Theology Corner

Addressing commonly asked questions about Christianity from the perspective of a non-theologian

13. What are the Core Beliefs of Christianity?

Core Beliefs of Christianity Set Forth as Eight Points in Logical Succession with a Traditional Southern Baptist, Wesleyan/Arminian Flavor

The Bible is the inspired, infallible and inerrant word of God.

  • This concept is discussed in Chapter 10 of Christian Handbook of Reason and Insight for Scientists and Technologists.

The one true God exists as three distinct, transcendent, immanent, infinite, eternal, and immutable persons: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

  • The one true God (Deut 4:35, 6:4; Isa 43:10, 44:6-8; I Cor 8:6; 1 Tim 2:5) exists as three distinct,
  • transcendent (1 Kings 8:27),
  • immanent (Acts 17:27,28; Col 1:16-17),
  • infinite (1 Kings 8:27),
  • eternal (Isa 57:15) and
  • immutable (Mal 3:6) persons:
    • God the Father (John 5:18, 10:29, 14:28, 17:1-3; 1 Cor 8:6; Phil 2:11),
    • God the Son (Isa 7:14, 44:6; John 1:1-14, 5:18, 10:30, 20:28, 8:58 cf Ex 3:14; Rom 9:5; Phil 2:5-11; Col 1:15-18; Titus 2:13, Heb 1:8; 1 John 5:20; Rev 22:13-18) and
    • God the Holy Spirit (Ex 17:7 cf Heb 3:7-9; Mat 28:19; Acts 5:3-4, 13:2 cf Gal 1:1 and 1 Tim 1:1; 1 Cor 3:16; 2 Cor 13:14; 2 Tim 3:16 cf 2 Pet 1:21; Heb 9:14).

Some have claimed the Holy Spirit is not a person. This claim is refuted by the following Scriptures: (John 14:26, 15:26, 16:7-11, 14; Acts 5:3, 13:2, 16:7; Rom 8:16, 26; 1 Cor 12:11; Eph 1:14, 4:30).

Jesus Christ is God the Son. Jesus Christ is man. Jesus Christ is one person whose divine and human natures cannot be changed, divided, separated or mixed. Jesus Christ was resurrected bodily from the dead. Jesus Christ was born of a virgin.

  • Jesus Christ is God the Son (Isa 7:14 cf Mat 1:23, 44:6; John 1:1-14, 5:18, 10:30, 20:28, 8:58 cf Ex 3:14; Rom 9:5; Phil 2:5-11; Col 1:15-18; Titus 2:13, Heb 1:8; 1 John 5:20; Rev 22:13-18).
  • Jesus Christ is man (Mark 2:27,28; John 1:14; Rom 1:3; Phil 2:5-11; 1 Tim 2:5; 1 John 4:1-4).
  • Jesus Christ is one person whose divine and human natures cannot be changed, divided, separated or mixed (John 1:14; Rom 1:3,4, 8:3, 9:5; Gal 4:4,5; Phil 2:5-7; 1 Tim 3:16; Heb 2:11-14; 1 John 4:2,3).
  • Jesus Christ was resurrected bodily from the dead (Luke 24:36-47; John 2:19-21; Rom 8:11; 1 Cor 15:3-7; 1 John 3:2).
  • Jesus Christ was born of a virgin (Isa 7:14; Mat 1:23).

Every person since Adam and Eve, except Jesus Christ, was born with a sin nature and no person, except Jesus Christ, has lived a sinless life. (T)

  • Every person since Adam and Eve (Gen 3:6-19; Rom 7:14-25), except Jesus Christ (Luke 1:35), was born with a sin nature
  • and no person (Rom 3:23, 5:12-18, 6:23; 1 John 1:8-10), except Jesus Christ (John 8:46; 2 Cor 5:21; Heb 4:15; 1 Pet 1:18-19, 2:21-22; 1 John 2:1, 3:3), has lived a sinless life.

The spotless lamb, "without blemish," was required for the Passover (Ex 12:5) and the words, "without blemish," constantly recur in the descriptions of the sacrifices which pointed forward to the atonement accomplished by Christ.

The Scriptures are completely unanimous in declaring the perfect sinlessness of Christ under all circumstances. The sinlessness of Christ is not merely a personal attribute, characteristic of His human nature as well as His divine nature, but it is an attribute which is absolutely essential to the atonement.

Salvation from the consequences of sin is offered to all persons by the grace of God and the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ. (L)

  • Salvation from the consequences of sin is offered to all persons by the grace of God and the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ (John 1:29, 14:6; Acts 4:10-12; Rom 3:21-25, 5:12-18; Eph 2:8-10; 1 Tim 2:5; Heb 9:14-15)

The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all persons: (a) the requirements of the law are written by God on every heart, (b) Jesus Christ knocks at the door of every heart, (c) the Holy Spirit calls and convicts each person and (d) God's eternal power and divine nature are evident in the world around us. Nevertheless, many resist the grace of God. (I)

  • The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all persons (Titus 2:11):
  • (a) the requirements of the law are written by God on every heart (Rom. 2:15),
  • (b) Jesus Christ knocks at the door of every heart (Rev. 3:20),
  • (c) the Holy Spirit calls and convicts each person (John 16:8) and
  • (d) God's eternal power and divine nature are evident in the world around us (Rom 1:20).
  • Nevertheless, many resist the grace of God(Mat 25:46; 2 Thes 1:8-9).

