Friday, December 19, 2008

Truth is all about Jesus

I recently read an interesting interview with Will Smith in Newsweek. Will's ideas on "Truth" are similar to what I've been thinking lately.

Here's an excerpt from the interview.
There are also rumors about you being a Scientologist. Jada has spoken about you two studying many religions, including Scientology. So are you a Scientologist?

I love the nature of humanity's search for meaning. For me I'm certain about my relationship with the model of perfection of human life that's laid out with the life of Jesus Christ. I'm certain of that. So I'm at home and not fearful when I sit in a mosque or a synagogue or a Buddhist temple, the same way that I'm at home in the Church of Scientology. I like anywhere people are searching for the truth, and I respect their path and I'm intrigued by their path. I think when you are certain in and of what you believe in, you can open your mind to seeing the ways of others. I'm not bothered when someone says "Allah" because they're talking about God - we are talking about the same person. I was in India recently and my hotel was near the Taj Mahal. Five times a day there would be a call for prayer, and it was the most beautiful thing. I was lying in my bed thinking, no matter what your religion is, it would be great to have that reminder five times a day to remember your Lord and Savior.
So you're not a Scientologist?

No, but when people are afraid of religion they have to go back and get in touch with the Good Book. Fear of other religions means you're questioning your own understanding, and that's just not where I am.

You were raised Baptist, right?

Yes, but I grew up in a neighborhood with all religions, and so I'm very used to studying and being around different faiths. So it doesn't bother me to look into different religions. My grandmother raised me to be a do-gooder in the church, and it was about doing what you can to help your community. So whatever religion does that - Jewish, Muslim, Scientology - it's cool because the end result is the same.

Here are some of my own thoughts:

In John 14:6, Jesus said "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life." As a follower of Jesus, I base my life upon Jesus' claim.
But the whole point is JESUS! Jesus is bigger than Christianity and he's bigger than the Bible. Now, Christianity is a sociological group of people trying to live for Jesus (most of the time) and the Bible teaches us how to know Jesus making them VERY helpful in knowing what it means to follow Jesus, but Jesus still transcends Christianity and the Bible.

I believe salvation will come to people who aren't Christians and have never read the Bible. I don't believe, however, that salvation will come to people who aren't following Jesus.

I liked Will's comments about how it doesn't matter the religion as long as the community is being served. You could take that comment too far, I guess, but the point I want to make is that the point of following Jesus is serving others. If you read the Gospels, it doesn't seem that Jesus was too concerned about RIGHT THINKING, but rather RIGHT DOING. We can tell whether a person is following Jesus, experiencing salvation, not because they have the right theology but because they're serving others. Who did Jesus condemn to hell? The ultra-religious who had the right beliefs but were totally missing the point.

That's why people with "right theology" will miss out on salvation while some people with "bad theology" will experience final salvation. Our intellectual beliefs matter but they aren't the end-all for Jesus. If you don't believe that, read the last part of Matthew 25. link

Right now, there are people living for Jesus who have never heard the name "Jesus." But in their own way, they've responded to the life of salvation that Jesus offers. There are also people sitting in Christian worship services who hold "right beliefs" that aren't living for Jesus.

CS Lewis gives us a beautiful picture of this at the end of his Chronicles of Narnia series. It's at the end of The Last Battle. People who spent their lives in the false religion of Tash are still welcomed into Aslan's Kingdom, because Aslan saw in their hearts a search for Truth, though they weren't able to find the "correct" words.

Truth is a person and that person is Jesus. Truth is not a set of propositions nor intellectual statements. Truth is Jesus. So, as Will Smith is showing us, when we've anchored ourselves in the Truth of Jesus, we can go looking for reflections of that Truth in other religions, even Christianity. As long as we stay anchored on Jesus, we can see his Truth all around us, even in unlikely places.

When Adam Hamilton of the Church of the Resurrection preached a sermon series on the religions of the world, he pointed out all the good in other religions and then demonstrated how that good found it's completion in Jesus.

