We believe that not all doctrines are on the same level of importance. Speaking of the gospel, Paul says, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received:” (1Cor.15:3).   Albert Mohler has influenced my thinking on this in what he calls a Theological Triage. We must learn to sort out the different levels of doctrinal importance.


First-order doctrines – are those that are fundamental to the Christian faith. For example one must believe in the virgin birth to be considered a true Christian. These doctrines are those that teach about the person of God or define the gospel. The Trinity, atonement, justification by faith alone, the deity and humanity of Christ, etc. are all doctrines that believers need to be in agreement on to have fellowship.


Second-order doctrines – are those that do not define the gospel but are very important for church life. For example, it would be very difficult for a Paedo-baptist to be a member of a church that practices believer’s baptism, even though they agree on first order doctrines.   Those who have a God centered theology will have a hard time sitting under the teaching of those who tend to be more man centered. Denominational differences allow us to recognize each other as believers but also give us freedom to worship with a clear conscience.


Third-order doctrines – are those that do not hinder close fellowship in church life. Certain disagreements on the events surrounding the second coming would fall into this category. While these disagreements are important they are not a test of orthodoxy or fellowship. While believers disagree on other difficult passages they should seek to maintain unity of the Spirit which is by the way a very important doctrine.