In extreme fundamentalism, every doctrine is a hill to die on. Music (worship), dress, Bible versions (KJVO), personal separation (i.e. no movie attendance, alcohol, tobacco, gambling), believer’s baptism, pre-tribulational rapture — all of these are lined up right next to the Trinity, justification by grace through faith alone, inspiration, inerrancy, the virgin birth, etc. In short, every doctrine is essential, no doctrines are merely secondary. If God says it, I believe it, and that settles it!
Such a die hard commitment to truth is commendable. We certainly shouldn’t pick and choose between what parts of the Bible we should believe and those we shouldn’t! And in today’s relativistic age, when so many prize ecumenism and unity far above truth, this attitude is noble.
But let me ask an important question: “Doesn’t elevating every doctrinal position to the status of essential make the Gospel just another doctrine?”
The Gospel is just another position we stake out: one more hill to die on. When our time is spent defending the King James Bible or high dress standards, and when we start putting “KJB 1611” and “old-fashioned” on our church signs, we are acting as if these positions matter to us as much as, if not more so than the Gospel.
What we choose to separate over, defines us — whether we admit it or not. And for many well-intentioned fundamentalists, what distinguishes them are not matters “of first importance” (1 Cor. 15:3).
The Gospel should be big enough to unite over. It is a towering peak, far more important than one’s eschatological or ecclesiastic positions, and certainly bigger than one’s view of Bible translations and dress standards.
Since the Gospel is so important, we should be thrilled to find someone who believes as we do on the Gospel. If the Gospel matters so much, then it should matter much to us if someone agrees with us on the Gospel, other differences notwithstanding. I explained this point in these words in an earlier post:
Rather than prizing the actual unity we have as fellow believer-partakers in our Divine Lord Jesus Christ\’s glorious provision for our sins as an altogether adequate basis for a mutual fellowship and unity which welcomes each other in spite of our differing positions on comparatively minor points, the minor points [upon which we disagree] define us as we esteem them of greater importance than our commonality in the Gospel. Our own applications of separation, views on baptism, and beliefs about the finer points of eschatology and ecclesiology and other doctrines become stumblingblocks to the real unity of the faith the One True Gospel calls us to, and the world is robbed of a clear witness to the Oneness of Christ and the Father, and of Christ and His Church, and ultimately God is denied a unified voice that glorifies His name (Eph. 4:3,13, Jn. 17:20-21, Rom. 15:5-7).
I’m not claiming we shouldn’t stand for secondary doctrines. They are important. But they are not what the kingdom of God is all about (Rom. 14:17-20). In all our defense of truth, let us make sure we are not belittling the place of the Gospel in our system of thought. Make sure the Gospel towers above your horizon as your defining reality and the focus of your faith and of your life.