Majors vs. Minors

Published November 17, 2012 by Elspeth

Karen Jones asked in response to my last post:

I wish someone would say exactly what the minor and major issues are…even the bible leaves me confused about it…

I think I know that the basics should be Jesus son of God…God come to earth to die on a cross for all our sins and be resurrected into eternal life that we all can freely have if we confess his name as our savior, the bible is God’s words to us ” an instruction book for earth living” then I do not compromise on any of that. But people are calling marriage or abortion and other things minor issues which I consider major issues. Yet I see people have formed different churches over things like length of hair , dress , etc. which I consider more minor issues.

This is a good question and if you’re like me, you find that the things you consider major change as you grow and change. Things that seemed monumental to me 5 years ago seem inconsequential to me now. I’ll use the marriage debate as an example since it is an issue that several Christians have disagreed with me about as well as issue raised by Karen in her comment.

When I wrote Why The Marriage Debate Fails to Move Me, most of the response was positive, but I did receive private correspondence from a few readers who thought I was way off base. They believe that this is a major issue, that the church needs to take a stand on it, and that my position is antithetical to the Christian mandate.

Five years ago, I felt the exact same way. I thought that the extension of marriage “rights” to homosexuals would signal the death knell of marriage as we know it. I thought that we needed to fight state sanctioned homosexual marriage. The validity of all marriages depended on it. While this was once a major issue to me, it no longer is. In fact, I have evolved even more as I have come to believe that the state should probably withdraw from the marriage business altogether, that the church should perform and record sacramental marriages among its own, and that the church should also impose harsh disciplinary and social penalties on those who divorce for any reasons not clearly outlined in Scripture. The state can do and honor whatever it wishes for those on the outside, and it should be of little concern to us.

Does this mean that I am in favor of homosexual marriage? Absolutely not. It is an abomination and there is nothing good or right about it. Is it a hill that the church should be willing to die on? In my opinion, it is not. Again, I haven’t always felt that way, but I do now. The fact that I don’t see it as major doesn’t mean that it isn’t a major issue for someone else. It has been a struggle for me to divorce the political from the spiritual.

Others who have not had that struggle may be perfectly free to fight this fight. It is not my fight. I am more concerned with the dismal state of marriage within the church and am thoroughly convinced that we should give more attention to that issue than we should whether or not the state gives gays access to civilly recognized unions under the umbrella of marriage, as if tacking the word marriage on to the word “gay” suddenly makes it a valid form of marriage. I don’t believe it does, so for me the issue is less exciting.

Ultimately, I believe there are some things that are major issued for us all and I’ll end this post in just a minute with what I believe those issues are. First however, I think we need to understand as believers that everyone has a story and a struggle for deliverance from certain vices, and what is a a genuine, eternal life or death major issue for one person may not rise to the same level for another.

For a recovered alcoholic, one glass of wine is a major. For another believer, it is a minor issue where total abstention is not required. To declare that the only way to walk is as a teetotaler is to impose an unbiblical standard on another believer’s liberty.

For the woman who has struggled with lust, promiscuity, or a desire to be desired, the modesty issue comes front and center in a way that it doesn’t for a woman who doesn’t have the same issues even though we are all Scripturally committed to modesty. Makeup or none, jeans or none, sleeveless or not, it will play out differently depending on the woman, her story, her husband. It’s not for me to decide whether or not it’s a major issue nor how she should walk it out.

There are major issues that all believers can unite around. As we strive to prayerfully live out the universal majors, we free others to master their personal major issues and we are free to do the same. Well, what are the major issues?

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16

30 and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31

that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. Romans 10:9-10

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; [b]bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  1 Corinthians 13: 4-7

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5: 22-23

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. Hebrews 11:6

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8

There are of course, other bedrock doctrinal truths that I could list, but there isn’t the time. I could go on for days! You get the picture.

It is not my intent to ignore this most important question: How Then Shall We Live? I just happen to believe that the answer to that question comes into much better focus when we strive to build a firm foundation on the fundamentals.

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12 comments on “Majors vs. Minors

  • I just hit publish and can already see where I need to elaborate, LOL. On this point:

    The state can do and honor whatever it wishes for those on the outside, and it should be of little concern to us.

    I am not saying that we shouldn’t exercise our rights as Americans to be a part of the political process. I AM saying that on matters where Scripture has given us clear, unambiguous directives on what is acceptable, what is to be done and how, and what God acknowledges versus what He doesn’t, it’s foolish to get caught up and entangled in what the world thinks about it.

