Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Truths
The Bible teaches that not all truth is of equal importance. Paul explains in Rom 14:1–4 that Christians should not separate based upon diet, though Paul believes that Christians are allowed to eat any type of food. In Phil 3:15, Paul permits disagreement within the body of Christ by stating his opinion but then saying, “If in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.” And in 1 Cor 15:3 he speaks of the gospel as a matter of “first importance.” To say that the gospel is primary is to also to say that other truths are secondary.
These and other passages (e.g., Matt 10:15, 22:38; and John 19:11) reveal that we must place various degrees of importance upon different doctrines. Some doctrines, like Trinitarianism, are central. Those who deny the Trinity are not Christians, and the Trinity is a doctrine worth dying for. Other doctrines are not central but still carry considerable importance. An example of this is believer’s baptism. Though we as a church do not baptize babies, we believe that many who do are headed to heaven. Many doctrines don’t matter that much. Take, for example, the issue of Bible translations. Some Christians assert that the KJV is the source of truth. Such thinking is misguided. Though the KJV serves as a wonderful, historic translation, the prophets and apostles never spoke about it, so we should not overemphasize the value of the KJV.
Fundamentalists separate over the smallest of differences, and liberals don’t separate over anything. We must avoid both errors by demonstrating that we are evangelicals—those who contend for central doctrine, fellowship around secondary doctrine, and allow for differences in tertiary beliefs