Is everything equally important?


No, not all things in life are equally important. We often say: ‘ The main thing is to be healthy!’ And, fortunately, most people rate family and friends higher than all sort of material things. Life becomes very difficult if one does not know how to differentiate between things that are really important and the things that have a lower priority.

The same applies to the sphere of church and spiritual life. The ‘higher’ church organization (in the Adventist church: General Conference, divisions, unions, conferences) certainly have a role to play, but the local church is the place where the rubber hits the road. A good understanding of theological issues is important, but a close tie with God and a faith that keeps you going in daily life is much more essential.

Is everything in the Bible equally important. It may be risky to ask that question, for who am I to say what parts of the Bible are more or less essential. In times past church leaders and scholars decided what writings to include in the Bible and what not to include. Catholics (and also Lutherans) made a decision that differs from what Protestants have agreed upon.

Protestants tend to be satisfied with a biblical canon without the apocryphal books. The Bible is an authoritative book for them. But even most of those who claim to take everything in the Bible literally (as it ‘plainly’ reads), tend to have something like a canon within the canon. Not everything in the Bible carries the same weight. Many Bible readers feel (to mention just one example) that they get more out of the Gospel of John than from the book Ecclesiastes, and that they find the Psalms more helpful than the book of the prophet Ezekiel. This is also try for me. There are parts of the Bible that I read and re-read, but I must confess that there are also segments in the Bible that I have not read in recent years.

But, are we allowed to extend his argument even further? May we, for instance, say that some doctrines are more important than other doctrines? Adventists recognize ’28 Fundamental Beliefs’. Are all of these equally ‘fundamental’? How in the world can they all be really fundamental, i.e. foundational? Often I hear people say: It is all part of the truth, so we cannot say that something is unimportant or less important than the rest. But, let’s be honest: that is not how reality functions. Most (maybe all) Adventists sense that particular points define their being-Adventist, while other points do not fall in that same category. I believe it is useful for all of us to draw up a short list of what is really ‘fundamental’ for us, and what might, in fact, be more in the periphery. Next week I intend to say more about this and will share my own short-list of what I consider truly ‘fundamental’.


A few years ago I did a presentation for fellow Adventist theologians about the question whether all doctrines are equally important. A little later I rewrote the text of this presentation and submitted it as a chapter in a Festschrift for Dr. Jon Dybdahl—a much valued friend and colleague, with whom I worked closely together at Andrews University for a number of years. Jon (now retired) was (and is) a gifted teacher and for some time served as the president of the Adventist Walla Walla University in Washington State (US).

For those who are interested: the text of this chapter, entitled ‘Is all Truth Truth? may be found on my website:


One thought on “Is everything equally important?

  1. Riley Jack

    Dear Reinder, before you start to write which truths are more important tHan other truths, please consider that any list’s that makes a difference between certain level of truths. Would be interpreted by laity as a (possible) separation of the Church. If one group adhere to a bigger list and the other half to a shortlist… chance would be that we will end up as the long lists of breakaway churches since the start of the Reformation.

    The clear and present danger perhaos could be an evangelical ,orthodox. Historic. Mystic. pentecostal, liberal. Progressive, celebration, or whatever kind if short or long listed Adventism.

    As taught leaders within this denomination there should be a call to avoid Schims or the idea of creating them. The Church of the Reformation was strong because of Sola Scriptura. If we make a short list, we tend to make the same mistake which back in the day’s…. resulted in the Reformation.

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