Richard Collings, Caerphilly, Wales [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
QUESTION: What are the fundamental doctrines of Christianity?
We are living at a time when ‘fundamentalism’ is perceived to be something extreme and to be avoided, but the question above is vital for at least two reasons. First, it gets right to the heart of what makes Christianity distinct from all forms of human religion. Second, a right appreciation of those doctrines that form the bedrock of divine revelation will enable us to contend earnestly ‘for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints’, Jude 3.
In addition to these fundamentals there are many other weighty matters that we must not consider as being inconsequential. Everything in the scriptures is to be taken seriously and accepted as the word of the Lord. However, there are certain first principles without which there would be no Christian faith at all. Within the scope of this response it will not be possible to refer to them all, nor to elaborate on any.
The foundation of all that we believe has to be the doctrines relating to the trinity, the Godhead. In the unity of the Godhead, there are three distinct but co-equal persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each possesses every divine attribute absolutely yet they are not three Gods but one. To the human mind this is incomprehensible, but, as believers, things that are darkness to our intellect are sunshine to our hearts.
Another fundamental tenet of Christianity concerns the incarnation of the Lord Jesus. Within one person resided the fullness of deity combined with impeccable humanity. Born of a virgin, He was made in the likeness of men and He was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin, Heb. 4. 15. At Calvary, He offered Himself without spot to God in a sacrifice that made ‘propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world’, 1 John 2. 2.
The universality of sin is clearly taught in the scriptures. Sin originated with the devil and when he fell a host of angels who aligned themselves with him fell also. However, the introduction of sin into the human race was through the deliberate transgression of Adam: ‘as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned’, Rom. 5. 12. Just as one man was responsible for the entrance of sin into the human race, so salvation from God’s righteous judgement of sin is also possible because of one Man, ‘For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous’, Rom. 5. 19. Salvation is offered graciously by God to everyone without exception and is obtained through the conviction of sin by the Holy Spirit and on the ground of faith in the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ at the cross.
The apostle Paul, writing to the church at Corinth, emphasizes the importance of the resurrection of Christ. His words are unequivocal, ‘if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain . . . ye are yet in your sins . . . Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished . . . But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept’, 1 Cor. 15. 14-20. We may state without fear of contradiction that the death, burial, and resurrection of God’s Son lies at the very root of Christianity and elevates it above any religion invented by men.
Basic to the fundamental doctrines of Christianity is the fact that the original scriptures, comprising the Old and New Testaments, are God’s word and form the only book divinely inspired. It is God’s word for all peoples for all times and is our only authority for all matters of faith and practice. It is living and powerful and able to make people wise unto salvation. It provides suitable nourishment for every child of God and it will endure forever. Men have attempted to destroy it, deny it, and discredit it but ‘we know that when time and the world pass away, God’s word shall forever endure’, Fanny Crosby.
The word of God teaches that man has an eternal future. Death does not bring the cessation of existence and one day all who have died will be raised, either to eternal life through Christ or to eternal punishment. ‘Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation’, John 5. 28-29.
The imminence of the Lord’s return to the air for the church, His subsequent return to the earth to establish His millennial kingdom, the destruction of the earth and the heavens after man’s final rebellion, and the making of a new heaven and earth are all doctrines set out within the scriptures.
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