Apologetics for the Masses #231 - Blue Collar Apologetics (cont'd)

Bible Christian Society

How to Be Added To or Removed From This Newsletter

If this newsletter was forwarded to you by a friend, and you would like to be added to our distribution list, all you have to do is go to http://www.biblechristiansociety.com/newsletter and put your email address in the box at the top of the page.  If you would like to be removed from this newsletter list, click on this link: http://www.biblechristiansociety.com/newsletter/unsubscribe and then enter the email address that this newsletter comes to and click "Unsubscribe."  Either way, it will take you about 10 seconds.

General Comments

Hey folks,

Two things:

1) You can now order my latest talk, on CD, from our website: www.biblechristiansociety.com.  The title of it is: "Genesis and Evolution: What Do Catholics Believe?"  I talk about Young Earth and Old Earth Creationism, Theistic Evolution, and Atheistic Evolution in relation to the 1st 3 chapters of Genesis.  I hope you'll enjoy it...

2) I'll be coming back to Kalamazoo on March 29th for a conference.  For more information on that, go to: http://www.newmansbookshoppe.com/mens-conference.html.  Would love to see you there if you are in the area. 


Finishing up chapter 2 of my book: Blue Collar Apologetics.  Chapter 3, on Sola Scriptura, will start with the next newsletter.

Blue Collar Apologetics - chapter 2 (cont'd)

Essential vs. Non-Essential
Earlier in this chapter - in the section entitled: “Jesus Founded a Church That Teaches Error?” - I mentioned how I have oftentimes heard people who belong to various Protestant denominations essentially admit that their church teaches error.  Oh, they don’t say it directly, but what they do say is something along these lines: “I don’t necessarily believe my church gets everything right, but I know they get the essentials right.”

That’s just another way of saying, “My church teaches error, but it only teaches error in matters that are non-essential.”  In other words, what these folks have done is found an excuse - a justification - that allows them to be comfortable in a church that they know is not infallible, and is not authoritative, and which they recognize could well be, and probably is, wrong in one or more of its doctrines and teachings.  

You see, they divide the body of Christian doctrine into essential doctrines and non-essential doctrines.  The essential doctrines are those that have to do directly with how one is saved.  The non-essential doctrines are those that do not bear directly on one’s salvation, according to this way of looking at things.  

There are, however, a few problems with this division of doctrine into essential and non-essential.  The first question I ask someone who makes this kind of doctrinal distinction is this: Where in the Bible does it say anything about essential vs. non-essential doctrines?  I have yet to get an answer.  Well, does the Bible anywhere say anything that might give us a clue as to whether or not there are essential vs. non-essential doctrines?  I think it does.  In Matthew 5:18, Jesus says, “For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.”  And, from verse 19, “Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven.” Here we see Jesus concerned with every iota, every dot of the law; and He says that no one should relax even the least of the commandments.  That seems to cast a bit of doubt on this whole essential and non-essential thing. 

That's just one verse, but it gives you an idea of how Jesus would feel about the question of there being "non-essential" doctrines.  That verse, along with the others mentioned below, suggest that the answer to the question of where in the Bible does it say anything about essential vs. non-essential is...it doesn’t.  So why do you, Mr. Bible Alone-Believing Christian, believe that there are such things as essential and non-essential doctrines when the Bible nowhere makes any such distinction?  If its not in the Bible, then why do you believe it?

The second question I ask is: Who is it exactly that gets to decide what is, and is not, an essential vs. a non-essential doctrine?  Again, there is nothing in the Bible that talks about essential and non-essential doctrines.  There is no table anywhere in the Bible that lists out the essential doctrines on one side of the page and the non-essential doctrines on the other side of the page.  So, who is it exactly that is deciding what qualifies as essential and what doesn’t?  

This is a very important question, because what if a doctrine is incorrectly classified?  For example, is Infant Baptism an essential doctrine or a non-essential doctrine?  Most Protestants I have come across would classify it as non-essential, because most Protestants I have encountered - whether they be Baptists, Evangelical, non-denominational, or otherwise - believe Baptism is merely a symbolic gesture.  They do not believe one is born again, or regenerated, through Baptism.  Most of them do not believe that Baptism is essential for salvation. Most of them do not, therefore, baptize their babies.  No need to.  

