CSC: WELS Topical Q&A: Sacrament of Holy Baptism: Other: Essential Christian Doctrine
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Q:On occasion I hear a nationally-syndicated conservatice Christian radio broadcast that claims to be commited to defending orthodox, biblical, Christian teaching. The program's intent is to educate listeners to fully understand and recognize "essential Christian doctrine."

The net effect of understanding the "essentials" is being able to discern between biblical orthodoxy and both outright and subtle heretical teachings.

My question is rather broad, but would WELS recognize the phrase "essential Christian doctrine", which by necessity implies that there are "less essential" doctrines on which it might be acceptable to "agree to disagree"?

I know WELS does acknowledge that there are certainly Christians that are not part of WELS, so that is not part of my question. I just wonder about the phrase "essential Christian doctrine" and whether it is considered appropriate or wise for a WELS member to listen to conservative Christian teachings outside of the WELS? Thank you for your time.

A:A distinction can be made between doctrines that are essential for salvation and those which are necessary for fellowship and joint work.

There are certain doctrines without which a person cannot be saved: knowledge of the true God, faith in Christ as our Savior, justification by faith alone, and so on. Ignorance of or denial of these teachings is incompatible with salvation.

There are some doctrines which are not absolutely necessary for salvation, but denial of them could be critical in certain cases. For example, a person could be saved without baptism, but depriving one's children of baptism could have deadly consequences. One can be saved without the Lord's Supper, but misuse of the Lord's Supper can bring judgment on those who do not recognize the presence of Christ's body and blood.

There are other doctrines that a person might not be aware of and yet have sufficient knowledge for salvation.

A person in weakness might deny certain doctrines of Scripture, because they have been convinced by false teachers that these doctrines are not in Scripture. Knowing rejection of any doctrine of Scripture, however, is destructive to faith, just as being impenitent of any sin is.

We do not have the right to deny any doctrine of Scripture, and we cannot practice fellowship with anyone who does. Only God can judge who has saving faith, but we have a responsibility to judge the teaching of every teacher on the basis of the Bible. We are to avoid those whose teaching does not agree to this standard.

There can be valid reasons for listening to a heterodox preacher, but listening to such teachers as a way of spiritual learning or worship is neither wise nor right. It is like eating a diet which mixes food and poison.

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