Essential doctrines are particular doctrines that an orthodox Christian is expected to hold. One who has recently received Christ is not expected to fully understand or articulate doctrines like that of the Trinity and the Deity of Christ, however, if he comes to reject these "essential doctrines" he no longer falls within orthodox Christianity. Therefore it is important to note what doctrines are rejected by a person or group, as well as what doctrines are affirmed.

A common list of essential doctrines would be:

The most common lists of essential doctrines define orthodoxy such that it would include most Protestant denominations as well as Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. Critical doctrines coming out of the Protestant Reformation, such as justification by faith alone (Sola Fide) and the sole authority of Scripture (Sola Scriptura) are often argued as "essential" by Protestants, but not so by the general academic community.

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