    The greater culture will always reject God’s way in favor of something more deviant and we shouldn’t waste time trying to make them see it our way. Better to make every effort as the body of believers to model and enforce God’s way among ourselves. That way men will see our good works and we can be the lights we were called to be. As it stands, we are not even doing that, so what’s the point on railing against them in the public square?

  • Have you read Al Mohler’s article on Theological Triage? It’s outstanding. I teach it to my students every year to help them understand what issues are first-tier/foundational and which aren’t.

    Also, at the risk of setting myself up to be long-winded, I think there is a BIG difference from person to person in what some of these “issues” mean to our theology, and I think it’s both lazy and uncharitable to use them as code-words or shibboleths to figure out if that person is “liberal.” For instance, many of my friends overseas don’t understand why American Christians make such a big deal out of — just as one example among many others — evolution. They don’t have any problem with a poetic interpretation of Genesis 1, and most of them believe that God used the processes of natural selection over a long period of time as the means by which he created the world. They fully accept the authority of God’s word and that God is the creator, but many Christians see the word “evolution” and immediately think “liberalism” or “compromise” or whatever, using belief in a literal six-day creation sometime less than 10,000 years ago as a sorting mechanism between Christian and non-Christian, rather than taking the time to ask, “What do you believe about Scripture? About God’s role as creator?” etc. That kind of facile divisiveness is what I think we need to strive to avoid in any conversation like this.

  • Yes LG, I think that’s another one of those thngs that has fallen into the “minor” category with me. Not that I agree with believers who have a poetic interpretation of Genesis 1, but neither am I ready to relegate them to “not a Christian” status, the way some of my more fundamentalist brothers and sisters are.

    I sincerely believe that one can be wrong or have a different interpretation of certain passages of Scripture and still be a bloodwashed believer. I have grown weary of “shibboleths” not based on anything concrete.

    I sometimes worry that I am becoming the kind of believer i used to castigate, with my openness to those whose fruit is evident even though they seem to be wrong on a few issues.

    For me it really has come down to: “What do you believe about sin, redemption, and salvation? What do you do with Jesus? Do you live what you claim to believe?”

    If we can meet on that, I can take a “come now let us reason together” approach to the rest of it. After all, I have my hands full examining myself to see if I am in the faith.

    I have seen too many hair-covered fornicators, adultery committing preachers, and frivolously divorcing Sunday school teachers in my day to hinge my fellowship with people on whether they agree with me on every single point.

    But like I said, for some, evolution may be a major. It’s not one of mine.

    I should add that the shrinking number of issues that I would consider major to my mind is also one one of the reasons I am calling it quits here. This entire blog often feels like a dissertation on the minors. When I get the itch to write, there’s always TC, where I can get it out there and be done with it.

  • I love your majors and I completely agree. I do write about homosexual marrriage once in awhile on my blog because I think it will so detrimentally affect our society, especially the children. They will be asked when they are 5 years old whether they want to marry a man or woman and sexuality isn’t set in stone. So I speak out against it but it isn’t a hill I would die on as you say…Being salt and light in a dark and decaying society is what we are called to do. To love God and love others. It is really quite simple. Blessings, Lori

  • Thank you so much for answering my question! I had come to the same conclusion on marriage including wether we as Christians should even participate in “government ” marriage and then I talked myself right around to the place I began…..I think I am okay with letting the culture do its own thing ,but in raising my girls it seems I am always having to point out God’s way which looks like I am majoring in the minors around here , we always are in the nitty- gritty . Maybe that comes with raising children and we move on to the majors as they move on to their own lives.? Anyway you have given me a better perspective when dealing with adults , as I am mostly dealing with children you know.. like nephews who burst in the door with the “news” that God isn’t real, they just explained all about evolution in school!! Then I am back teaching in the minors again! It may just be a season of life. Maybe it is so for you as your older daughters must not need this kind of teaching so much anymore and your younger ones are not asking or challenging those areas yet? Anyway thank you so much for such a thoughtful answer. Karen

  • Yes, internet religious discussion especially can become extremely lopsided as individuals become insistent on focusing on one or another particular which the Lord currently has them concentrating on.. The proof-texts start flying and language can become dismissive or abusive when “simple” presentation s fail to win converts.

