Over the years I have spoken to many Christians who seem to think that doctrines like election and predestination, or the mystery of the relationship between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility, are in the category of deeper doctrines that really aren’t essential things for Christians to know. Such doctrines are thought to be the kind of things that theologians write about or debate but that most Christians don’t really need to be concerned about. They seem to think it is sort of graduate level Christianity, as it were. But I don’t agree with this all too common assumption. In fact, I think that the Apostle Paul would emphatically disagree with it as well. I think that he would regard such doctrines as a part of what we might call Christianity 101. Consider, for example, what he said to the Roman Christians when he wrote his epistle to them, in which he famously discussed these very issues in great depth:
NKJ Romans 1:9-15 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, 10 making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established — 12 that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. 13 Now I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now), that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles. 14 I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. 15 So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also.
After this Paul immediately launches into the primary purpose for which he was writing the Epistle to the Romans, namely to explain the Gospel for them as he had done for so many others, the Gospel he longed to preach to them as he had preached it to others. He says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16), and then he gives us the most sustained presentation of the Gospel that we have in the New Testament. He gives us, in other words, what might easily be described as Christianity 101, the basic elements of the Gospel and of Christian soteriology that all Christians need to know. So, I would suggest that, for Paul, such doctrines as election and predestination, or the mystery of the relationship between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility, doctrines that are a central part of the Epistle to the Romans, are in the category of basic Christianity. As I see it, the sooner Christians today learn this the better it will be for the Church. Just something to consider.