The Foundational Doctrines Of The Christian Faith

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By God's grace we receive salvation through faith in Christ alone. Our salvation is based on a relationship with the One True God and not the adequacy of our knowledge. Though we may have a right relationship with God in spite of our incomplete knowledge of him, the importance of right doctrine is that we put our faith in the One True God and not a false god of another nature (2 Cor 11:4, Gal 1:6-8). Thus the scriptural lament for those who do not really know God; "My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge" (Hos 4:6).

What follows is a list of some of the most foundational Biblical doctrines of the Christian faith. Any such list is necessarily incomplete and will usually reflect the points at which Biblical doctrines have been challenged to stand the test of time. The key indicator of a living Christian faith is not the quantity of knowledge we possess, but rather the quality of our spiritual growth. Once we become members of God's family, through faith in his Son, we all need to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Pet 3:18).

1. Only One God: Dt 6:4, Mk 12:29; Isa 43:10b,11;44:6,8;45:5-12;46:8,9

2. Deity of Christ: Jn 8:58;10:24-33, Col 2:9, Tit 2:13; Heb 1:1-5; Rev 22:13

3. Virgin Birth Of Christ: Isa 7:14; Mt 1:18,25, Lk 1:34,35; Jn 1:14;3:16; 1Jn 4:9.

4. Substitutionary Death Of Christ: Isa 53:5; 2Cor 5:21; Gal 3:13; Heb 2:9; 1 Pet 2:24;3:18

5. Physical Resurrection Of Christ: Ps 16:10; Lu 24:45-47; Jn 21:26,27; Ac 2:23,24; Rom 10:9

6. Second Coming Of Christ: Mt 26:64; Lu 21:27; Ac 1:11; Heb 9:28; Rev 3:11,22:20

7. Resurrection Of Dead For Judgment According To Deeds: Da 12:2; Jn 5:28,29; Ac 24:15; Rev 20:13

8. Universal Sin: Gen 6:5; Ps 53:3; Isa 53:6; Rom 3:10-18,23; 1 Jn 1:8

9. Salvation By Faith In Christ Alone: Jn 6:28,29; Rom 5:1; Gal 3:24; Eph 2:8-10; Php 3:9

10. Biblical Inerrancy: Dt 4:2; Ps 119:89,91,96,152; Isa 40:8; Mt 5:18,24:35; Rom 15:4; 2 Tim 3:16, 1 Pet 1:24,25; 2 Pet 1:20:21; Rev 22:19


Notes On the Foundational Doctrines

1. The single most foundational doctrine of the Bible, on which all other doctrine is based, has its origin in Gen 1:1, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." We must all acknowledge God as the Creator, to whom we must give an account.

2. The doctrine of the Trinity is integral to everything above and especially that there is Only One God, the Deity of Christ, the Virgin Birth, and Biblical Inerrancy. The precise formulation of this doctrine has served as guard for those crucial teachings given in the Bible that relate to the nature of God. The following are several of the formulations of the doctrine of the Trinity which has been taught by all Orthodox Christian churches throughout history.

A. The Athanasian Creed (381-428 AD): "We worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in unity, neither confounding the persons, nor dividing the substance."

B. The Westminster Confession of Faith (1647 AD): "In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost."

C. Modern Statement: There is but one God; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is each God; and the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit is each a distinct person.

D. What the Trinity is not: In the Trinity we do not have three individuals, but only three personal self distinctions within the one divine essence.

E. In the above a "person" is a self aware subject who can relate to each as another.

- Jn 5:32,37 (NASB), "There is another who bears witness of me ... the Father who sent me, He has borne witness of me."

- Jn 14:16.17, "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another helper ... that is the Spirit of truth."

(Note: Tertullian (160-215 AD), who was a disciple of Polycarp, who was in turn a disciple of the Apostle John, first recorded this definition.)

F. Some of the scriptures that require this view of the nature of God are as follows:
Isa 48:16b; 63:1-16 (Rev 19:11-16); Mt 3:16-17; 28:19, Jn 10:30; 14:26; 15:26; 17:20-24; Rom 8:9; 2Cor 13:14; Eph 3:14-19; 1Pet 1:1,2


3. Historically, there have been at least three criteria used to determine if a doctrine is among those foundational to the Christian Faith. These three criteria are as follows:

A. All doctrine must be established in the scriptures alone. (2 Tim 3:16,17; Jude 3; Dt 4:2; Rev 22:18,19)

B. No doctrine may undermine the role of Jesus Christ as Redeemer, Savior, and Lord in the life of the believer. (2 Peter 3:1; Gal 1:8)

C. The doctrine should not contradict the creeds of the Orthodox (undivided) Christian Church. These would include the Nicene, Athanasian, and Chalcedonian Creeds -- which speak of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as one God (the Trinity), and of Jesus Christ as uniquely God and man (the Incarnation). These creeds expressed the faith of all Christians when they were written, and have unified all Christians against heresy for centuries. Therefore, while these creeds must never take precedence over the scriptures themselves, they are deserving of respect and should be honored as tools for identifying and exposing heresy.


4. Finally, we can not have confidence in teachers of truth on the basis of their teachings alone. Jesus taught, "By their fruit you will recognize them." (Mt 7:20). Though it is necessary that teachers of the truth hold the foundational doctrines of the faith, this is not sufficient in itself. We must all live by the truth we profess. Further, the appearance of the fruit of the Spirit is not sufficient in itself, since real fruit must have as its source the truth. Truth first, then fruit; both working together are required for the genuine Christian life. The Apostle Paul warned and encouraged Timothy in this regard, "Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers." (1 Tim 4:16).


Tim Nordgren, 8-14-96