The grace of God that comes before salvation is called prevenient grace. Prior to salvation, God initiates, advances and perfects everything that can be called good in man. God leads the sinner from one step to another in proportion as He finds response in the heart and disposition to obedience. Some men allow God to quicken, assist and nudge their free will to facilitate confession of sin, remorse, repentance, faith and obedience so they may receive the great gift of salvation (1 Pet 1:9). Other men choose to resist and reject the grace of God (2 Thes 1:8-9).

Each person who responds to God's grace and the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ by confession of sin, remorse, repentance, faith and obedience receives the great gift of salvation. Each person who resists God's grace is condemned to everlasting punishment. (U)

  • Each person who responds to God's grace and the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ by
  • confession of sin (Ps 32:3-5; 1 John 1:8-10),
  • remorse (Ps 66:18; Luke 18:13),
  • repentance (Mat 3:8; Rom 12:2, 13:14; Eph 4:23-24; Rev 2:5, 16, 3:3, 19),
  • faith (John 6:29, 3:16-17; Acts 16:31; Eph 2:8-10) and
  • obedience (Mat 28:20; Luke 11:28; John 14:15; Rom 1:5, 6:16; Heb 5:9)
  • receives the great gift of salvation (Acts 4:12; Rom 1:16; 2 Cor 7:10; 1 Thes 5:9; Heb 5:9; 1 Pet 1:9, 18-19).
  • Each person who resists God's grace is condemned to everlasting punishment (Mat 25:46; 2 Thes 1:8-9).

Christian belief must be preceded by repentance and followed by obedience to qualify as faith. Faith is not just an intellectual exercise (Jam 2:19) or an emotional experience (Jer 17:9).

Faith precedes regeneration; faith is an act of human free will responding to the grace of God.

Calvinists reject this doctrine. Calvinists contend regeneration precedes faith because God elected only certain persons for salvation. Those persons alone are regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit and subsequently demonstrate repentance, faith and obedience. The rest of mankind is condemned to everlasting punishment. Calvinism represents theological error. It is inconsistent with God's holiness, justice, goodness and truth and it is refuted by Scripture.

  • For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
  • He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2)
  • Then Peter began to speak: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. (Acts 10:34-35)
  • They came to him and said, "Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. (Mark 12:14)
  • This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor and strive) that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe. (1 Tim 4:9-10)
  • This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim 2:3-4)
  • The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Pet 3:9)
  • Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live? (Ezek 18:23)
  • Yet you say, 'The way of the Lord is not just.' Hear, O house of Israel: Is my way unjust? Is it not your ways that are unjust? (Ezek 18:25)
  • Say to them, 'As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?' (Ezek 33:11)
  • For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men. (Lam 3:33)
  • For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. (Deut 10:17)
  • Now let the fear of the LORD be upon you. Judge carefully, for with the LORD our God there is no injustice or partiality or bribery." (2 Chron 19:7)
  • Is he not the One who says to kings, 'You are worthless,' and to nobles, 'You are wicked,' who shows no partiality to princes and does not favor the rich over the poor, for they are all the work of his hands? (Job 34:18-19)
  • For God does not show favoritism. (Rom 2:11)
  • And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him. (Eph 6:9)

The T, U, L and I symbols after core beliefs 4, 7, 5, and 6 respectively denote which points of the TULIP correspond to each of the indicated core beliefs. These four core beliefs express the first four points of the Remonstrance. One more core belief is generally added to a Wesleyan/Arminian list but not to a Traditional Southern Baptist list:

Those once united to Christ by faith may, by turning away from God, lose the great gift of salvation. (P)

This is the fifth point of the Remonstrance corresponding to the P of the TULIP.

Mainline Wesleyan/Arminian denominations (UMC, Nazarene, Wesleyan, etc.) have become so preoccupied with social activism, political correctness and the introverted pursuit of personal holiness that they no longer have the time or inclination to defend their historic beliefs. However, Traditional Southern Baptists have been standing in the gap by affirming the essence of Prevenient Grace and embracing all five points of the Remonstrance except the last one denying eternal security.

Within the SBC, Traditional Baptists are battling insurgent Calvinists to preserve the Traditional Southern Baptist Theology of the 20th century. The following is a statement of that theology as it relates to salvation (soteriology) with T, U, L, I and P indicating the corresponding points of the TULIP.

Statements Covering the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God's Plan of Salvation

We affirm that every person inherits a sin nature. We deny that any sinner is saved apart from a free will response to the drawing of the Holy Spirit. (T)

We affirm that the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ was offered by God to save all persons from the consequences of sin. We deny that this atonement results in salvation without a person's free will response of repentance and faith. We affirm that any person who responds to the Gospel message with repentance and faith is born again. We deny that any person is regenerated prior to or apart from hearing and responding to the Gospel message. We affirm that election speaks of god's eternal plan to have a people who are His by repentance and faith. We deny that election means that, from eternity past, God predestined certain people for salvation and others for condemnation. We affirm God's eternal foreknowledge of every person's salvation or condemnation. We deny that God's sovereignty and foreknowledge require Him to cause a person's acceptance or rejection of Christ. We affirm that God, as an expression of His sovereignty, endows each person with free will. We deny that a decision of faith is an act of God rather than a response of the person. (U)

We affirm that the Gospel message is the good news that God has made possible a way of salvation for every person through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is in keeping with God's desire for every person to be saved. We deny that only a select few are capable of responding to the Gospel message while the rest are predestined to an eternity in hell. (L)

We affirm that the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all persons. We deny that: (1) grace negates the necessity of a free will response of faith, (2) grace cannot be resisted and (3) a response of faith is a meritorious work. (I)

We affirm the eternal security of the believer. We deny that anyone can lose their salvation (P).