Francis Pieper offered some guidelines to examine doctrine (teachings of the Bible), Christian Dogmatics. The Fundamental Doctrines distinguish Christians from non-Christians. Secondary Doctrines flow from the Fundamental Doctrines,a nd distinguish one Christian group from another.
Fundamental Doctrines (essential to faith)
A person is saved by God’s grace alone, by what Christ has done alone, and is received by faith alone. Therefore, saving faith includes:
1. Knowledge of sin and the consequences (eternal damnation)
2. Knowledge of the Person of Christ (true God and true Man)
3. Knowledge of the Work of Christ (redemption)
4. Faith in the Word of Christ (faith accepts the forgiveness of sins offered by the Word)
5. Acceptance of the bodily resurrection of the dead and eternal life
6. Belief in the Triune God as revealed in the Bible
Secondary Doctrines (supporting faith)
The secondary doctrines are important. Denial of these can lead to serious problems with the fundamental doctrines. Often there is a felicitous inconsistency, that is, someone believes in a wrong teaching regarding these secondary doctrines but still has faith in God’s grace through Christ. Secondary doctrines include:
2. Lord’s Supper
3. Communication of Attributes (divine and human in the Person of Christ)
Non-fundamental doctrines (serving faith)
These Scriptural truths are neither the foundation of faith nor the object of faith, but these are doctrines which should and do concern the Christian. Denial of these non-fundamental doctrines may endanger faith. Non-fundamental doctrines include:
1. End times theology
3. Pastors (only men may serve)
Scripture leaves many issues untouched. Therefore, we cannot elevate a statement to doctrine unless Scripture clearly addresses the issue. Open questions include:
1. How did sin originate?
2. How is the soul created?
3. Crux Theologorum (why are some saved and not others)
4. Worship practices (as long as they do not contradict nor detract from established doctrines)
5. Role of women in the church (i.e. Voters’ assembly)