Someone recently sent me a paragraph of which every word was spelled incorrectly. Each of the words began and ended with the correct letter, so I could read it easily. Since I could read it, did it really matter if the words were spelled correctly? After all, I got the essential truth. Isn't spelling just a secondary matter? Tell that to your English teacher; see if it works. If I ever get picked up for speeding (not likely, smiles), I can let the police officer know I was obeying the essential truths of state law. I stayed in my lane, didn't bump into other cars, and didn't hurt anybody. Think that will fly with law enforcement?
I recently read this, and it sounded like so many other things I've heard said by others: "They are a great example of standing up for the essential truth of the gospel, and kidding around about secondary issues." We are supposed to applaud that. First, it is essential truth, not just truth. Second, they are secondary matters. If someone tried to cull this from Scripture, they would probably use these: "You . . . have omitted the weightier matters of the law . . . . Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel" (Matthew 23:33, 34). Or, "Which is the first commandment of all?" (Mark 12:28) Those are the only places one could find something to contribute to this doctrine. Nothing in the Bible says "essential truths." Perhaps at best the two references above, which are the only ones of their kind in all of Scripture, back up some kind of doctrine of "secondary issues." In their context, however, they seem to be targeting the internal versus the external, that the internal things take priority over the external things. In other words, if you are going to pay attention to something, you don't look at the external things to the exclusion of the internal things. This does not mean that the external things are unimportant or should not be taught and enforced. The Lord meant to show the hypocrisy of the Pharisees.
Professing Christians have taken that point and relegated certain truths of Scripture to secondary status. In most cases, it seems that the basis for doing so is solely subjective. Whatever a close-knit group of buddies thinks is secondary is, well, secondary. Does this please Christ, that huge numbers of His truths have been put in cold storage? No. While certain passages do hint at priorities in Scripture, others tell us that every single thing the Bible says is important; like these: "Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:19); "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:20); "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love" (John 15:10). "Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he" (Genesis 6:22); "And shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul" (Deuteronomy 3o:2); "This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success" (Joshua 1:8).
If you didn't read those verses above--just skipped them---go back and read them. Those are really only a sampling, but they say something entirely different than the reduction of truth. God seems to look as everything He said as important, and it isn't for us to relegate some of what He said to a secondary issue or as essential and non-essential truth. Why would anyone do that anyway? It can't be because they love the Lord. It must be to make room for their own form of Christianity or to protect some false view of unity. In the wrong view of unity, doctrine is dumbed down for the sake of getting along. Getting along is the one doctrine that can't be compromised. Anyway much more can be said here, but for now, just reject this essential-truth-secondary-issue kind of view.