!
One final plea - please do not put stock into anything this fallible writer has said above, without first being like the Bereans and “searching the scriptures to prove these things are so” (Acts 17:11). God enjoys watching us sift through scripture, and to “reason together”! (Isaiah 1:18)
All the words of my mouth are with righteousness; Nothing crooked or perverse is in them. They are all plain to him who understands, And right to those who find knowledge. Proverbs 8:8-9