Christianity Has Only One Essential Belief

Evangelicalism, on the other hand, has a lot.

Earlier this month, Time Magazine reported that an evangelical college campus organization was firing employees for their views on marriage equality. The truth is a little less sensational but no less encouraging.

In March of 2015, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship USA released a position paper on human sexuality outlining its opposition to gay marriage. Just this past July, InterVarsity staff received a letter explaining the paper and requesting any employees who disagreed with the positions to come forward and receive their reward for services rendered: an "involuntary termination".

For those of us who were employed by evangelical organizations around the time of the Obergefell v. Hodges decision, InterVarsity's reaction isn't surprising. While I was producing Moody Radio's morning show in Chicago, I was hearing from colleagues that we needed to protect ourselves before the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality. Without a clear, public statement on human sexuality, they believed that they would be the target of lawsuits like the Christian-owned bakeries.

Ironically, the same fear of government pressure and oppression for holding certain beliefs has led evangelicals to pressure and oppress each other for their beliefs.

By "protecting" themselves, organizations like InterVarsity are not only scorning the livelihoods of their employees, they're effectively breaking the body of Christ over nonessential issues. Human sexuality is only a non-negotiable in the kingdom of God if Jesus is not at the center of it.

Numerous schisms have occurred throughout the church's history for precisely this reason: no one can agree on what the essentials of Christianity are. Some say the sacraments, others say faith alone, and still others say the Great Commission plus substitutionary atonement plus inerrancy plus personal belief and confession.

They all have good arguments and proof texts to boot for their essentials, but they also all seem like variations on connect the dots. Every doctrine in every theological system is connected somehow, so it's easy to make a case for the essentiality of any issue with a long enough pencil.

For example, evangelicals will argue that since humanity is made in God's image, our sexuality is a reflection of him and his character. Deviating from his design (or their interpretation of it) is an affront to his sovereignty and an abuse of our purpose--something true Christians would never do.

You'll notice that the modus operandi of every evangelical argument boils down to hermeneutics. Some of them, like Trevin Wax, will try to include historical tradition into the rhetoric, but their inconsistent use of it is rather suspect (unless more evangelicals are amillennialists than I realize). The crux of their beliefs is almost always the authority of the Bible.

Evangelicals believe the Bible is inspired, inerrant, and sufficient leading many to treat it as objective, absolute truth. All of their beliefs are built on this foundation meaning that any divergent belief is categorically, if not conveniently, heretical. It's a very black and white system that manages to make every issue essential by creating a false dichotomy of submission versus resistance to biblical authority.

Of course, hermeneutics have nothing to do with God. A hermeneutic, by definition, if a flawed, human attempt to comprehend divine revelation. None of us are capable of of getting out of our own way and simply perceive God's truth. We all have biases, and no matter our interpretative method, we all impute them into our reading of the Bible.

Thus, if a hermenuetic claiming to channel biblical authority is the basis for all evangelical beliefs and all hermeneutics are ultimately subjective, then the true center of evangelicalism's faith essentials is the individual.

There is no room for the Spirit in evangelicalism--no room for a church united by love and peace. They define unity through conformity and homogeneity. What InterVarsity did may shock and appall the world, but most people just never realized how un-Christlike evangelicalism really is.

Claiming biblical authority is not the same as claiming Jesus Christ. Jesus the person, not the abstract word or revelation or logos, is the foundation of our faith. We are forever united to that person which, in turn, unites us to every other Christian. We need only believe with our heart and confess with our mouth that he is Lord, that Jesus came in the flesh.

Belief and confession in the lordship of Christ is the one and only essential of the Christian faith. Everything we believe is rooted in him which means that while he is essential to our beliefs, our beliefs are not essential to him. Indeed, our union with him is never qualified; we are either united or we are not. Anyone can mimic submission to "biblical authority" but not everyone is united to Christ.

The theological immodesty of InterVarsity's actions is nothing new, but it's disheartening to see such an influential organization create division out of self-interest. Especially when they don't even apply it consistently (the authors published through InterVarsity Press are exempt from the policy). Then again, at least some of InterVarsity's employees are still making money.

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