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The Best Thing about Essential Beliefs

Photo of Daniel McCoyDaniel McCoy | Bio

Daniel McCoy

Daniel is happily married to Susanna, and they have 3 daughters and 2 sons. He is the editorial director for as well as a part-time professor of philosophy for Ozark Christian College. He has a bachelor’s in theology (Ozark Christian College), master of arts in apologetics (Veritas International University), and PhD in theology (North-West University, South Africa). Among his books are the Popular Handbook of World Religions (general editor), Real Life Theology Handbook (with Andrew Jit), Mirage: 5 Things People Want From God That Don't Exist, and The Atheist's Fatal Flaw (co-authored with Norman Geisler).

Let’s think through a couple phrases: essential oils and essential beliefs. As for essential oils, I bet each one of us has at least one essential oils enthusiast in our lives who has told us, “You have to try them out! They’re amazing!” As for essential beliefs (as in, the essential beliefs of Christianity), the “have to” takes on a different tone: You have to believe them.

And it’s true. These are the beliefs that have to be a part of your worldview in order for you to be a genuine Christian. Essential beliefs are the beliefs you have to believe in order to be saved. Chad Ragsdale, in his new book Christian Convictions: Discerning the Essential, Important, and Personal Elements, puts it this way:

“Essential elements are necessary for salvation.”

As Chad points out in the book, there are two types of essential elements: essential truths we have to believe and essential markers of our salvation that have to be a part of our lives.

(Would you like to know what these essential beliefs and essential markers are? The book can be found here. It’s an excellent read.)

With all the language of “have to” and “necessary,” it can be tempting to view Christianity’s essential elements as more duty and less delight.

If we’re not careful, Christianity’s essential beliefs can drift into the unsavory area of your life it will share with broccoli and bedtime: the things you have to do.

In light of our tendency to see essential beliefs as unfun obligation, I want to take this opportunity to give a shout out to essential beliefs and say—with the kind of enthusiasm you’ve come to expect from your aunt who works as an ambassador for Young Living—that when it comes to essential beliefs, you simply have to try them.

What makes Christianity’s essential beliefs so great? I’d like to answer by telling a story that happened here in Iowa last year.

One of the beautiful things about living in a state like Iowa is all the things you can count on. The hundred-foot maple beside your house. The eight-foot-high corn in the summer. The metal bins on the horizon. The roof over your head.

One thing you don’t count on in Iowa is a hurricane.

In August 2020, a “derecho,” characterized by violent winds, hammered Iowa with winds clocked at 115 mph, in the equivalent of a Category 3 hurricane.

Afterward, neighbors solemnly staggered out of their houses. Established trees which had been dependable for generations were now either mutilated or uprooted. Millions of acres of Iowa corn were mowed over and the harvest lost. Metal bins imploded like a stomped-on pop can. Some roofs lost shingles; other roofs were punctured by falling trees. Other things people had always counted on were lost for days: electricity, streetlights, grocery stores, restaurants.

What happened to all the things we counted on seeing: The trees? The corn? The metal bins? The roofs? The familiar horizon was gone.

As they say, “That’s life.” And that couldn’t be more accurate. That’s precisely how life works.

Life could be almost defined as the process by which the things you lean on eventually fold and crumple, giving way to the winds of time. Proud civilizations implode. Healthy bodies collapse. Flawless families fracture. A person’s hard-earned money eventually scatters in a thousand directions, with the final dollars coming to settle on the doorsteps of hospitals and nursing homes.

When the things you’ve counted on crumple under your expectations, what’s left to hang onto? What remains true when everything else blows away?

Here’s what’s left: Things like, God is God. Jesus is Lord. Jesus is risen. Salvation is by grace. The Spirit indwells us. These essential beliefs remain true. They’re cemented in unchanging reality. Praise God.

And the thing is, destructive winds don’t just blow out there. On the inside, we can be blown here and there, following dark impulses and reaping regret.

Isn’t it great that on the days we feel lost and scattered, the essential beliefs of Christianity remain true and steadfast? My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness

So, yes, please know the essential beliefs. Study them. Believe them. Teach them.

But remember too that they don’t belong in the “have to” of mere obligation. They’re beautiful, they’re strong, and they’re steady to the end. Let’s love them.

On the days we feel lost and scattered, the essential beliefs of Christianity remain true and steadfast.