In a post on Essential Doctrines, Mark Fenison made this point, which I find helpful.
Q. What are essential doctrines?
A. This is a question which if left to personal opinions has no unified answer. However, if left to Biblical principles I can define "essential" as follows:
- 1. Every doctrine and practice is essential that the Scripture explicitly states or necessarily infers there are no other options, or is a "must" for eternal life or acceptable service.
- 2. Every doctrine and practice that is essential to distinguish NT Christianity from other world religions and prophetic apostate Christianity.
- 3. Every doctrine and practice that is essential to preserve and defend the above two essentials (inspiration/preservation and final authority of the scriptures, etc.).
"Using these principles...a precise structure of essential doctrines and practices can be formulated correctly."