In this world of denominational discord, I have become an Essentialist. Although I thought I had coined that term myself, the web tells me otherwise. One dictionary site defines essentialism as, “the principle that education should focus on basic skills while encouraging intellectual self-discipline.” Okay, that comes pretty close to what I mean when applied to church doctrine. An Essentialist, to my way of thinking, is someone who concentrates on the basics of the faith. He or she might be happy to discuss many tenets of Christianity, but would refuse to waste time arguing about those topics which are not essential. For example, while I would spend plenty of time trying to convince a friend that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, or that he was born of a virgin, I wouldn’t be interested in convincing that same friend of the order of events-to-come at the end of the world.
Let me take that one step further, applying the second half of the definition above, that of encouraging intellectual self-discipline. As an Essentialist, I need self-discipline when the temptation comes to be argumentative, dismissive or critical of those who disagree with me on that which doesn’t affect salvation or the daily effort to love the Lord with all our hearts and our neighbors as ourselves. (I wrote about such friendly fire coming from the pulpit many blogs ago.) Can one believe in pre-destination and still worship with (and recognize the salvation of) a brother who ascribes to an Arminian point of view? Can Charismatics and Cessationists celebrate the risen Lord together? I would certainly hope so. The Apostle Paul hoped so. In Galatians 5:19-26 he wrote,
“The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
The words “discord,” “dissensions,” and “factions” are thrown right in with those acts which we would all label deplorable. He goes on to say, a few verses later, “Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”
I read a joke on the internet recently. It’s not in the public domain, so to read it, you’ll have to take a look at the link below. If you’re like me, first you’ll laugh. Then you’ll think, “Oh, wait, maybe that’s not so funny.” Then, if you choose to read on, you’ll see how denominational divides can look to my Catholic cohorts, let alone those who have no faith. Here’s that joke.
So, what do you say? Are you interested in becoming an Essentialist with me?