Summary: There are no nonessential doctrines or gray areas to God.
In 1986, one of the songs high on the charts was entitled, Why Does It Have To Be (Wrong or Right) by Restless Heart. The question came up in the song because a couple was deciding whether or not to have an affair and wondered why it had to be black or white or why you had to hurt one to love another. The singer could not understand why there had to be any issue at all. That philosophy is just a repackage of what was practiced back in the sixties when people followed the ¡§free love¡¨ and ¡§if it feels good do it¡¨ gurus so there is nothing new under the sun.
That type of questioning of morality and authority that desires to walk in gray areas or considering all areas open and free is not to be unexpected among the Lost or unbelieving. That sad thing is that has crossed over into the Church and we find that it is open season on all doctrines, rules, traditions or whatever you wish to call them. Indeed, I fear that the ¡§emerging¡¨ church movement for all its talk of liberty is really a submerging into chaos and maybe a form of the error Peter discusses in 2 Peter 2:19.
I have always said that if tradition is truth, treasure it and if tradition is just tradition then trash it but I fear that many go to excess and are guilty of our favorite saying in college about throwing the baby out with the bath water. I am not called a Maverick for nothing but there is nothing inherently wrong with ¡§organized religion¡¨ since in Scripture we are given officers and told to do things in decency and order while maintaining sound doctrine and good works. It takes a bit of organization to do all that. It doesn¡¦t just happen. Have there been errors and even abuses? Certainly there have been such things, but just because people misuse a system or symbol or whatever does not make the thing in itself worthy of trashing. Redemption or restoration to its true form may be necessary but be very careful what you kick to the curb.
I have been deeply distressed for decades over the apathy of Christians when it comes to doctrines and associations. We just glad hand everyone and think that in the age of grace a profession of salvation is all we need to work and worship together no matter what doctrine is taught or who the other person hangs out with.
Interestingly enough in secular law if Johnny hangs out with Billy and Billy hangs out with a gang or the mob Johnny is going to be a suspect if Billy gets into trouble. He may be innocent but he will be questioned because since he and Billy are friends he may know something or may have been a co-conspirator. If he and Billy are supposed to be going to a movie together but Billy says he needs to make a stop to pay off a bet but is actually buying crack Johnny will be arrested if it was a sting because he is in the wrong place with the wrong pal. He may be proven innocent and set free but his reputation will be damaged anyway. He may also lose other friends that didn¡¦t know he hung out with Billy until they saw it on the News. Like it or not you can become guilty by association. A man is known by his friends. It may not be fair but it is what it is.
I have found that it is tough enough to be perfectly sure of your friends who at least give verbal assent to the same doctrines and beliefs that you have because there are false brethren and folks that learn the language in order to get gain. It gets even crazier when you start dealing with people who say they are Christians but when you start delving in past the ¡§basic¡¨ doctrines you find all kinds of craziness, heresy and even find that the terms they used had totally different meanings to them.
That is why we must always make our terms perfectly clear and keep our associations tight but not so tight that we are so independent we don¡¦t associate with anyone but those in our local church. That is how folks get talked into trips to Guyana and drink spiked Kool-Aid„µ. Yet, we can¡¦t just throw open our arms and accept everyone that says they are one of the brethren. Doctrine is extremely important.
Now when we say doctrine there is a strong tendency in our age to divide doctrine into essential and nonessential doctrine. The operative concept in the essential part is, what is the minimum you must believe to be a saved or a biblical Christian? Salvation is of utmost important for dying but doctrine was given for living and it is of utmost importance for life. If God took the time to inspire a prophet or apostle to speak to an issue then I don¡¦t want to relegate that issue to nonessential status. Unfortunately when we do that we really say is that it is not important or even useful and we put in some little cubby hole and either forget it completely or speak about it from time to time like an item of trivia in a party game. I am afraid that God finds these things far more important than to have such a classification or use.