Albert Mohler wrote an article several years ago that had a tremendous impact on me dealing with the issue of primary, secondary, and tertiary theological issues. As a zealous young man (yes, I am still relatively young), it’s easy to be the “cage stage” theologian who places every little doctrine as primary. This becomes dangerous for all in your path (hence, CAGE STAGE), and it’s sub-Biblical…as there are a range of doctrines that are of first importance and others that perhaps less important (in regards to being in the Kingdom of God).
Let me provide an analogy regarding range of doctrine. If you’re building a house there are some non-negotiables, such as: roof, walls, foundation. Without these the house crumbles and is worthless. In my analogy, these are the primary, non-negotiable doctrines.
In that same house, you will also have some specs of secondary importance, such as: number of bathrooms, number of bedrooms, central air, etc. The house is still functional and it’s still “a house,” but it may be a deal-breaker for you – particularly, if you’re shopping the market for a home for your family.
The third-tier issues, or tertiary importance in that house would be: the windows, the painting on the walls, the siding color, etc. Again, these are important – but it shouldn’t be something to truly divide over. Make sense?
What I’m attempting to describe for you are the primary, secondary, and tertiary doctrines within the Church, that we must be able to rightly discern.
What are primary issues?
· Doctrine of God and the Trinity
· A faithful Christology
· Doctrine of salvation – by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone
· Doctrine of Scripture
These are laid out, not only in the Scripture, but Church Historic has encapsulated these primary doctrines in the Creeds of the Church, i.e., Nicene Creed. We can go here and see what the Church has always believed as non-negotiables. If you deny these, you are outside the Kingdom! We cannot budge on these. I’m sure you’re tracking with me here…
The secondary and tertiary issues can be:
· Doctrine of the charismatic gifts
· Mode and timing of baptism
· Calvinism and Arminianism – beware the High Calvinists 😊
· Church polity
· Eschatology – A, Post, or Premil
And the list goes on and on…
It takes some maturity and Biblical discernment to make distinctions between those of first importance and those of secondary or tertiary importance. Please understand, all doctrine is important…but not all doctrine should divide the body!
I’ll leave you with Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15, as he drives home the emphasis on what is of utmost importance.
1 Corinthians 15:3-4 - For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,
Grace and peace,