Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Is Eschatology A Non-Essential of the Faith?

When we hear the phrase, "essentials of the faith", we think of beliefs that we might consider essential for salvation but that is not what is actually meant by essentials of the faith.  The concept of "The Faith" is perhaps best encapsulated in Jude 1:3 wherein we read:
"Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints." -- NKJV
As you can see the "common salvation" is one thing whereas "the Faith" is another.  It is in common salvation that we Christians all are bound, but in that common salvation we call, "the Faith".  And "the Faith" is that which was once for all delivered, not to all or any person and every person, but to THE SAINTS.
So, "the Faith" is the fellowship, the shared heritage of the saints.  We Christians are called to contend earnestly for it.  Perhaps a secular comparison would be a person's shared bond with his or her nation and its heritage and principles.  Christians are part of an holy nation.  Thus, when we say the "essentials of the Faith" we do not mean that which brings us salvation; which is only Christ and nothing more -- not baptisms, not eating, not alms or sacrifices (Hebrews 9:10-15).  The Essentials of the Faith are those common beliefs among the saints, as passed down from Jesus and His hand-picked apostles (2 Thes 2:15).  The Essentials of the Faith are those things which the first Christians learned and the second Christians, and the Christians after them and after them and unto us and forward (Romans 16:17).  The Essentials of the Faith are what really makes Christians, Christians -- again, I'm not talking about our common salvation, but about our common beliefs, basic beliefs shared by ALL Christians since day one of Christianity.
Unfortunately, in our almost Anabaptistic mindset of modern Christianity, we have adopted a rabid individualism that distorts the fact that Christianity is meant to be a community built upon the foundation of the apostles and the Cornerstone of Christ. (Eph 2:20)
This brings us to the focus of this article; Eschatology and whether or not it is an essential of the Faith.  Interestingly enough, many people are at first inclined as I have been to say that Eschatology (the endtimes view) is not an essential of the Faith.  We might especially think Eschatology is a non-essential because it is the last of the "ologies".  We may posit that soteriology (salvation understanding) MUST be determined and if a person does not determine this, then that person is outside the essentials of the Faith.  Or perhaps someone would add that our ecclesiology (church understanding) must be settled or otherwise we may have wavered on an essential of the Faith, after all, how we see and do church is at the heart of being a people, a community of saints.  However, there is something I have learned that I wish to share and that perhaps others have seen.
Eschatology of all the "ologies" is the one that ALL of Christianity has been most united.  Contrary to what we may think, Eschatology is actually the MOST SETTLED doctrine of Christianity.  Let's examine.  The four main eschatological points are as follows:
  1. Jesus will return and manifest Himself in some manner in the future.
  2. The resurrection of the believers is yet future and will be bodily [having form].
  3. The judgment of the wicked and righteous is yet future and final.
  4. There will be an end of sin and culmination of God's plan for the earth.
Note, that whether a person is denominationally, Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Reformed/Protestant, Anabaptist, or Modern Evangelical -- ALL of the historic expressions of Christianity have affirmed these 4 eschatological "essentials".  Certainly when it comes to millennial views or tribulational views there is great variance.  But again, whether a Christian identifies with Arminianism, Calvinism, Semi-Pelagianism, or any other salvific understanding, when it comes to Eschatology, they are ALL IN AGREEMENT.  Eschatology, therefore should no longer be viewed as the realm of wild-eyed prophecy buffs, but instead as the most settled condition and doctrine of the Faith.  It is "essential" that if a person is to call themselves a "Christian" that they believe at the bare minimum, the things that Christians have believed in unison and the same things for which Christians have been contending ever since the apostles constituted the first congregation.
So, be ready to contend for the Faith when ever or where ever some person who claims they are part of the Faith, are actually advocating something OTHER than the essentials of the Faith.

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