What is really ‘fundamental’?


In last week’s blog I suggested that many of the things we refer to as ‘fundamental’ are not really so very ‘fundamental’. I referred among other things to the 28 so-called Fundamental Beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. I asked the question: How in the world can 28 points all be truly ‘fundamental’? Moreover, these are not only 28 short sentences, but each of these is developed in quite a bit of detail, and those details, presumably, also get the label of ‘fundamental.’ That many take this view, was clearly illustrated a few weeks ago during the World Congress of the church, when a full day was spent on the precise rewording of some of ‘the 28’, and 2500-plus delegates were asked to vote even on the sequence in which the supporting biblical passages are listed.

I promised to draw up a list of those aspect of my beliefs that are ‘fundamental’ for my personal faith. Please note: I am not thereby saying that all other elements in ‘the 28’ are not correct or totally unimportant. But if I have to summarize my beliefs—as these currently function for me—my statement of beliefs will look something like this:

I believe

-       in God—three in one: Father, Son and holy Spirit.

-       that God is the creator of everything, and that I, therefore, am a created being with the privileges and responsibilities this iimplies.

-       that Jesus Christ came to our earth and has radically solved the sin problem through his death and resurrection—for the world and for me.

-       that the holy Spirit guides my conscience and equips me with certain gifts, as he sees fit.

-       that the Bible is an inspired book that tells God’s history with mankind, and provides me with basic guiding principles, so that I can live as God intended.

-       that, as a human being, I am subject to death, but that, when I die, my identity is safe with God; he will give me a new start in an eternal existence.

-       that our present world is infected by  evil of demonic proportions, so that a solution is needed from on high; to realize this Christ will come once again to this earth and create a ‘new heaven and a new earth.’

-       that as a follower of Christ I can only live authentically if I consciously seek to shape my life after the principles he has modeled for me.

-       that every seventh-day Sabbath I have the unique opportunity to find true rest in the rest that God provides.

-       that I am responsible for how I treat this earth and use my time, my material means, my talents and my body.

-       that, together with all true christians, I can be a member of God’s church.

-       that the faith community to which I belong has an important part in the worldwide proclamation of the gospel and has the task to place a number of important accents.

-       that through my baptism I may be part of God’s church and can, in celebrating the Lord’s Supper, be regularly reminded of Christ’s suffering and death; and that I may experience spiritual growth together with those in the community of which I feel a part.

Of course, such a list can never be final. And what I have listed is ‘fundamental’ for me–others will have to reflect on what is ‘fundamental’ for them, and will probably use different words, add certain points, or leave out certain points.

This is the crux of the matter: It is good to reflect from time to time on what is really ‘fundamental’. It helps to differentiate between primary and secondary things and not to treat secondary things as if they are the most important. That, unfortunately, is all too often done by us—individually and collectively as a faith community.