In the whole world of spirituality it is popular to point out that it is hard to qualify with a quick slogan or a formula. There is a saying in the Buddhist tradition “If you see the Buddha in the road, kill him”. Or as Bishop Robert Barron says in the Christian tradition, “If you say you have figured God out, that’s not him” (Catholicism Series).
Jesus called for faith and to repent due to a kingdom that was at hand. This is a great challenge and a mystery. It is to change and experience something not comparable to other experiences. But in Christianity, there should be some essentials. One is that to be a Christian is to identify yourself in faith and life choices as belonging to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. He is known as the Son of God, true God and true man (Council of Nicea) who founded a visible church. These are deep and mysterious truths not to be comprehended but truths nonetheless to at least get the general theme with some kind of faculties. Reason is a good one but not sufficient in itself. The fulness of the Christian faith takes a lifetime of learning possible even if you are raised Christian and live to 100 years old. In such a journey there are many questions that come to mind not always answered and it can be hard to know where to start.
But rest assured, there are at least some elementary things to it. Again, not to box God in and make him “in the road,” but there are some basics in the New Testament. God does not always repeat himself through the gospels and epistles but he does rhyme if you listen for it.
Everyone who lives on milk lacks experience of the word of righteousness, for he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties are trained by practice to discern good and evil. Therefore, let us leave behind the basic teaching about Christ and advance to maturity, without laying the foundation all over again: repentance from dead works and faith in God, instruction about baptisms and laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. And we shall do this, if only God permits (Hebrews 5:13-6:3).
Good foundation in a system of thought is a lot like a thumb. Like how it can touch all fingers so it will touch the succeeding parts. The “basic teaching” above overlap in the development of Christian life and doctrine as reinforcing agents. They are respective, supportive traits of Christianity. In Greek they could be called logoi or little words, but are effective because they point to the person and work of Jesus Christ who is encountered with those truths.
But how should we interpret the proper application of these foundational teachings? First, it is a matter of seeing the principles conveyed that point to the Christian life being a forward one. It is successive towards an ultimate design in Christ. As we see the design and how it unfolds in church history there is an opportunity of seeing more than a fleshed out ideology but a lived experience of Christ as the “chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20). Paul goes on to described more about that below in the same letter.
to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ, so that we may no longer be infants, tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human trickery, from their cunning in the interests of deceitful scheming. Rather, living the truth in love, we should grow in every way into him who is the head, Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, with the proper functioning of each part, brings about the body’s growth and builds itself up in love (Ephesians 4:12-16).
Also, we should interpret it is in the context of how the first Christian society interpreted it so we do not project our post-modern prejudices into what was written in the New Testament. For example, I could compliment the makers of Salt Lake City streets as genius founders. The wrong bias could say I must be affirming the Mormon faith. But if you get to know loved ones who have known me long they can add to that statement on what I believe doctrinally and the statement was about the road system. So too is any responsible reading of the Bible which includes “basic teaching” verses.
So from 30,000 feet, I would like to propose what those points are. I suggest the first two are more applicable to the individual in execution and the latter four are overarching fundamentals that are implemented at the macro level.
repentance from dead works – – Provoked By The Light
faith in God- – Engaging in the Light (both believers and unbelievers).
instruction about baptisms- – Entering The Light
laying on of hands- – Lifelong Engagement In The Light
resurrection of the dead- – The Light of Life
eternal judgment- – Judged In The Light
Though in the case of the author of Hebrews we do not know who wrote it, we can discern from the small talk at the end of the letter that he was a colleague of big names of the New Testament. So if we were to be fair to the context of his foundational references we can look at the other apostolic writings of the New Testament (compare scripture with scripture) and look at the writings of the early church fathers. They were people who were handed down authority and a tradition that was a living outgrowth of the living authority of a living Jesus. If ones is to be detective, following wherever the evidence leads, one will hunger for living out those truths in the most true to form version of Christianity as possible. To investigate thus is to truly investigate Christianity responsibly and on what it has actually taught. I would add solving this part of the mystery can then be more vibrant and life giving and thus is worth a closer look for which I hope to show as Christianity ultimately a true walk in Christ. And to walk with Christ is to be engaged with all of the Trinity.