Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Christianity: Who's doing it right?

Let me begin by saying, I don't know the answer!

Recently, Erin posted an interview of Obama's thoughts on religion as they relate to politics. We read the same interview, but walked away with a completely different perception. I do not believe that either is right or wrong, but it has me asking the following.

Why do many Christians believe that "their" Christianity is the right way while they fear or condemn the others? Do I do the same in my own practice by defending those who believe differently?

Living in Southern Baptist country, it is not hard to find examples of this denominational behavior, but I question whether or not this is The Truth. I should not pick on the Southern Baptists. Evangelical, Catholics, Assembly of God...almost no denomination is immune. Add in the Jews and others, and the issue only becomes more complicated.

Add in the Bible, which has gone through multiple translations and mis-translations, the challenges of applying it to current times, the unwillingness of some to look at the historical context, the challenges of interpreting customary behaviors and times of two thousand years ago, the love of sound-bites (i.e. taking short excerpts in to consideration rather than the big picture) and the contradictions contained within its text...just to name a few things.

All of this complication leads to uncertainty and different methods of practicing Christianity. Yet there are some Christian denominations who believe that their way is the only way. Many of the same denominations (and the followers) believe Christianity holds a privilege in this country and only Christianity should be expressed publicly. In other words, other denominations and religions should be suppressed, while Christians should be allowed to exercise freely without restriction. (I'm going to ignore the Second Amendment here, because the argument of the Framer's Intent will take far too much time and space with little bearing on the outcome in this post.)

Yet, in this uncertainty, each denomination believes they are "the ones" getting it right.

Quite honestly, I think that I do the same through my defense of Christianity as a whole. I admit my imperfection. I try to understand, but when I read and study the Bible, I am awed by how loving, compassionate, and forgiving Jesus was.

We are not mandated to approve, and there is a difference between approval and tolerance.

"Three things will last forever - faith, hope, and love - and the greatest of these is love." (1 Corinthians 13:13 NLT)

In any translation of the Bible, the verses in Chapter 13 emphasize what love is and isn't. Without love, nothing else matters.

It seems to me that we are directed to love-- irregardless of our approval.

Many different religions also believe in the power of love. Yet, many Christians fear and hate rather than love.

So-- I ask, what happens when you arrive at heaven's gate and find out you were wrong?

Me? I'll hope and pray that my love was enough.


Courtney said...

One thing you can be sure of: there is only ONE way to God and into Heaven. That is Jesus Christ. Faith and belief in Him is what gets you, not even how much you love, because it isn't about what you do, although those things certainly (hopefully) will come if you are living what we say we believe.

Denomenations are absolutely positively not what Jesus intended for his followers. That is because we are sinners and prideful and arrogant...Christ wanted/wants unity from believers and ALL that denomenations do is divide (constantly) The Church.

Lots of "christians" get it wrong when they don't love. I do. A lot. I hate it. I am not alone in this. But I stand firm in that Christ is THE ONLY WAY to God and THE ONLY WAY to heaven. There are some other things I stand firm on, but no, I don't think there is a denom. that gets it right and everyone else is wrong...there are some though that I think have it completely wrong, but that is because they don't believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that you have to believe in him and what he did on the cross to save us of our sins to have eternal life with him in heaven, and not eternal death and darkness. (that isn't fear, that is Truth).

And if I am wrong, which I have faith to believe I am not, but say I am, then I would have still chosen to lead the life I live.

Erin said...

Hi Maria,
Thanks for your thoughts on the topic. I totally agree that we must look at the Bible as a whole. So when looking at the Bible as a whole, what is the main point of it? Is it for us to feel loved and therefore love others? I think that is a good thing, but not the main thing. The main thing God is trying to communicate through creation, the Bible and His Son Jesus is His glory. God wants to spread the fame of His name throughout the whole earth. That is why we have the Bible, so we would know who God is and therefore love Him and worship Him. It is not a book to mainly tell us how to live, although it does do this. If you are interested more in this topic a great book to read is "The Unity of the BIble" by Daniel Fuller.

What we see as God's main goal and purpose will affect every single thing we do. It infiltrates our very core and is expressed out in all our actions and words. That is what was so disheartening to me in President Obama's interview. He completely diminished the work of the gospel. He admitted that there is sin, but that there would be no penalty for it. So why did Jesus have to die? And if there are so many roads to heaven, why did Jesus say He was the way, the truth and the life? A "good man and teacher" would not lie like that, would He?

There is a tension in Christianity that is exclusive and inclusive at the same time. It is exclusive in that it clearly says that only those who put their faith in the gospel (the true gospel) will live in heaven with Jesus some day. And it is inclusive in saying that we are to love all people no matter what their beliefs. I think the sad part is that the Chrisitianity of our day does not see that these two can exist simultaneously. But the Bible shows that they can.

Unfortunatley today, Jesus is seen as a weak and soft "pretty-boy", for lack fo a better term (for more on this subject, see almost anything by Mark Driscoll). We like a soft and tolerant Jesus because we don't like to be told there is a right and wrong these days. For sure, He was meek and gentle, but thre are so many pictures of a different Jesus in the Bibe as well. He was extremely harsh with the Pharisees who were the religous leaders that thought they could earn their way to God by what they did (which could be the same as us saying, if we love well enough we will get to heaven). Jesus is also pictured as extremely intense in the book of Revelation where the end times and heaven are described.

So I completely agree that we need to show more compassion and love. But I don't think the root of that is because we need to all accept the Bible to mean different things The root of the problem is that we are siners who need a Savior who can change us from the inside out. And as Christians we are to stand strong on the fact that only the saving work of Jesus on the cross can do that.

Looking forward to more of your thoughts:)

Maria said...

Luckily, I said I didn't know the answer, because I still don't. Or perhaps the answer is no one is right? I don't know. I do know that it is a journey-- a process-- which is ever evolving for each person throughout time.

Related to politics and Obama, I don't think the Christians corner the market on morality and do believe we are all sinners, so in spite of his shortcomings, I still believe he will do good. I don't expect him to be perfect, just as I don't expect G-dub or JFK to be have been perfect. I do believe that everything we read is interpreted differently by different people, and therefore, the Bible is no different.

That being said, it is not possible to force people to Christianity. That's not to say there isn't a purpose to discipleship, but that each must accept or deny on their own, and as such, it is not the place of Government to say what one should believe. I don't want Government doing that for me.

I'm not perfect, and this is all a part of my journey. Maybe I shouldn't make it so public, but then again, maybe I should.

You have given me a lot to chew on.

Maria said...

Oh, I was looking back over another post I wrote ( and couldn't help but think that I obviously don't have the answer, because I asked something similar in May. Perhaps it is time to "be still."

Dave said...

I made a realization a long time ago that there the idea of a religion that is “right” (i.e. correct) is a fallacy. As Thomas Jefferson once said, all religions preach the same basic morals and values, yet there is all of this conflict over the name of God or the nature of Jesus or other nonsense. It is just sad really.

Personally I believe in God and see Jesus as a great prophet, not unlike the Buddha and many others, but I do not believe that any one religion is the right one. There is so much that can be learned from them all that it is a waste to argue, fight, die, and kill over little things like the names of the deities.

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