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Levels of Discernment


Currently I am reading The Discipline of Discernment by Tim Challies.  So far so good.  There is a section of the book where he discusses different theological urgency.  He adopted it from Albert Mohler’s article called “A Call for Theological Triage.”  The idea of the three areas is to help Christian leaders understand what areas need to be challenged first.   This helps believers take on the mountains before they take on the mole hills.

First-level issues are those that are most central and essential to the Christian faith.1

This includes doctrines such as the Trinity, the deity of Christ, atonement, and the authority of Scripture.  These are foundational teachings, if questioned can undermine the faith.  They are also areas Christians should not compromise on, and we stand our ground.

Second-level issues are doctrines that believers may disagree on but which still represent important issues and will form significant boundaries between Christians. 2

There are issues out there were believers disagree on, and hold a high priority for there faith.  These are typically the things that divide different denominations, but typically these groups agree on everything in the first level.  These issues include baptism, communion, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and practice of worship (Traditional verses contemporary, even though this is a stretch because sometimes God calls someone who prefers one style of worship to a church with a different style of worship).  Even though denominations will separate different believers on these matters, there is still a strong level of agreement.

Third-level issues are those over which Christians may disagree even while maintaining close fellowship and remaining in the same local church.3

These include things like end times interpretations, the consumption of alcohol, dancing, media consumption, and versions of the Bible (I know there are churches out there that preach how there version is the only true version, but I know at my church, our pastors will preach from different versions, teachers will use different versions, and I will even use a different version. We are still friends).  These are more minor issues.  We can disagree agree or chose something different, but we can still be a part of the same church (maybe even be friends).

There are a few things to keep in minds.  While there are levels of discernment, the Bible  does not allow us to thinks of teachings are trivial.   II Timothy 3:15-16 says,

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (ESV)

We need to remember all the Bible is important, even the books we do not like to read.  The authors puts it all in perspective with this.

A caution is in order. Mohler writes, “A structure of theological triage does not imply that Christians may take any biblical truth with less than full seriousness. We are charged to embrace and to teach the comprehensive truthfulness of the Christian faith as revealed in the Holy Scriptures. There are no insignificant doctrines revealed in the Bible, but there is an essential foundation of truth that undergirds the entire system of biblical truth.”4

All Scripture is to be taken sirously.  One of the biggest problems in the church today is we do not take all matters of doctrine seriously.  Often we focus on what is easier for us to deal with, or issues we feel we know how to handle.  We tend to avoid the issues that challenge us or the ones we know little about.  This is why we have to be constantly looking at God’s Word.  We cannot claim we know it all.  Those who feel they have no need to read the Bible anymore because they know it all, are the ones who know the least.  They are the ones who put themselves in difficult situations, and they are not looking to God’s Holy Spirit to reveal to them His will for their lives today.  I think Psalms 119:105-106 sums it all up for us:

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. I have sworn an oath and confirmed it,  to keep your righteous rules.


1Challies, Tim (2008). The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment (p. 87). Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition.

2Ibid (p. 88).

3 Ibid (p. 88).

4 Ibid (p. 88).

2 comments on “Levels of Discernment

  1. Pingback: Can We Trust the Bible? « The Millennial Christian

  2. Pingback: Can We Trust The Bible? « The B.E.E.F. Blog

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This entry was posted on October 4, 2011 by in Church, Doctrine, II Timothy 3:16-17, Scripture.


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