In this episode, we discuss the differences between core truths and peripheral truths of the Christian faith, and the importance of teaching these differences to your children. A core truth could be defined as beliefs that separate a Christian from a non-Christian. These would be the tenets of the faith that are necessary in order to even be classified as a Christian. In this episode, we also distinguish between the core truths necessary to come to faith in Christ, and the core truths necessary to be considered an orthodox Christian. “Orthodox” is just a fancy word for the accepted range of normal beliefs within Christianity. This distinguishes beliefs from something called “heretical beliefs.” A heresy is a belief that is at odds with what is generally accepted, like the idea that Jesus was just a good teacher and not really God. This would be considered a heresy that is at odds with orthodox Christianity. There is a wide range of orthodox beliefs, which should not be confused with denominational beliefs. Most denominational beliefs are still within orthodoxy.
Denominational beliefs would be closer to what we define as “peripheral truths.” Peripheral truths are aspects of the Christian faith that do not have direct bearing on a person’s salvation. Indeed, many who come to the faith have to be discipled into an orthodox faith, often making heretical mistakes along the way until they understand scripture better. We actually didn’t get into all that in the podcast, but that is a helpful background for understanding what we were talking about.
In this podcast we addressed
- The difference between core truths and peripheral truths
- WHY it is important to help our kids distinguish between these two: there will always be some things to the Christian faith that we don’t understand, but only some of those should rock our identify in Christ, or our assurance that the Christian faith is actually true. This will in turn help your kids understand what things should rock their faith, and which things should not.
- Rebekah’s story from Christian to atheist and back to Christian, and how learning how to differentiate between doubts about core tenets and doubts about peripheral tenets helped her return to faith
- My conversation and advice with a girl on an airplane about how questions about God’s views on homosexuality were making her question her faith.
- The differences between Christianity’s claims, and the claims of other religions and how Christianity makes claims that are testable (i.e. eye witness claims) vs claims that rely on personal subjective experience or trusting someone else’s subjective experience.
- The Gospels are the core.
- Ask yourself “Does this doubt tell me whether or not Christianity is objectively true?”
- There are two types of “core” beliefs: beliefs needed to even be presented with the Gospel, and core beliefs to have what is considered “Orthodox” belief. (i.e. not a cult)
- Core beliefs to interact with the Gospel:
- Truth Exists
- People like to be selective about the existence of truth. They like to claim truth in empirical science, but not in religion or morality.
- God Exists – You cannot entertain God in the flesh (Jesus) without first agreeing that there is a God in the first place
- Sin Exists – Jesus is superfluous if there is no such thing as sin
- I’m not perfect – a person has no need of a savior if they are perfect
- Jesus existed – 2 reasons for disbelief 1) Overly educated to believe the Jesus Myther movement or 2) They legitimately have never heard that a man named Jesus existed
- Truth Exists
- When to appeal to the “mysteriousness of God” as an answer to a question, and when not to. (hint: punting to “mystery” too soon tells your kids that “there are no good answers to that question.” This can be very dangerous if kids start to generalize faith with “no good reasons.” Faith without reasons is foolish, and a wise child will (and should) turn away from a foolish faith.)
- Core for orthodox faith (as taken from quote)
- Jesus – incarnation
- God as Trinity (3 persons)
- Original Sin (i.e. sin exists)
- Living in Rebellion (i.e. I’m not perfect)
- Jesus’ Death and Resurrection
- Bodily return – a faith statement, not verifiable as of now
- Resurrection for the saints – also a faith statement, not verifiable as of now
- God as the Creator
- The Bible as the authoritative word of God
- Atheist – believes there is no God (or as the “new Atheists” say, “I lack God belief.”
- Agnostic – isn’t sure whether there is a God. They don’t think there is, but they can’t say definitively
- Verificationism – We can only know truth by things that are empirically provable (i.e. like physical laws) or logically necessary (like mathematics). This leaves basically anything that is observable outside the area of truth – like morality
- Relativism – the doctrine that knowledge, truth, and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context, and are not absolute. This is the “what’s true for you is true for you, and what’s true for me is true for me” junk that people try to claim is apparently “true for all people.” For further reading, see the book “Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air” by Francis Beckwith and Greg Koukle
- Self-defeating/self-refuting – statements which, if true, negate the statement. Ex: “I cannot speak a word of English” or “There is no absolute truth”
- Jesus Myther movement – movement of people centered around the hypothesis that a literal Jesus of Nazareth never existed in history and is an elaborate hoax. While this is rejected by most scholars (even atheist and agnostic scholars) there is a growing group of atheists on the internet who are becoming more and more vocal, and targeting young people
- Paradox – a statement that sounds like it contradicts itself, but can yet be true. (i.e God is three persons in one)
- Nicene Creed – statement of faith that addresses orthodox theology of who Christ was, and dismisses heresies that were arising during the 3rd and 4th See script for the first podcast or go here to read the whole creed.
Resources/people mentioned in this podcast:
- J. Warner Wallace Cold Case Christianity
- William Lane Craig Video on doubt
- Good people to know for learning about the historicity and textual criticism of the New Testament documents: Dan Wallace (of CSNTM.org) Daryl Bock, Craig Blumberg, Michael Licona
- Bart Ehrman – former Christian New Testament historian who spends all his energy trying to discredit the new testament documents. HOWEVER… he is also very outspoken against the Jesus Myther, and is very vocal about discrediting and debunking their bogus scholarship. So he’s a mixed bag.
- Devin and Melissa Pellew – couple who went to Skepticon. They have a radio program called “theology matters”
- Francis Collins – believer who is head of Bio-Logos, the main think tank for theistic evolution. We do not agree with much of his theology (and science for that matter), but neither are we willing to say that he is not a genuine believer. That’s not our call.
- Apologetics for the 21st Century by Lewis Marcos (HBU professor of humanities) – apologetics on a topical level that is really well written
- Clay Jones – has lots of blogs on the slaughter of the Canaanites
- Paul Copan – has written on the slaughter of the Canaanites
- Apologetics for the 21st Century quote: “Though apologists approach their defense of the faith from a number of different angles, all of them must include at their core a defense of the central and defining core of Christianity, namely that Jesus of Nazareth was not just a good man, or an inspired prophet, but the unique son of God. This doctrine, known as “the incarnation” holds that Jesus was not half man and half God, but fully human and fully divine. And around the incarnation may be grouped other essential doctrines of the faith that God – though one – exists eternally as three persons, we are all born with a sinful nature, we exist in a state of rebellion against God and His law, that Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross brought us back into a relationship with God the Father (through the atonement), that Jesus rose bodily from the grave (the resurrection), that he will return bodily (the second coming) and that all who are in Christ will join Him in the final resurrection from the dead. These are the key non-negotiables, to which may be added 2 more: that God is the maker of Heaven and earth, and that the Bible is the authoritative word of God. There are many apologists, myself among them, who would add more qualifications to these last two”
- “Questions are good. Too many unanswered questions lead to doubt. Doubt when left to solidify turns into unbelief which is really really hard to reverse.” – #ThingsHillaryAlwaysSays
Hillary Morgan Ferrer is the founder of Mama Bear Apologetics. She is coauthor and editor of the Mama Bear Apologetics book, and has been married to her husband, Dr. John D. Ferrer, for over 12 years. She is working on her second master’s degree, and yet can’t seem to figure out the simplest cooking recipes.