Opinions on faith and life

The Splintering of Christianity

2006-06-01

What happens when people let other people think for them? They hold contradictory beliefs without the slightest sense of concern. I’m talking specifically about conflicting combinations like salvation is eternal but you can lose it, salvation is a gift but you have to earn it, God loved the whole world but only parts of it, etc. These “strange bedfellows” live quite happily together in the minds of many believers.

But a more deadly result of not thinking for oneself is the ease with which you can be led astray. That’s how people get caught up in cults. But it’s also the driving force behind a lot of what passes for Christianity in the churches and message boards. The odds of finding a Christian board that is Christian by the Bible’s definition are, like, Google-to-one.

In those groups you will find that no matter what your beliefs are, somebody will call you lost at one point or another. I just pray that not too many potential or new believers are being confused by all that. Without a firm foundation in the Bible it’s almost impossible to hear the Spirit’s voice over all the noise.

Let me list some of my beliefs as a case study:

  1. salvation by faith alone in Jesus alone
  2. salvation cannot be lost (eternal security)
  3. Bible was written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, not Middle English or Latin
  4. women are as free in Christ as men
  5. we are no longer under the Jewish Law
  6. the “church” is the people, not a building or ritual
  7. the “pastor” is a gift, not an office
  8. Revelation is about a literal 7 years of tribulation followed by 1000 years of Jesus’ rule on earth
  9. the true believers will not go through the tribulation but will be raptured to heaven alive
  10. God made the heavens and the earth in six literal 24-hour days
I’ve been judged either saved or lost (or a heretic or crazy or stupid) at every one of those points. Now if all Christians agreed that I’m off base on the same points, I’d have to wonder if the charges are true. But the problem is that the group that condemns me on one point will exonerate me on others!

Catholics reject all but #5 (but substitute their own law); Lordship Salvationists reject 1, 4, some of 5, 6-7; KJVO cult rejects 3 of course, etc. I’ve had people condemn me to hell for several points yet fight by my side at others. So if I put all the groups together, at every point there are some Christians who call me saved and others who call me lost.

The point being, there is no consensus on whether I’m a faithful follower of Christ or the rankest heretic. What to do? Duh, ask GOD! We all have our blind spots, but there is at least the Bible as the foundation. The differences in interpretation usually have more to do with blind allegiance to a church tradition than careful exegesis. People are more interested in feelings and experiences than critical thinking.

Which brings us back to that matter of thinking. Given all the confusion it’s really no surprise that so many people just give up and hope that whoever they’re following has it right. But there are no co-dependents on Judgment Day. You will stand there alone and answer God’s questions about how you lived and what you believed. So I think it’s a good idea to take personal responsibility for my beliefs here and now. There’s much less shame in being wrong than in being gullible.

Some more:

The catholics hate me because I’m a protestant. The protestants hate me because I’m not a “churchian”. The un-churchians hate me because I’m an egalitarian. The egalitarians hate me because I practice discernment by speaking out against heresy. The KJVO cult hates me because I use modern translations of the Bible. The non-KJVOs hate me because I’m a creationist. The creationists hate me because I’m not a Calvinist. The non-Calvinists hate me because I believe in Eternal Security. The ESers hate me because I believe in the pre-trib Rapture.

But Jesus loves me. So there.