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Shadows of Divine Things

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Location: Texas, United States

This site is devoted to theological and philosophical investigations of the spiritual meanings of life, current events, music, spiritual growth, nature, and learning to be attuned to listening to the 'language of God.' The name of this blog comes from one of Jonathan Edwards's journals which he called 'Shadows of Divine Things,' and later renamed 'Images of Divine Things.' As a Christian I am continously on a spiritual journey to grow more into the image of Christ, to understand what it means to be crucified with Christ. To seek the truths of the Christian Faith is of upmost importance, and to know that any truths that are found outside of Christianity are present there because they ultimately point to God. I have an M.A. in theology and apologetics and I completed one year of graduate studies in Philosophy at Marquette University.

Friday, April 14, 2006

The Essentials: Identifying Beliefs (Part Two)

What I want to avoid (in this series) in determining the essentials that identify us as Christians is to reduce Christianity to a set of minimal beliefs. Christianity is far greater than a few essentials. However, at the same time, certain core or essential doctrines of Christianity do exist, I think, and they are essential in that they do identify us as Christians as apposed to say Buddhists, or Muslims, etc.

The question that has really caused me much contemplation is—must these essentials necessarily be believed in order for one to actually be (or become) a Christian. My initial response is ‘no’ apart from the actual gospel message, that essential, it seems, one must believe in order to become (or be) Christian. Take that away and you would have no Christians and no Christianity. Perhaps I am equivocating on the terms “saved” and “being a Christian,” I am not sure here. Perhaps those of you reading this can help me out in my thinking here. Nonetheless, the first of my “list” of essentials is the gospel. I think the gospel message is the one essential that is absolutely needed to be believed in order for one to actually be (become) a Christian; the introductory essential, so to speak.

Let me clarify what I mean by the gospel since I firmly believe that in our 21st century culture we have taken this one essential and made it far more complicated than it actually is. The gospel is the simple proclamation of the Jewish Messiah, Jesus the Christ, His life, death, and resurrection. That is it. Certainly the gospel has theological underpinnings, but too often, I think, these theological underpinnings get confused with the gospel itself. The gospel is not sola fide, the gospel is not the issue of imputation or infusion (whatever the theological case may be), etc. These things are not the gospel as so many popular authors, as well as lay people within certain denominations have confused and claim them to be. The gospel is a simple proclamation, and it asks the hearer to respond. How that works itself out in and through the believer once they embrace the proclamation of the gospel is the theological underpinnings of the gospel, but these underpinnings are not the gospel.

Thus, the gospel is, in my estimation, the first essential of Christianity that anyone hears or reads and then embraces and believes in order to call themselves a Christian. The gospel message is Christological and Trinitarian in character, and it sets Christians apart from other communities and traditions. It is an essential of Christianity.

[More to come]

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