But, there are Protestant faith traditions that believe, as do Catholics, that one is indeed born again through Baptism and that Baptism is necessary for salvation.  Which results in them baptizing their babies so that those babies will be cleansed of Original Sin and be born again into Christ.  

So, is Infant Baptism an essential or a non-essential doctrine?  Well, if the “Baptism is symbolic” folks are right, I guess it would be non-essential.  But, if the “Baptism is necessary for salvation” folks are right, then it is indeed essential.  You wouldn't want your baby to die without being baptized if Baptism is necessary for one to enter the Kingdom of God (John 3:3-5), would you?  Essential or non-essential...which is right?  How do you know?  

Another example: the Eucharist, or the Lord’s Supper as many Protestants refer to it.  Is that an essential or a non-essential doctrine?  Again, if those who believe the Lord’s Supper is merely a symbolic re-enactment of the Last Supper are right, then I suppose it would be a non-essential doctrine, wouldn’t it?  But, what if the Lutherans and the Anglicans are right, along with the Catholics, and the Eucharist actually is the Body and Blood of Christ?  And that John 6:53 means it when it says, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you?”  That sounds pretty essential, doesn’t it?  So, who gets to decide what is and is not essential in the realm of doctrine?  

Another question I ask in this regard has to do with Matthew 4:4.  After Jesus is baptized, He goes into the desert for 40 days.  There He is tempted by Satan.  In one of His responses to Satan’s temptations, Christ says, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”  Man shall live by every one of God’s words.  Now, Protestants believe, as do Catholics, that every word of Scripture is one of God’s words.  And, it is from Scripture, and Scripture alone, that Protestant doctrines come, according to Protestants.  So, my question is this: Given what Jesus says in Matthew 4:4, which of God’s words are essential, and which are non-essential?  Which part of the Bible is essential and which part is non-essential? Can we really divide God’s revelation into essential and non-essential!  Can we really divide the Bible into essential and non-essential?  I keep wondering who can be so bold as to set themselves up as a judge over the Bible and daring to determine which words of God are essential and which are non-essential?  Bold.  Very bold.  

I’m sorry, but all of this essential doctrine vs. non-essential doctrine nonsense is simply a way for folks to get around the fact that they are in a church or a denomination that has a body of beliefs that contain fallible, non-authoritative, man-made teachings, that are contrary to the Word of God.  They know that their church is not infallible, and that no one in their church is infallible, so they implicitly recognize, at some level of their psyches, that their church, undoubtedly, is teaching error in some way, shape, or form.  Instead of admitting it, though, and going out to look for the church founded by Jesus Christ that does not and cannot teach error in matters of faith and morals ("Know the truth and the truth shall set you free"), they try instead to minimize the impact of this reality by essentially saying, “Well, yeah, I guess my church doesn’t get everything right, but it only gets it wrong in those areas that don’t really matter anyway...you know...the non-essential doctrines.”  

But, if you can’t trust the church, whatever church, to teach you correctly in small unimportant doctrines, then for crying out loud, how can you trust that church to teach you correctly in large important doctrines?  If the Holy Spirit is not guiding a particular church in small, non-essential doctrinal matters, then why would one think the Holy Spirit is guiding that church in large, essential doctrinal matters?  

Look at the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25, verses 14-30.  In this parable we see the master entrusting his servants with differing amounts of talents before going away on a journey.  When the master returns, two of his servants have done very well with the little they were entrusted with.  And what does their master say to them?  “Well done, good and faithful servant, you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.”  

But, what happens to the servant who was entrusted with the smallest of these little matters?  Well, he blew it.  He did nothing with what he had been entrusted with.  So, since his master couldn’t trust him with a little thing, it only makes sense that his master could trust him with much larger things, right?  I don’t think so.  The servant who could not be trusted with a little, was not trusted with more, but instead had the little he was given taken away from him and he was cast out into the outer darkness.   

So, according to all those Protestants who divide doctrine up into essential vs. non-essential, even though their church may not be able to be trusted in its non-essential doctrinal teachings, you can rest assured that church can be trusted when it comes to its essential doctrinal teachings.  Unfortunately for them, the third servant in the Parable of the Talents would beg to differ. 


I hope you have enjoyed this installment of my book, and I hope all of you have a great week.  I also hope and pray that this Lenten Season is good for your soul!  After all, you wouldn't want the Dread Pirate Roberts coming for your soul, now would you?

Apologetics for the Masses