We’ve been talking about what to do when Christians disagree. Today, I want to touch on Primary and Secondary issues of our faith and practice.
We Must Distinguish Between Primary & Secondary Issues. I would define a primary issue as one that deals with a central doctrine of the Christian faith. This category includes the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible, The Trinity. the deity of Jesus Christ, including the virgin birth, the miracles, his death and bodily resurrection, his ascension into heaven, and the reality of the personal, visible, bodily return of Christ to the earth. You can see these on VCF website under What We Believe. www.vcflynden.com.
There are also life choices and commands we follow from scripture that demonstrate what Christians believe and act on because of our sanctification, a life that wants to please Jesus. These things are primary because they describe central, defining truths of the Christian faith. To deny these things is to put yourself outside the realm of true Christianity.
When we discuss these truths, there can be no compromise. Ultimately, you either believe in the virgin birth or you don’t. If you don’t, you have denied a clear teaching of the NT, which affects your view of the Bible as God’s Word and ultimately calls into question your belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God.
Having said that, it must be admitted that most of our debates have nothing to do with primary teaching. Evangelical Christians, by definition, already believe these things. Our debates generally center on secondary issues, which I would define as issues about which the Bible does not clearly speak.
For instance, the Bible says nothing about fishing on Sunday. There is simply no verse. Whatever you believe about that will have to be decided by:
A) inferences drawn from biblical principles or
B) your personal preference or
C) a combination of A) and B).
D) Your friends’ boat is not available 😊
The same is true for contemporary versus traditional worship music or liturgy. The NT gives us a few general guidelines for worship, but they are quite sketchy and general. If Paul were alive today, would he prefer Fanny Crosby over Casting Crowns or would he embrace Chris Tomlin over hip hop artist Lecrae?
I know of no sure way to answer that question. Since we only have a few examples of early Christian hymns from 60 AD, we may assume that even if they could understand the words, the NT Christians would be mystified by most forms of Christian worship today (including hymns many of us grew up listening to).
We are free to have our own convictions, but we must hold them lightly lest we blur the line between primary and secondary issues and end up elevating fishing on Sunday or a style of worship music to a level equal with the resurrection of Jesus. Titus 1:9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.