core doctrines of biblical christianity
A failure to believe or think correctly about God is a form of idolatry.
And why is this? Because any concept of God EXCEPT the true reality as He revealed it, is simply a god of our own invention...no better than the physical idols of stone, metal, or wood that were worshipped by ancient pagans.
So how do we know whose beliefs about God are "right"? Biblically-derived Christianity is unified and defined by a relatively small set of very important doctrines which align our beliefs and understandings about God according to what He himself has revealed in the Bible.
1. God's Nature. God is eternal--that is, he always existed as God, and always will. There never was a time when he did not exist as God. He is all-powerful and the creator of all things. As such, he is not bound or constrained by anything (including the limitations of a physical body or the timeline of history in which we live). He has revealed Himself in the Bible as three distinct, yet indivisible persons: the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit...who together are, and always have been, and always will be, the one and only true God. (For more discussion of the Trinity, click here.)
2. Human Nature. Human beings--both male and female--are all creations of God, and were made to reflect His glory. (That is why we are said to be made in "His image.") Sin entered creation through the first man, and it wrecked humanity's pure and undefiled relationship with God. Humanity is now born bent toward rebellion against God, and because of our sinful condition, we are all subject to God's wrath and judgment.
3. Jesus Christ. He is called the "Son of God" not because he owes his existence to an act of procreation, but rather because he, being the eternal God, entered into the timeline of human history and experience by becoming a man...in order to live the perfect life we could not live; and to die on the cross to be the perfect and complete sacrifice to cover all of our sin and guilt (past, present and future); and to rise physically from the dead, to demonstrate his power over sin and death. Salvation (God's mercy at judgment, and the right to live eternally with Him) is a free gift of grace (unmerited favor), received by faith (a trusting belief) and characterized by repentance (literally a "mind-change": acknowledging our unworthiness and our need to conform to God's holiness). This gift was purchased entirely, and secured by, Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. It is entirely dependent upon Jesus Christ, and not by works, deeds, or righteousness of our own making. Even faith itself a gift from God, and not something we conjure up on our own or take credit for. Jesus' death and resurrection was done to reconcile us--to restore our broken relationship with God, so that we might glorify Him and enjoy Him eternally, as we were originally created to do.
4. The Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the very spirit of God, who dwells in those who receive him by faith. He works in us to draw us to himself, and causes us to grow in belief, obedience, and understanding of His great love for us; he empowers and enables us to live lives that please him.
5. The Bible. The Bible (Old and New Testaments) is God's only written word; it was penned by humans, but inspired by Him, and as such, it is fully authoritative and reliable, and it is relevant to all matters of faith, doctrine, and practice today. It is a central and indispensable part of how God speaks to us today, as he reveals his unchanging and eternal truths through it.
6. The Church. The Church, in the broadest sense, is the collection of all the people around the world, who have placed their trust and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (as He has revealed Himself to be) for their eternal life, who have embraced the free gift of the forgiveness of all their sin and have surrendered their lives to Him. It is not defined by any earthly or man-made organization or structure or authority; its only true head is Jesus Christ. Now, there are many Christian denominations and congregations that exist as gatherings of like-minded Christians, but they in themselves do not possess the authority to grant or withhold eternal life to anyone (and any that claim to do should be suspect!)
7. The Afterlife. Someday, this life and this world will draw to a close. When that happens, judgment will occur, and those who have trusted in Jesus for their salvation, whose sins are forgiven, will live in God's presence for all eternity. Those who have rejected that gift of forgiveness and salvation, and who have gone their own way, following their own "god" of sorts, will tragically receive exactly what they thought they wanted--an eternity separated from the true God (Hell).
Addressing Issues, Concerns & Questions many Mormons have regarding biblical Christianity:
BELIEFS ABOUT THE PRE-MORTAL EXISTENCE. The Bible does not support the doctrine of the pre-existence. There are a couple of Bible verses that Mormons have traditionally used to defend the idea of a pre-existence, but these verses speak of God's fore-knowledge of our existence, but not our pre-existence. Elsewhere, there are many other verses that suggest that our very existence began as earthly, material beings. If you have specific questions on what the Bible teaches on this subject, please contact us.
ALL THE DIFFERENT "CHRISTIAN" CHURCHES OUT THERE. It's a common belief among Latter-day Saints that the larger Christian world is a chaotic blend of different groups who can't get along, and who are all laying claim to the title of "One True Church." This simply isn't the case. While differences do exist, Biblical Christianity, with remarkable unity, is defined by adherence to the core doctrines of salvation, much as we've shared above. In fact, any church organization which would have you believe that it's the "one and only true church" or even "the best church" is probably one to steer clear of. Whether someone is "Christian" or not is based entirely on a relationship with Jesus Christ--NOT which church or denomination they belong to, or even whether you belong to a church or denomination.
CAN YOU "JUST BELIEVE" AND THEN GO LIVE AS YOU PLEASE? This is perhaps one of the saddest and ugliest misunderstandings about biblical Christianity that exists among Latter-day Saints. No one who has truly been born again of Jesus would adopt the attitude that we have freedom to sin and do whatever we want. Such an idea is repulsive to someone who truly loves and follows Jesus! In Jesus we have the complete and total forgiveness of our sins--past, present and future. But for someone who loves God, this has the effect of freeing us from our sin, removing our appetite for sin; it's not something that makes us want to go out and revel in sin! Do we become perfect, sinless people? No, not in this life. But it does it makes us hate our sin all the more, and crave that perfection which will only happen when we are joined with the Lord after this life.
ALL THE DIFFERENT TRANSLATIONS OF THE BIBLE: HOW CAN YOU RELY ON THEM? Many Latter-day Saints think that the modern English translations of the Bible are just modern re-writes or "interpretations" of the King James Bible. This is not the case at all. The most common modern English translations are in fact methodical, scholarly, and faithful translations based upon the original Gree, Hebrew, and Aramaic texts, which are freely available and reliable. This holds true for all of the most commonly-used English translations, e.g., the New American Standard Version (NASB); the New International Version (NIV); the English Standard Version (ESV); the New King James Version (KKJV); etc. The King James Version was a faithful English translation of the original texts during its day, and still stands as a faithful and reliable translation of the Bible. The shifting nature of language over the centuries, however, necessitates modern translations so that original meaning is not lost or clouded.
A SECOND CHANCE BETWEEN DEATH AND FINAL JUDGMENT? Many Mormons figure there will be ample opportunity for themselves (or possibly their non-Mormon friends) to "get their act together" in the spirit world, before final judgment, and therefore, the realm of "Outer Darkness" is not really much of an issue, or perhaps only an issue for the very worst sinners (or apostates from Mormonism). The Bible does not lend ANY support to any of these ideas. The Bible speaks of an eternal Heaven-or-Hell judgment that happens upon our earthly death, and no second-chances. This is why biblical Christians share their message with great urgency, and why many are willing to risk offending someone, if, in the end, it will result in their repentance and embracing Jesus in this life.