What are the Basics?

One thing I’ve heard from other Evangelicals, and said myself, is that as long as you have the “basics” you’re fine; Catholic, Protestant, Eastern Orthodox, whatever. As long as you believe Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, then you’re a Christian and going to heaven, according that theology.

Like me, they say this because, whether we realized it or not, we were all raised with the Reformation doctrine of sola fide; faith alone. It says that we are saved by our faith alone. We accept Jesus as our “personal Lord and savior” and we are justified. We are assured of heaven and there is nothing that can take us from God’s hands. Most Evangelicals have probably never heard this term but the doctrine is taught nonetheless and unfortunately it is too often lived out in all of its logical implications.

This means baptism isn’t necessary for salvation. Works aren’t necessary for salvation. Taking communion isn’t necessary for salvation. For them, claiming that these things are necessary for salvation is to “add to the gospel” and incorporating “legalism” into your faith. Evangelicals say these are all things we should do because the Bible tells us to do them, but they don’t actually contribute to salvation. Salvation was attained when you said the “sinner’s prayer” and now you’re guaranteed a place in heaven. (Apparently we never stopped to wonder why God would give so many commands that mean nothing.)

But are the basics that simple? Is that really all there is? What ARE the basics and why do we believe those are the basics? If we claim the “basics” are all that is necessary, we’d sure better make sure we know ALL of them.

The Bible says we need baptism for salvation.

I Peter 3:21: Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

John 3:5: Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

Act 2:38: And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

The Bible says works justify us.

James 2:24: You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

Rom 2:6-8: He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.

John 14:15: If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

1 Corinthians 9:27: I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

2 Corinthians 13:5: Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?

John 15:1-2: I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away.

Jesus said unless we eat His flesh and drink His blood, we cannot be saved.

John 6:53-58: So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

Verses like these seem pretty blatant and that’s a small sampling. How did I ever miss the implications of these verses? These all strongly suggest to me that there is a bit more to the “basics” than Evangelicals like to admit. How do Evangelicals explain these? I’ve talked to several friends and family and they’d never seen the clear words in I Peter 3:21 “baptism now saves you.” I’d never seen it before either because my lens of interpretation didn’t allow me to see it.

If these are all part of the “basics” too, then so far Christianity looks far more Catholic than Evangelical.

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Disclaimer – This blog post is just that: a blog post with my personal thoughts. I am not a Catholic apologist or theologian. What I say here is not official doctrine of the Catholic Church. I am still learning and am susceptible to error. Don’t take anything here as Gospel. Don’t be stupid. Do your own research and learn for yourself what the Church teaches.

Catholics: if my understanding of Catholic doctrine needs adjustment, please point out my error.

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6 thoughts on “What are the Basics?

  1. Dear I Must Follow If I Can,
    What if a Catholic told you that the Bible is not literally true? That doctrine was built around centuries of tradition, and that there is no requirement to believe in the Bible literally? Does that make you uneasy? This is where the evangelical community and Catholics have the greatest divide. The question that comes next is if the Bible cannot be read literally, how do Catholics read the Bible? The answer is in the encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu.

    God bless,

    • Welcome neodecaussade. Thanks for the comment and reading suggestion of Divino Afflante Spiritu. I’ve just downloaded it and will read it soon. There is so much stuff like that I need to learn. It’s almost overwhelming.

      The issues surrounding the Bible are largely what have been leading me toward Rome. The last several posts discuss some of them, though there is a lot more to say. I’d love to hear your thoughts about any of them.

      God bless!

    • Hi! I’d like to offer some insight into this if I may…

      I’ve discovered that it’s not so much about whether or not you are reading the Bible literally, it’s about whether or not you’re reading it properly, or, as it is/was intended to be read. Fr. Robert Barron has some excellent insight into this:

      So much comes down to whether God placed an authority on earth that we can look to for guidance, or if personal interpretation is just fine.

      Great post by the way.

      -Ben

      • Thanks Ben. I liked Barron’s analogy of the library. If we’re reading history, we read it like history; if poetry, then read it like poetry. It’s pretty simple. Trying to make it all literal seems a waste of time; so does trying to make much of it parable.

        I also like what he said about the long interpretive tradition and how no one jumps into Shakespeare without a little guidance. Why do we think we can do it with the Bible and think we can understand it?

  2. Pingback: Robert Hugh Benson on the “simplicity” of the New Testament | I Must Follow if I Can

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