By Paul Taylor
In this excerpt from my new book, No Time for Itching Ears, I want to explain the rationale between defining doctrines as primary, secondary and tertiary. I then make the case that the plain, historical reading of Genesis constitutes a primary doctrine.
Three Point Scale of Doctrines Defined
I have not come across any other comment on the relative rankings of doctrines, like the one that I am about to use. But I like to classify doctrines as Primary, Secondary and Tertiary.
Primary Doctrines are essential indicators of orthodoxy. Without an acceptance of these doctrines, the subject is outside of the church and therefore outside of fellowship. To clarify this point, a new Christian may not have got all their doctrine straight, and might, for example, not fully understand the concept of the Trinity (and none of us fully understand it!). But when such a primary doctrine is explained, if the subject consistently rejects it, and says they cannot accept it, one must doubt whether they have really been saved at all. If such a doctrine is a primary doctrine, then the Holy Spirit will witness to people that the doctrine is true. Examples of primary doctrines are the ones on which I focus in this book.
Secondary Doctrines are not unimportant. A church ought to take an official position on such a doctrine. But in joint church initiatives it ought to be possible to work with people who do not share these doctrines. For example, I hinted above that I hold to the doctrine of Believers’ Baptism by immersion. Not everyone who works for a ministry, like the one for which I work, will necessarily agree with me on this. Christian ministries may not be able to take a position on such a secondary doctrine. But my church does take a position on this, and it should. Other examples of secondary doctrines would be Calvinism vs. Arminianism, or differing eschatological positions, or what position one takes on the Baptism into the Holy Spirit.
Tertiary Doctrines are those, on which people even within a church will differ. Such doctrines would include how the Sunday School should be taught, or different modes of worship music….
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