As a Christian, how important are ‘ correct beliefs’? Does it matter what I believe so long as Jesus is my savior and I live a good life? And are all beliefs equally important? I have grappled with questions similar to these over the years as I have studied and come to grips with what I believe. And why I believe them. For me, the answers to the above questions are, ‘It depends’, ‘Yes’, and ‘No’.
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Table of contents
The Importance of Right Beliefs
So why are my beliefs important? I believe there are several reasons for this, including:
- The truth is important. What I believe is important because I want to believe what is true. It is more important to me to have right beliefs than just popular beliefs.
- My beliefs will shape how I view God. Is he a loving God who cares about what happens to people? Is he a judgmental God who punishes sin? Or is he indifferent to what goes on here?
- My beliefs will also affect how I see myself serving God. Is he satisfied with me living a good life, regularly going to church and contributing to the offering? Or does he equip me for service within his kingdom and expect me to be more actively involved?
- My beliefs can also impact how I relate to others in the church. Do we come together to be ministered to? If so, I am more concerned about what others can do for me. Or do we come together to minister? And in that case I should be more concerned with what I can do for others.
- And how I view the world around me will be affected by what I believe. Are the folks in Somalia godless heathen deserving only judgment? Are they lost and in need or a savior? Or are they hungry and in need of what we have to offer them?
In my mind, beliefs are critically important if they impact my relationship with God. They are moderately important if they affect my relationship with other believers. Including my ability to work alongside them. Or if they make a significant impact on how I serve God. They are not important if they do not impact my service for God in any appreciable way. And if they do not affect my fellowship with other believers. It is worth noting here that not everyone will agree concerning where the division should be. What I might view as relatively unimportant may be considered to be of utmost importance to someone else. And that may impact our ability to serve together.
Critically Important Beliefs
I believe that some beliefs are vital if one calls himself (or herself) a Christian. I tend toward looking at the emphasis the Scriptures place on beliefs to evaluate their importance. For instance, Hebrews 11:6 says that it is impossible to please God without faith. And then it tells us two things about faith: we must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. So those would seem to be critically essential beliefs that we have right.
In 1 John 4:2-3, John emphasizes the importance of acknowledging that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. Those who do are of God, while those who do not are not of God. John makes it clear in this letter that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, that he is divine. But here, he also says he is a man; he has come in the flesh. According to John, that Jesus is God and human is a critical belief.
In 1 Corinthians 15:3-5, Paul identifies those beliefs of first importance. And these include the redemptive death of Jesus and his resurrection from the dead. I find it hard to understand how one could claim to be a follower of Jesus who disputes that he died for them and rose to bring them new life. These beliefs are critical, according to Paul.
Christianity is based on belief
- in the existence of God
- that he has a future for those who seek him
- that Jesus is God and man
- that Jesus’ death was redemptive
- that his resurrection brings new life.
If a person disputes one of these foundational beliefs, are they really Christians, at least in the Biblical sense?
Beliefs that are not important
On the other hand, what difference does it make where I stand concerning the rapture/tribulation/millennium kingdom? I was a pre-trib pre-millennialist for the first year of my Christian journey. But after some serious study of the Bible, I became a post-trib pre-millennialist. And I find that at some time in my life, I have become an amillennialist.
While some will view me as moving further and further into heresy because of this, I have a hard time understanding what real difference it makes. At least apart from the position I take when discussing last things. My faith in God is unchanged; the way I live my life is unchanged, and my hope for the future is unchanged. Nor should this difference in belief affect my ability to worship and serve alongside people with contrasting views.
I would personally view what you believe about the rapture/tribulation/millennium kingdom as relatively unimportant. How important is the reconciliation of Jesus’ genealogies in Matthew and Luke? While I would like to know the truth about it, I can think of little practical value it would provide to me. At this point, it is an unknown to me, and I don’t worry too much about it. It is relatively unimportant.
Important but non-critical beliefs
But there is a middle ground here as well. Beliefs that are important but not necessarily critical to my claim to being a child of God. Biblical inerrancy is an example of this. Which side of this debate I stand on does not impact my salvation, so long as I hold to the critical beliefs. But it can dramatically impact what I believe about many other things. That would include the Genesis stories and the place of women in the church. And that can make it challenging to serve closely with others who have a different belief on some of these hot topic items.
Who is called to serve God, a selected few, or all believers? While I do not believe your answer to this question will impact your salvation, it will affect your relationship with God. If he has called all of us to serve, and yet I am satisfied with delegating that service to professional clergy, I will not be looking for his leading in my life and opportunities to serve him. It is the difference between being a spectator and a participant in the kingdom’s work. This is a crucial belief because of its impact on my life, my relationship with other believers, and, most importantly, my walk with God. But this is not a critical belief because it does not affect my salvation.
Are you Arminian or Calvinistic in your soteriology? Dispensational, Replacement Theology, or Fulfillment Theology? Ordinances or Sacraments? Congregational, Presbyterian, or Episcopalian in church government? Was Jesus born of a virgin? Is our eternity in heaven or a renewed earth? And there are many other beliefs that, while I have definite opinions about, do not determine our salvation. Or necessarily our effectiveness as believers. At least that is my position. A position that many no doubt will disagree with. For what it’s worth, I would answer: Arminian soteriology; fulfillment theology; ordinances; congregation / presbyterian government; yes; and a renewed earth to the list above.
I believe that each of us is responsible to God for our beliefs. And for having the correct beliefs. It is important to know what you believe and why. And it is crucial to seek the truth. Prayerfully search the Scriptures, trusting the Holy Spirit to guide you into truth. Know and understand what your church teaches. Don’t be afraid to ask other people the what’s and why’s of their beliefs. But remember your responsibility in the matter. Focus most on those beliefs that are more important. Those that most impact your relationship with God and with your fellow believers. Become rooted and grounded in the faith and resistant to every strange teaching that comes your way. That is the path to maturity in your faith.
The views expressed here are solely mine and do not necessarily reflect those of any other person, group, or organization. While I believe they reflect the teachings of the Bible, I am a fallible human and subject to misunderstanding. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions about this post in the comments section below. I am always interested in your feedback.
If you have found value in this post, please consider subscribing to A Clay Jar so that you don’t miss any other posts.