Unorthodox Faith: The Open and Closed Hand

There’s one piece of housekeeping we need to discuss before we can take the deep dive together into some of my theology.

Yesterday, I said that we all grow and mature as we follow Jesus. As we experience life our understanding of God changes and that ultimately is what theology is – our study and understanding of God.

However, there are some truths about God that should not change. There’s a short list of doctrines and beliefs that are the center of our faith, they are simple and clear in Scripture and to change them would remove what makes the faith uniquely Christian.

The virgin birth, the literal death and resurrection of Jesus, the Trinity, and God as Creator (more on this one in the coming days…hang tight!)

That’s it.

Those are the non-negotiables.

These are what I would call the “closed hand” items of theology. We hold to these tightly. Without them, the faith falls apart and is no longer Christian so we hold them with a closed fist so as not to lose them.

Everything else we hold with an open hand knowing that God may take those things away and replace them with something new.

This concept is easy to understand but it so important!

It’s because Christians hold on to so many non-essentials as essentials that there is so much division in the Church.

I’ve seen churches fight and argue over music. Seriously. As if that’s in Scripture somewhere. “And Jesus heard the dj spinning and it saddened his heart.”

There are also deeper and more difficult issues than music like the topic of free will. Has God literally pre-determined every step we’re going to take and we have no say in the matter or does God allow us free will to make choices and in his all-knowing nature he just knows which choices we’ll make before we make them?

There’s Scripture on both sides of this argument and it has raged on for literally centuries. At one point or another I’ve held to both sides.

As passionate as I am now that God allows free will, I still hold to it with an open hand because there is a very really possibility I may be wrong.

Either way, it is great to have a reasoned opinion but it is still a non-essential. It is entirely possible to be a good, honest, Christ follower and fall on either side of probably hundreds of issues.

This may make it seem like theology is not important because it seems easy to be wrong, but is vitally important!

Our theology shapes our belief in God and that in turns shapes how we interact with the world. That’s pretty important for a faith where we are called to be the expression of our leader to our world.

My prayer for years is that I would be a “Non-judgmental, Jesus loving theologian.”

And that’s my prayer for you as we turn to some of these non-essential issues tomorrow.





3 thoughts on “Unorthodox Faith: The Open and Closed Hand

  1. E Bryant says:

    This is not going to work unless we can agree on a standard by which to judge truth. The Bible is clearly that standard since it is the Word of the Word made Flesh who identified Himself as Truth. If we can agree on this, then this concept will work (although in the modern age we have to also agree that the intent of the author determines the meaning of Scripture).

    I also think that there are more essentials than your listed four. Original sin, the wrath of God, substitutionary atonement, human depravity, etc. All of these are Gospel issues that are core for the follower of Christ. And issues such as sola Scriptura and sola fide separate a true Gospel (one that can save) from a false Gospel (one that cannot save). It’s what the Reformation was all about. It wasn’t some academic exercise. The very Gospel was at stake and was preserved in the Protestant movement.

    Finally, I agree that good Christians can disagree about “free will” (that term is so misused and abused anymore that I feel I have to use scare quotes), but only to an extent. Again, the very Gospel can be at stake. Pelagianism asserts a will that is free from original sin and is, therefore, contrary to Paul’s clear teaching in Romans and undermines the Atonement. It’s heresy because it is a Gospel issue. So, the core issues include not only the existence and nature of God, they also include the works of God, especially the work of the Son as the substitute and the work of the Spirit as the Author and Teacher.

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