    Something one man from our congregation noted a while back is that a Biblical marker of a false teacher is not so much his theological stance (although this is still crucial, as such things as “Christ is God, come in the flesh ” are foundational truths), but his overall character

    There are several related passages, but for instance, 2 Timothy elaborates:
    3:1 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.
    3:2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,
    3:3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good,
    3:4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,
    3:5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.
    (ESV)

    And, a main reason for avoidance is explained in the very next verse.

    6 For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions,
    7 always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.

    It’s not because one group of Christians is to consider themselves to be superior to others, but because any of us .can become deceived and led astray by close association with professing Christians who do not noticeably demonstrate the life-changing power of spiritual rebirth.

    In that respect, it is possible to be like the demons to which James refers who certainly have adequate theological understanding of who Jesus Christ is, yet are unmoved to repent, accept Christ as King and do what is right in God’s sight.

    All of us, fundamentalist or no, would do well to remember that if I can do all manner of miracles, have mountains of scriptural knowledge, protest all sorts of social evils, die as a martyr etc. but do not have love….I am nothing.

  • Oh, I also wanted to say that I understand and can appreciate your perspective on , say the cultural “threat” to traditional marriage. But wanted to expand a bit on the concept that although we are to first primarily concern ourselves with purity within the Church, I see nothing wrong with addressing the topic as it affects our society as a whole. Not in the way that so many Christians have chosen to make it a political issue–but because it HAS infiltrated the Church on some level.

    While the religious lack of respect for God’s design has most obviously manifested itself through the scourge of divorce and loose morals regarding Christian “dating”, we ought to be willing to speak against any form of reinterpretation of marriage without apology. That doesn’t require you to designate a weekly blog post to the subject. But, as right and wrong in this instance are not “relative”, it also doesn’t mean that you need to be totally silent about the turn our society has taken–so long as you personally have acknowledged the need to uphold God’s standard.

  • While the religious lack of respect for God’s design has most obviously manifested itself through the scourge of divorce and loose morals regarding Christian “dating”, we ought to be willing to speak against any form of reinterpretation of marriage without apology. That doesn’t require you to designate a weekly blog post to the subject. But, as right and wrong in this instance are not “relative”, it also doesn’t mean that you need to be totally silent about the turn our society has taken–so long as you personally have acknowledged the need to uphold God’s standard.

    I understand your point, and I have no objection to those who feel compelled to fight this fight. But really, do I need to make a specific statement here in condemnation of gay marriage for anyone to know that I am against it?

    I guess it speaks to how far the Western church has fallen that it doesn’t go without saying, LOL.

    For the record, unless it was ever up for debate, I oppose homosexual marriage. I was particularly dismayed by the number of “Obama 2012″ bumper stickers in my church’s parking lot. I kind of figured that even if most of the people there were as economically ignorant as the majority of America, that abominations such as “gay marriage” and “abortion on demand” were clear cut enough that those who claim the name of Christ would simply refuse to vote for the man on Biblical principle.

    All that to say, I am not completely indifferent to the issue. Still, when I think on the issue I can’t help but remember an old gospel song that used to play on this AM station my dad listened to on his little transistor radio when I was a kid. The chorus went like this:

    Sweep around your own front door, before you try to sweep around mine

    I feel a greater pull toward reclaiming the sacredness of marriage amongst Christians than I do to speaking out against gay marriage. But yes, I am opposed to gay marriage.This is my official objection.

    As for the rest of your comment, I agree wholeheartedly. As usual.

  • I feel a greater pull toward reclaiming the sacredness of marriage amongst Christians than I do to speaking out against gay marriage. But yes, I am opposed to gay marriage.This is my official objection..

    Oh Terry, I doubt any of your regular readers ever have honestly wondered where you stand on issues such as gay “marriage” and abortion–my thought was not that you need to get more vocal about protesting what non-believers want to approve. As you know, my own site is not dedicated to generalized social commentary, so, it would be hypocritical to insist that you push that direction when I’m not even doing it.
    Rather, (if I may reference the song your father used to listen to), I was trying to say that such things are no longer sitting around their front doors only, but have deposited themselves on ours as well–either through deliberate disregard of scripture or ignorance of what it says. I suppose I have a great talent for stating the obvious, though.

    At any rate, since you intend to close shop here anyway, it’s most likely moot point as far as relates to blog articles.

  • At any rate, since you intend to close shop here anyway, it’s most likely moot point as far as relates to blog articles.

    True, that. I decided your comment was worthy of response since I’d heard that particular argument presented many times.

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