The article begins by considering three of the ways we learn.
For one, the Bible: We learn the truth fundamentally, supremely, finally and mostly through the Bible. This is God’s word written. So study your Bible. Get to know God’s word well. Always be growing in your understanding of it. We love the Lord and because we love the Lord, we love the Lord’s word. We must give ourselves to know it, to meditate on it, to appreciate the great gift that God has given us in His word.
Second, the church: God does not intend us to be earthly orphans—self-taught, self-regulating, self-centered. God has called us to be in local churches that teach the Bible well, and accurately, and that are full of people whose lives show the fruit of faith in God and of the work of His Spirit. We should submit ourselves to them and their teaching.
Christians together in our churches should have a clear grasp on what the Gospel is that saved them. Paul assumes this in Galatians 1:8-9 that these young Christians, the Galatians, could sit in judgment over him, an apostle, if he comes and teaches a different message.
[T]here is a simplicity and a clarity to the Gospel itself that every true Christian knows. It’s the duty of the Christian church, and particularly the elders of that church, to define what we must agree upon to be a Christian and to be a member of that congregation in particular. Pray for your elders, submit to them, thank God for them and their ministry.
Third, we also learn through our conscience: Now each of us has a conscience. But because of the fall, our conscience has been radically harmed. This important part of God’s moral image is not lost, but it’s not all right. It’s not been eliminated, but it’s not always accurate.
We all have an inherent sense of right and wrong, but the conscience is inherent, not inerrant. You cannot assume that your own conscience always tells you the truth. And so you need your conscience to be educated, we need our consciences to be trained and taught according to God’s word.
Yes, I know that many Evangelicals claim we 'hear God' only through Scripture but since Scripture tells us that is not true, I'll stick with what Scripture says on that (hope that made sense?).
Next we are offered a simple four part test to determine if a doctrine is important enough to seek agreement on, i.e., is it an essential.
1. How clear is it in Scripture?
2. How clear do others think it is in Scripture? (Especially those that you respect as teachers of God’s word and trust.)
3. How near is it to the Gospel? (Or how near are its implications to the gospel itself?)
4. What would the affects be doctrinally and practically if we allowed disagreement in this area?
Some would say all doctrine is essential. At one level I agree but I would add that there is a prioritization of doctrines that must take place. Some things are more clear than others and some things are more important than others - or at least the manner in which the doctrine is practice is subordinate to another.
1 Cor 15 - Now brothers, I want to remind you of the Gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand, by this Gospel you are saved if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you, otherwise you have believed in vain. For what I have received, I passed on to you, as of first importance, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, he was buried, and he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the twelve.
Scripture is full of admonition regarding the importance, i.e., the "essentiality" of doctrine - but all doctrine must work together for it to be true. Any doctrine pulled from the rest and practiced out of order becomes a perversion. This does not nullify the doctrine, it nullifies the practice.
NA then attempts to pull three essentials around which the rest are formed. These are: God. The Bible. The gospel.
We have to believe in the one true God. We have to believe that God is one, and that he is Triune: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We have to believe that He is uncreated, that He is self-existing, that He is not dependent upon anyone else. And we must believe that He is morally perfect, that He is characterized by holiness and by love, that He is by His own will our Sovereign Creator and our Lord and our Judge. He is the one that we’re called to believe in.
The Bible is how we know the truth about God.
We must agree on the gospel—the good news.
If we agree on these things we are brothers and ought act like it. If we do agree, we are not brothers. Worse, if we agree but do not act in love, we sin.
I think many who call themselves christian disagree in one or more of the three points above. Yet when we engage with someone we disagree with we spend time debating points other than these. It seems that without alignment here, the rest can never make sense.