As Christians and aspiring theologians we have a tendency to equate a lack of understanding of doctrine or theology to heresy. For example, to consider the essential doctrines of the Christian faith we would recognize the deity of Christ, the origin of sin, salvation by grace, the resurrection of Christ and the Gospel. (More information here) There are necessary truths in scripture that all believers should agree on. We would be right in saying that the very basic foundations of our faith are grounded in these truths.
But what if someone doesn’t agree?
Can someone not know or understand the Trinity and still be saved? Can someone deny the existence of eternal torment and still be found in the presence of the Lord at the end of days? The answer is yes and no.
We agree that there are absolutely essential doctrines of the Christian faith that we cannot deny but can we be without understanding? Yes! Misunderstanding a biblical truth is not grounds for apostasy or excommunication from the fellowship of believers. If that was the case, none of us would be allowed in a church anywhere. My heart wasn’t regenerated with an immediate downloading of biblical truth. It took years, and is still a work in progress for me to even remotely grasp some of the things I think I comprehend.
Where then is the line?
Denying foundational truths is not the same as not understanding them. Someone who may not understand the concept of the Trinity (a hard mystery) has the potential through learning scripture to come to a knowledge of it. This is very different from someone who not only denies the Trinity, but teaches against it.
It’s incumbent upon us as mature believers to be the iron that sharpens the iron of others in understanding of truth. It’s easy to consider ourselves smarter or wiser than our younger brothers and sisters in the faith, losing sight of our role in their lives. We must operate in an environment of discipleship at all costs.
This does not mean that we cater to the deceptive ways of those who teach against the foundational truth of scripture. We are called to correct those and call out the ones who speak counter to the truth. If they are unwilling to listen to reason through the washing of the Word of God. Paul even instructs others to have nothing to do with those who teach against the truth of God.
We are all in need of improvement and reminder in how we treat and teach others. Our goal should be the building up of the body in truth. How can we do that when we dismiss those who are in a state of misunderstanding?