In 2005, Al Mohler wrote an article about the call to Christian maturity through triaging theological issues. As with prioritizing particular injuries and illnesses in a hospital, there’s great need for ranking theological issues in order of importance within the church.

At TGC21, Matt Smethurst moderates a panel with Al Mohler, Gavin Ortlund, and Afshin Ziafat as they discuss how to separate primary, secondary, and tertiary theological beliefs. Smethurst defines the three categories as follows:

1. Primary doctrines are central to Christianity—things you have to agree on to be a Christian.

2. Secondary doctrines separate churches and create denominations due to differing beliefs. These are things you must agree on in order to be church members in the same body.

3. Last-order issues aren’t definitional for any kind of confessional system, and they allow Christians to remain unified while holding their differing beliefs.

Gavin Ortlund shares that love should always be the driving motivation in finding where one’s church stands on theological beliefs. He says, “When we notice we are being too sectarian and fighting too much, it is helpful to ask if this is becoming a form of self-justification.” Ortlund reminds us we’re saved by grace alone, through faith in Christ alone.

Recommended resource: Finding the Right Hills to Die On: The Case for Theological Triage by Gavin Ortlund

Editors’ note: 

Gavin Ortlund is a microevent speaker at TGC’s 2023 Conference, “Hope in the Wilderness,” September 25–27, in Indianapolis. You can browse the complete list of topics and speakers. Register soon!