Christianity doesn’t hinge on…
How would you complete that sentence? It has been completed many ways by many people, sometimes correctly, as in “Christianity doesn’t hinge on which view of the End Times you hold,” sometimes incorrectly as in “Christianity doesn’t hinge on the Virgin Birth.”
However, I’d like to suggest that terminology is not helpful. Christianity doesn’t “hinge on” just one thing. Sure there are individual truths without which Christianity is false but none of those individual truths stands apart from the chain of redemption as a whole. So when thinking about whether this or that belief is essential to the faith, it’s important to zoom out to the bigger picture. Think about who God is and what He accomplished in Jesus Christ (the Gospel) then consider if the event or concept in question is necessary to bring that to fruition.
Paul tells us in Romans 5:6:
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
If that’s true, and it is, everything that went into making it “the right time” is essential for Christianity.
Let’s start with the ultimate event, the Resurrection.
No one, well almost no one, would argue that you can have Christianity without the Resurrection. Paul makes this clear in I Corinthians 15:14:
And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.
But the Resurrection cannot be true if Christ did not die on the cross so the belief that He was truly dead becomes essential as well. In addition, the Bible tells us Christ’s death was the perfect sacrifice for our sins because He was sinless (II Corinthians 5:21). In order to be sinless, He must be conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin, otherwise he would have inherited Adam’s sin nature and been an unacceptable sacrifice – so the virgin birth is essential. Speaking of Adam, if he was not a real person and the father of all humanity then we did not inherit his sin nature and might not need a savior. Therefore, belief that Adam was a real person becomes essential. You see how this works? It’s not just one event but a chain of events that must be taken together. If one link is removed, the chain falls apart. This is why churches must teach a robust biblical theology. Scripture is not a smorgasbord of individual propositions or a collection of short stories. It is one seamless story from beginning to end.
What we are called to believe as Christians is the story of redemption from Genesis to Revelation, but more than that we’re called to believe in the God of the story, the Word made flesh. We must see that doubts about individual events in the Bible are really doubts about the God of the Bible. When we accept that He is all-powerful and sovereign over all things, we will not quibble over this or that event within the larger story because nothing is too hard for a God who can create all things from nothing and raise the dead.
“Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me? – Jeremiah 32:27