And one final idea, from the book The Shack. The Jesus figure in that book makes this statement about world religions, "Not every path leads to me but I'll go down any path to find you."

19 comments:

Jeff said...

One of my favorite posts so far. Very thought provoking. Have a very Merry Christmas.

JoeBoy said...

Well said.

Chris said...

Hey Donnie! My wife and I have been reading through your blog posts and have enjoyed them! However, I do have some questions/concerns on this one. I imagine that I am misunderstanding, which is why I wanted to ask for clarification on a few points:

“I believe salvation will come to people who aren't Christians and have never read the Bible. I don't believe, however, that salvation will come to people who aren't following Jesus.” I was hoping you could clarify this. Now, I will be the first to admit that claiming to be a “Christian” doesn’t necessarily mean you are saved. This is the most overused and undervalued term/title around these days. However, if you are a Christ-follower, then you are a Christian. So, this seems like a two sided-statement. You say you can be saved without being a Christian, but can’t be saved without being a Christ-follower (aka, Christian). As far as the Bible comment, I am ok with this (new convert, for example, who never had a chance to crack the Bible). However, I think it is incredibly important to point out that the Bible is inherently critical to the growth and well-being of all Christians.

“We can tell whether a person is following Jesus, experiencing salvation, not because they have the right theology but because they're serving others. Who did Jesus condemn to hell? The ultra-religious who had the right beliefs but were totally missing the point.” Having the right theology has to play into this. There are LOTS of people who serve others, yet they aren’t necessarily followers of Christ. Our righteousness (including serving others) is as filthy rags without Christ. Now, the Bible does state that we will “know them by their fruits” which may be what you’re referring to. Serving others certainly is AN evidence of Christ in someone’s life, but it certainly doesn’t outweigh one’s theology (such as believing that Christ died and rose again, for example). Having that proper theology/mindset is huge. But, I do agree that having the knowledge without living it out is worthless, such as the Pharisees.

“Right now, there are people living for Jesus who have never heard the name "Jesus." But in their own way, they've responded to the life of salvation that Jesus offers.” There may be people who are living “righteously” in the world, but without Jesus, they are still separated by sin. Now, this gets into the massive theological matter of General Revelation. This is a matter of much debate, and truthfully, no one on earth will ever be able to reconcile this issue. However, this statement somewhat lends itself to interpretation in the extreme based on what the reader is looking for. One could read this and think that living in whatever way THEY deem to be righteous and good will be an acceptable substitution to living a life in submission to Christ. This is certainly not the case.

“So, as Will Smith is showing us, when we've anchored ourselves in the Truth of Jesus, we can go looking for reflections of that Truth in other religions, even Christianity.” While there are “good points” in many religions, I don’t know that it’s a good idea for a Christian to “go looking” for truth in other religions – that can be very dangerous. Also, Will Smith’s quote above essentially states that all religions are valid and true (Allah and God are the same??). To hold to this kind of ideology completely undermines Christianity (Christ = the ONLY way to salvation). I do agree, however, that we can (and should) study other faiths to be aware of what’s out there, and for the sake of apologetics. And, being anchored in Christ certainly helps us to do this with more resolve and wisdom. But as far as I am concerned, while other faiths may be great examples of family values, serving others, or unyielding dedication and faith, the only real “truth” that ultimately matters is that of Christ and Christ alone.

So, these are a few of the points that I have questions on and am hoping that you can provide additional clarification on. Essentially, these points together could be read to suggest that works outweigh correct theology/faith, and that all religions are equally valid. I am fairly certain that this is not what you’re inferring, but I wanted to clarify. Thanks for your time and explanation! I look forward to hearing back from you!

Donnie Miller said...

Chris,
Those are some good questions, we’ll see if I can give as good of answers or clarifications. I’m assuming this is the Chris who played at TFC last Sunday?
I’m going to repost your comment and then number the paragraphs, so as to respond to each point.

