Not only do we not know God except through Jesus Christ; We do not even know ourselves except through Jesus Christ. - Blaise Pascal
When we talk about the essential beliefs of Christianity, we're referring to the basic elements that make up and characterize our faith. These essential beliefs make up our faith and also show what separates Christianity from other beliefs. Let's survey these doctrines.
What does a person need to believe in order to rightly be called a Christian?
First, we believe in the authority of Scripture, which is another way of saying that the Bible is God's inspired, infallible, and inerrant Word. It's the ultimate source for knowledge about God, as well as the definitive guide for our daily lives.
Second, we affirm the existence of a triune God or one God in three distinct persons - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This God is self-existent, eternal, unchanging, omnipotent, omnipresent, holy, righteous, and loving. God created the universe from nothing and He rules sovereign over His creation, including both human and angelic beings.
Third, we hold that man is a physical and spiritual being who is created in God's image. But because of his sin or transgression, man has lost his fellowship with God. The extent of sin is so great that its efffects continue to this very day in the form of cruelty, sickness, suffering, and death.
Fourth, By God's grace, Jesus Christ - Who is fully God and fully man - was sent to save us from our bondage to sin. We believe that Christ was born of a virgin, died for our sins, physically rose from the dead, and will one day return to judge the world and deliver His people. Faith in Christ alone (not faith + works) is the only means by which an individual can escape eternal damnation and judgment.
Finally, we recognize the church as God's ordained institution headed by Christ. The church is composed of all believers and is organized for teaching, worship, fellowship, the administration of communion and baptism, spiritual growth and support, and evangelizing the world. True believers seek to be part of local church assemblies where the Word of God is taught accurately.
Does a person need to believe anything else to be a Christian?
Pretty much from the start, Christians have been talking about what each of these essential beliefs mean for our daily lives and if there are any other essential beliefs. Some of these debates have been useful, while others have made things more confusing. Ultimately, these five essential beliefs (summarized in statements like the Nicene Creed) are the core ideas Christianity stands on. Everything else builds on these ideas.
After we are saved through faith, we should pursue opportunities to understand these essential beliefs better. There are many good books out there to help us understand what it means that God is one God in three persons and why it's important that we are saved by faith alone. A good church community or an experienced Christian mentor can connect you to resources that help you grow in knowledge about Christianity and the God who loves you. By learning more about these beliefs, we learn more about the God who loves us and sent Jesus to die for us. We don't have to become expert scholars to learn more about Christianity.
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