Wow! Yesterday I was just trying to write a small interesting point, and (something that sadly happens to me), did not express the point as well as I could have or should have :-( Well, my apologies, and never being afraid to rush in where angels fear to tread, here goes again...
I wrote yesterday:
You can see that the largest emphasis was placed on living a *good* life, living by the ten commandments, not doing wrong things. In fact, Kinnaman's book discusses that many of these *born again* Christians seem to have a works component of their faith: that they must consistently do certain things in order to be considered forgiven. Some think that there may be other ways to heaven besides believing in Christ.
Let me make it clear that every person is entitled to believe whatever he chooses: I am NOT preaching here. However, if these beliefs are held, they are not consistent with Biblical Christianity.
Philangelus, a dear friend and someone never willing to let me go on in error (I am so grateful to her) was troubled by this statement, and responded:
I disagree with your interpretation of the facts. These people found these things as priorities not because "living a good life" and "learning about Christ" were "works that will get them into Heaven" but rather because they were, as the survey says, "important priorities for a Christian to pursue in terms of his or her faith."
The Bible itself says that faith naturally manifests itself in good works (the book of James) and that our good deeds are the only things that follow us into the next life (Revelation) and Jesus said, "If you love me, do what I tell you."
In other words, these things BECOME priorities because of what we hold dear. They are the proof of our love of God rather than the substance of our love of God or the reason for God to love us. Are they important? Absolutely, the same way you don't love your husband only because he brings you roses on Valentine's Day but you accept those roses as a sign that he deeply loves you and wants to make you happy.
Good point! She is correct that attempting to live a good life is certainly a component of the Christian life. James, after all, states that "Faith without works is dead." (James 2:20) A Christian who does not demonstrate changes in how he or she lives can reasonably expect others to become skeptical of the conversion.
I totally agree with this. Philangelus and Rosslyn, and anyone else, I hope I got the point and answered it correctly? If not I'm hopeless, and I'll stick to posting cute emails that people send me instead of trying to expound on things beyond my ken.
Now, back to the point I was so awkwardly trying to make yesterday:
I believe many people call themselves a Christian because they did an altar call when they were 12, or did *The Jesus Thing* for awhile in youth group, or go to church. However, they may not hold some of the foundational beliefs that are clearly articulated in Scripture.
One of the most frightening passages for me is Matthew 7:21-23, when Jesus is speaking:
"Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.'"
As a Christian who accepts Christ as Lord, I take from this passage that one must be very careful of what he believes. I believe that the Scriptures, the Old and New Testaments, are reliable and sufficient to convey the orthodox or *correct/complete* understanding of the Christian faith. A person is entitled to believe anything he wants; however, if you are going to call yourself a Christian, you should play by the rules and hold to the Christian doctrine. I came to my faith through studying the historic circumstances surrounding the death of Jesus --> the evidence established to my satisfaction that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead, therefore he was who he said he was, therefore the Scriptures are reliable for information pertaining to God. (Anyone with questions about these statements, feel free to write if you wish to engage in a friendly and polite debate).
Kinnaman's book in his survey statistics seemed to support some trouble spots that I occasionally run across in my own conversations with Christians, say at church:
1. A Works Doctrine: I hold to the idea that there is nothing that we can do to earn our salvation; it is all through the Lord. Ephesians 2:8-9: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast." There are many other verses to support this idea also. If someone tries to emphasize living by rules, not sinning etc., they MAY (repeat MAY) have the wrong emphasis -- the ability to live well comes from within, not from following external rules. This is what I was referring to yesterday. I throw this thought out more for someone to ask himself if this applies (because it does to all of us, to some degree) and take corrective measures to emphasize God's glory and gift, not our ability to be *worthy* by doing something to earn salvation.
There are many thoughts about the role of the person versus the role of God. An interesting article that discusses the role of purgatory for salvation is here. As a Protestant I do not believe in the concept of Purgatory (2 Cor 5:6-8), but respect those who do and do not consider this a Deal-Breaker within the Christian faith; rather this is something that can be debated in-house.
I'm not going to argue Calvinism versus Arminianism either. The roles of the Holy Spirit versus the Human spirit in salvation are deep mysteries that I don't want to attempt to debate. I simply want to make the point that we must rely on the Holy Spirit, not our own power, in order to live righteously.
2. Multiple Salvations: that there are other ways to salvation besides Christ. Again, any person is entitled to believe what he or she wants, but traditional Christianity says that no one comes to the Father except through Christ. (John 14:6) This in my opinion is a nonnegotibable point of understanding of Christianity, since it is repeated often in the Scriptures and never ever contradicted.
I've had several discussions with self-identified Christians who seem to think that being a *good* person is good enough to be reconciled with God. Many people who are not Christian also believe that *things will even out* and on balance they'll be OK. As much as I wish this were true, I don't believe that the Scriptures support this conclusion.
OK, I hope these points better express what I was trying to say yesterday! These are my understandings of Scripture.
What do you think? What are the deal-breakers for Christianity? Is Christianity the *only* way to be reconciled with God in the first place, or do all belief systems have truth? If you believe in Christianity but I am a Buddhist, and we both live good lives, can't we both be right?
Anne pointed out yesterday that Christianity is a relationship with the Lord, not a religion per se -- so what is the difference? Can you HAVE a relationship with Someone who you can't see, or hear, or touch?
Wat about Luther's insistence on Sola Scriptura? Any thoughts?
Have an awesome day!
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