1) “I believe salvation will come to people who aren't Christians and have never read the Bible. I don't believe, however, that salvation will come to people who aren't following Jesus.” I was hoping you could clarify this. Now, I will be the first to admit that claiming to be a “Christian” doesn’t necessarily mean you are saved. This is the most overused and undervalued term/title around these days. However, if you are a Christ-follower, then you are a Christian. So, this seems like a two sided-statement. You say you can be saved without being a Christian, but can’t be saved without being a Christ-follower (aka, Christian). As far as the Bible comment, I am ok with this (new convert, for example, who never had a chance to crack the Bible). However, I think it is incredibly important to point out that the Bible is inherently critical to the growth and well-being of all Christians.

2) “We can tell whether a person is following Jesus, experiencing salvation, not because they have the right theology but because they're serving others. Who did Jesus condemn to hell? The ultra-religious who had the right beliefs but were totally missing the point.” Having the right theology has to play into this. There are LOTS of people who serve others, yet they aren’t necessarily followers of Christ. Our righteousness (including serving others) is as filthy rags without Christ. Now, the Bible does state that we will “know them by their fruits” which may be what you’re referring to. Serving others certainly is AN evidence of Christ in someone’s life, but it certainly doesn’t outweigh one’s theology (such as believing that Christ died and rose again, for example). Having that proper theology/mindset is huge. But, I do agree that having the knowledge without living it out is worthless, such as the Pharisees.

3) “Right now, there are people living for Jesus who have never heard the name "Jesus." But in their own way, they've responded to the life of salvation that Jesus offers.” There may be people who are living “righteously” in the world, but without Jesus, they are still separated by sin. Now, this gets into the massive theological matter of General Revelation. This is a matter of much debate, and truthfully, no one on earth will ever be able to reconcile this issue. However, this statement somewhat lends itself to interpretation in the extreme based on what the reader is looking for. One could read this and think that living in whatever way THEY deem to be righteous and good will be an acceptable substitution to living a life in submission to Christ. This is certainly not the case.

4) “So, as Will Smith is showing us, when we've anchored ourselves in the Truth of Jesus, we can go looking for reflections of that Truth in other religions, even Christianity.” While there are “good points” in many religions, I don’t know that it’s a good idea for a Christian to “go looking” for truth in other religions – that can be very dangerous. Also, Will Smith’s quote above essentially states that all religions are valid and true (Allah and God are the same??). To hold to this kind of ideology completely undermines Christianity (Christ = the ONLY way to salvation). I do agree, however, that we can (and should) study other faiths to be aware of what’s out there, and for the sake of apologetics. And, being anchored in Christ certainly helps us to do this with more resolve and wisdom. But as far as I am concerned, while other faiths may be great examples of family values, serving others, or unyielding dedication and faith, the only real “truth” that ultimately matters is that of Christ and Christ alone.

My response:

1) Yeah, you’re right, a person can’t be a Christian without being saved, at least not in the way “Christian” is used in Acts, “the believers were first called Christians at Antioch.” I was using “Christian” in the religious/ sociological sense. A person may be a Christian (i.e. Christ-follower) without calling themselves “Christians” (in the religious/ sociological sense).

Yes, the Bible is the most important aspect of a person’s growth in Christ. If a person has access to Christian scripture and aren’t reading it, they’re cheating themselves. But if they never have access to scripture, they can still grow in Christ, or respond to the love of Christ, through the work of the Holy Spirit. Scripture is the most important avenue we have for knowing God but it’s not the only way God works. I’m using the extreme example of people not having access to the Bible. The bible is the final authority for Christ-followers, but it’s not God’s only avenue for speaking to us.

