At the bottom of this post is a test I am asking readers of this blog to take. I would encourage you to read the entire post before you take the test if at all possible.
A SOLID IDEA FROM THE PRESIDENT OF SOUTHERN SEMINARY
I have a high degree of respect and admiration for Dr. Al Mohler, President of Southern Seminary. I do not agree with everything Dr. Mohler writes, nor do I agree with all of his theological or political views, I do admire his mental erudition and theological acumen.
Recently Dr. Mohler had a brilliant FIRST PERSON BP commentary where he said, "today's Christian faces the daunting task of strategizing which Christian doctrines and theological issues are to be given highest priority in terms of our contemporary context."
Dr. Mohler offers a very practical solution on how to resolve this problem. He suggests the establishment of a theological triage. "The word "triage" comes from the French word "trier," which means "to sort." Thus, the triage officer in the medical context is the front-line agent for deciding which patients need the most urgent treatment. Without such a process, the scraped knee would receive the same urgency of consideration as a gunshot wound to the chest. The same discipline that brings order to the hectic arena of the emergency room can also offer great assistance to Christians defending truth in the present age."
Mohler continues, "A discipline of theological triage would require Christians to determine a scale of theological urgency that would correspond to the medical world's framework for medical priority. With this in mind, I would suggest three different levels of theological urgency, each corresponding to a set of issues and theological priorities found in current doctrinal debates."
THE THREE LEVELS OF DOCTRINAL PRIORITY
The three levels Dr. Mohler proposes are summarized below:
First-level theological issues would include those doctrines most central and essential to the Christian faith. Included among these most crucial doctrines would be doctrines such as the Trinity, the full deity and humanity of Jesus Christ, justification by faith, and the authority of Scripture.
The set of second-order doctrines is distinguished from the first-order set by the fact that believing Christians may disagree on the second-order issues, though this disagreement will create significant boundaries between believers. Many of the most heated disagreements among serious believers take place at the second-order level, for these issues frame our understanding of the church and its ordering by the Word of God.
Third-order issues are doctrines over which Christians may disagree and remain in close fellowship, even within local congregations. I would put most of the debates over eschatology, for example, in this category. Christians who affirm the bodily, historical, and victorious return of the Lord Jesus Christ may differ over timetable and sequence without rupturing the fellowship of the church. Christians may find themselves in disagreement over any number of issues related to the interpretation of difficult texts or the understanding of matters of common disagreement. Nevertheless, standing together on issues of more urgent importance, believers are able to accept one another without compromise when third-order issues are in question.
SOME IMPORTANT CAVEATS
A structure of theological triage does not imply that Christians may take any biblical truth with less than full seriousness. We are charged to embrace and to teach the comprehensive truthfulness of the Christian faith as revealed in the Holy Scriptures. There are no insignificant doctrines revealed in the Bible, but there is an essential foundation of truth that undergirds the entire system of biblical truth.
This structure of theological triage may also help to explain how confusion can often occur in the midst of doctrinal debate. If the relative urgency of these truths is not taken into account, the debate can quickly become unhelpful. The error of theological liberalism is evident in a basic disrespect for biblical authority and the church's treasury of truth. The mark of true liberalism is the refusal to admit that first-order theological issues even exist. Liberals treat first-order doctrines as if they were merely third-order in importance, and doctrinal ambiguity is the inevitable result.
Fundamentalism, on the other hand, tends toward the opposite error. The misjudgment of true fundamentalism is the belief that all disagreements concern first-order doctrines. Thus, third-order issues are raised to a first-order importance, and Christians are wrongly and harmfully divided.
TAKE THE TEST (and comment on the results)
The following 10 doctrines need to be rated by you with the following point system.
Are they first order? second order? or third order doctrines?
1 Point --- An Essential Doctrine Necessary To Be Considered a Christian, for a Denial of this Doctrine is a Denial of the True Christian Faith.
2 Points --- An Essential Doctrine Necessary to be Considered a Southern Baptist Christian, and if One Disagrees With It, He Cannot Serve in Leadership of the SBC.
3 Points --- A Low Priority Doctrine that Is Not Necessary to Believe in Order to be a Fully Cooperating Southern Baptist (leadership, missionary, trustee, etc..).
(1). A belief that a person should (or should not) abstain from worldly amusements on the Lord's Day.
(2). A belief that speaking in tongues, either publicly or privately, can (or cannot) be a gift given by God to a person today.
(3). A belief that any Christian, whether ordained or not, can (or cannot) Biblically baptize the person he leads to Christ.
(4). A belief that the Biblical church is (or is not) only a local, visible church.
(5). A belief that Jesus Christ will (or will not) return to set up an earthly kingdom on earth for 1,000 years.
(6). A belief that a woman can (or cannot) serve as a deacon.
(7). A belief that God, from before the foundation of the world, elects (or does not elect), a definite number of sinners to salvation.
(8). A belief that a Christian can (or cannot) drink an alchoholic beverage, without getting drunk, and not sin against God.
(9). A belief that a Baptist church can (or cannot) be governed by elders.
(10). A belief that communion can (or cannot) be served by people who are not ordained, and shared by people who are believers but not members of your local church.
Add up your total scores: Minimum points would be ten, Maximum points would be 30.
Proposed Score Card (Revised):
Below 27 --- You have difficulty serving with anyone who disagrees with you on these doctrines, and in fact would seek to remove persons from SBC leadership who disagree with you and urge those who don't believe the way you do to leave the SBC.
27-28 --- You believe Southern Baptists are a distinctive group of committed Christians, and though you might not seek to remove people from current leadership in the SBC who disagree with you on these doctrines, you would prefer that only those who are in agreement with you be nominated to serve in positions of leadership. In addition, you would contend earnestly to seek to convince your fellow Southern Baptists that your positon on these doctrines is the right one.
29-30 --- Though you have personal convictions on these matters, you believe that these issues are open for interpretation. Further, what an individual Southern Baptist person or church believe regarding these matters is not a determining factor for your fellowship, cooperation and respect. You are comfortable with anyone in SBC leadership who holds to differing views than you on these doctrines and do not see it as a matter of essential importance to try to convince others of your views.
How did you score, and what do you think about such a theological triage test?
By the way, not one of the above doctrines is addressed specifically in the BFM 2000. A couple of the doctrines are touched on briefly in a very general way, and not in a specific manner (for instance, the BFM speaks of the return of Christ, but not a 1,000 year reign).
In His Grace,