There are many things that good conservative people disagree on. Are they all equally important or are there some things that are less important than others? The answer to this question will determine the entire direction of our lives and our ministries.

Conviction – There are two levels of conviction.

1) Essential conviction – Something that is so clearly revealed in Scripture that I would be willing to die for it. The Fundamental doctrines and clear commands of Scripture. (Daniel 1:8, Daniel 3:15-18)

2) Personal conviction – Something that the Holy Spirit has convicted me of personally. May be based directly on Scripture, on principles of Scripture, or on the subjective leading of the Holy Spirit. Something that is not clearly revealed in Scripture. (Acts 16:6, John 16:13)

Conviction: the fact or state of being convicted, the state of being convinced, a fixed or firm belief. (Macquarie Dictionary)

Standard – A statement of what is acceptable behaviour for a person or unit of people in a particular setting. What the leader believes is best in this circumstance. The larger the organisation, the higher the standard. Always above the minimum level required by Scripture. (1 Timothy 3:1-13)

Standard: a level of quality which is regarded as normal, adequate, or acceptable. (Macquarie Dictionary)

Tradition – What those who’ve come before me thought was best in their circumstances. Sometimes based on Scripture. Needs to be tested by the Bible. Good traditions should be honoured, bad ones changed. (Luke 6:1)

Tradition: the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, etc., from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice. (Macquarie Dictionary)

Preference – My opinion of which is best between two good things. Must always be a judgment between two clearly biblical choices. (Philippians 1:10)

Preference: the act of preferring one thing above another. (Macquarie Dictionary)

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About Jason Harris

Dr Jason Harris is a writer, pastor, and academic. He has authored multiple books, articles, and papers including his book Theological Meditations on the Gospel. Jason has a PhD from James Cook University as well as degrees in theology, music, accounting, and research. Jason has lived in Cairns, Australia since 2007 and serves as pastor at CrossPoint Church. You can contact Jason at


  1. Albert 17 November, 2008 at 9:47 am

    Good article!
    Not sure I can see the difference between “personal convictions” and “preferences” – as you’ve defined them.
    May I also suggest that an “essential” conviction is one that is necessary for the holder to obtain salvation, and that all other “convictions” are personal.
    e.g. misguided zealouts will die for many different things – take the Branch Davidians or the Jonestown massacre.
    What you might die for others might not – yet they could still be in Christ.
    Or perhaps 3 tiers are better?
    – Salvation convictions = necessary for Christ & heaven
    – Important convictions = define the bounds of cooperation in ministry
    – Personal convictions = matters of liberty

    God Bless

  2. Jason Harris 17 November, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    Hey Albert,

    Thanks for the comment.

    As a fundamentalist, I believe there are many people who are born again believers who are not obedient to Scripture in various areas. That’s the angle I’m coming from here. I’m not really trying to draw a line in saying what is essential to salvation, but to fellowship.

    For instance, you can be saved without believing you need to be baptised, but you have missed something that is clearly revealed in Scripture. Something that is an essential… a fundamental if you will.

    About people dying for a conviction, my emphasis is on the phrase “so clearly revealed in Scripture.” I agree many will die for misguided ideas. That’s why exegesis and sound expository preaching are essential… so we make sure we understand God’s Word carefully.

    Grace to you.

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