3 categories of beliefs, and why separating them is important
Beliefs. We all have them. They came from somewhere. They probably started forming in us as young children and have been strengthened through time. Or maybe they’ve changed over the years. Changing a belief or a belief system is a big deal because our minds are wired to think that our beliefs are the correct ones. It’s been said we are creatures of habit. That’s because we believe the way we do things, the way we think, is right.
Obviously, beliefs are very significant in the church. Beliefs are the foundation of our faith. What we believe about God, Jesus, people, the Bible and the Church are of utmost importance. And, as noted, beliefs rarely change. As in the political world, our Christian beliefs, or differences in our beliefs, can be the topic of many disagreements, arguments, and even church splits. That’s why it’s wise to separate our beliefs into three different groups based on their importance. Here are three different categories of beliefs.
There are several beliefs we should be willing to die for. These are the things that are crystal clear in scripture that are of greatest significance. The nature of God. The work of Christ. The significance of the cross. Beliefs about people, sin and repentance. Beliefs about the Church and the Bible. These are the “die for” beliefs that make us Christians.
However, people of various religions believe differently than Christians in the “die for” beliefs category. Cults and different religions disagree on some of the most basic tenants of the Christian faith. Most Christian churches and denominations have a list of beliefs that define them. But they probably have other beliefs too. Additional beliefs that, dare I say, are a little less important than the “die for” beliefs.
There’s a second group of beliefs that we defend. We defend these beliefs from scripture, but we recognize that other genuine Christians may have varying opinions about them. They use different scriptures to defend their views on those same beliefs. Things like baptism. (Age? Amount of water? Sprinkle or dunk?) Things like communion. (How often? The meaning behind the elements?)
When considering beliefs worth defending, remember to never let your interpretation of those beliefs separate you from fellowship with other true Christians. Our beliefs should unite us, not divide us.
Then, there’s a third classification. The beliefs we discuss. Things like, what will the end times look like when they unfold? What are the appropriate roles for different genders in the church? What is the best Bible translation? These beliefs are interesting to talk about, but are not crystal clear in scripture. They are certainly ok to discuss. Go ahead and dialog about them, but don’t spend a lot of time on them. There are very few definitive answers to these types of beliefs.
Here’s the important thing. Don’t confuse the beliefs in one category with beliefs in a different category. I once met a new neighbor who, when he found out I was a Pastor, immediately asked me about my view on Calvinism. I thought, really? Not, how long have you lived in the neighborhood? Not, how many kids do you have? Nope. He immediately dove deep into theology. It was a “defend” belief for him.
You’ve probably met people who will defend their favorite version of scripture, and whether you realized it or not, you probably thought, this isn’t a “defend” belief. It’s more of a “discuss” belief. Some will defend 3 “discuss” beliefs. Others will die for “defend” beliefs. This is a mistake, not to mention a great waste of time. So make sure you put the proper weight on the specific beliefs you hold. Don’t mix the categories. By dividing your beliefs into die for, defend and discuss categories, you will gain clarity in your belief system as well as maintain focus on what’s most important. You’ll probably save yourself from many unproductive conversations and destructive arguments. And that’s always a good thing.
Mark J. Lenz is a pastor with a masters degree in Organizational Leadership. He is the CEO of Interactive Church Resources which seeks to empower ministry through interactive technology. He also leads Interactive Church Consulting where he helps churches create organizational health, and brings clarity and focus to ministry and mission.
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