2) I heard a really good message from Gateway Community Church in Austin recently, I think it was the first Sunday in December, the first of a 3 part Advent series, in which they used the clip from Monty Python and the Holy Grail to illustrate how a lot of people think they earn access into Heaven. Just like the soldiers in search for the grail had to answer the question correctly or be thrown into the abyss, a lot of evangelical Christians believe Jesus died on the cross so we could correctly answer “why should I let you into my heaven?” with “because of my faith in Jesus’ death on the cross.” The point of that message is that Jesus came for so much more than the simple forgives of sins, but to turn us into Kingdom people. In fact, if we’re only focused on forgiveness or having the right belief about Jesus, we’re missing the point. That’s part of where I’m coming from with that comment, though I’m not necessarily answering your question.

I think we have the responsibility to teach biblical understandings of Jesus, orthodox teachings on who Jesus is, but I really don’t think it’s as important as some evangelical groups make it out to be. A protestant rally cry is “by faith alone” but “faith” is often reduced to checking off a list of “correct” beliefs. Co-eternal Son of God – check, rose again – check, born of a virgin – check. While those are all biblical teachings, the point of Jesus coming into the world wasn’t to get our list of mental beliefs in the correct order. He did however, come to reveal what God was like, which I guess is a theological system. Jesus came, died and rose again to turn us into Kingdom people. People who model the love and generosity of God. Yes, correct theology helps us become Kingdom people, but the end game is being a Kingdom person, not having correct beliefs.
That can be a comforting thing to us because none of us have it figured out. I have no idea what they are and I try to hold my beliefs within the common stream of historical Christianity, but I’m sure I hold some beliefs that aren’t accurate. When I meet Jesus someday and I realize, “wow, I was WAY off.” What’s Jesus going to do with my false beliefs? They’ll just be corrected when I meet He who is Truth.

For example, Mormons. Mormons believe crazy, unbiblical things about Jesus. But I know of Mormons who are SERIOUSLY committed to living for Jesus. I can’t imagine Jesus saying to them, “depart from me, you didn’t have the right beliefs, even though you were committed to living for me in the best way you knew how.” Matthew 25 pretty much debunks the idea that we're rejected entrance into heaven becuause we don't believe the right things. Jesus condemns to hell people who didn't live rightly. I’m not saying we excuse the unbiblical beliefs or just say, “believe whatever you want.” But I am saying that correct orthodoxy is a way to the point, not the point itself. Jesus is the point. And what about my own beliefs that are off in some way or another. Even the most orthodox of all Christians doesn’t have it all figured out. If both the orthodox (theologically “correct”) person and the Mormon were both living for Jesus the best they knew how, would Jesus say to the orthodox, “you’re in” but to the Mormon “you’re out”? Would Jesus refuse admittance to the Kingdom because someone didn’t have faith in the virgin birth? I’m not saying the virgin birth isn’t an aspect of Christianity but I am saying that what we see of Jesus in the gospels leads me to believe that “orthodoxy” won’t be the admittance standards to heaven.
I’m confident in my salvation not because of the orthodoxy of my intellectual assents, but because I know I’ve opened myself up to Christ (which fits in orthodox thought – so it’s somewhat circular). But even beyond that, I know I’ve opened up my life to Christ because I can see that my life is slowly but surely being transformed into one that is aligned with the Kingdom values Jesus taught. And when I’m made aware that an aspect of my life isn’t aligned, the Holy Spirit empowers me to make corrections.
A great example is the first disciples. Other than the possible exception of John, we could pretty easily assume that all of them died without understanding that Jesus was God, the 2nd member of the Trinity. Trinity wasn’t even a part of Christian belief until the 3rd century (I believe, I could look it up but I’m lazy). Christians hadn’t even agreed that Jesus was equal with God until the 2nd century (council of Nicea?). The disciples knew Jesus was from God, they claimed (in Acts) that the resurrection proved he was from God but they probably never understood that he was GOD HIMSELF, the way we understand it now. Yes, Paul developed our Christology in his letters, but the doctrinal teachings in Paul’s letters weren’t accepted as mainstream Christian belief for another 100 years after they were written, and they weren’t canonized for another 100 years or so. And yet, they disciples were totally sold out to Jesus, they “got it.” They gave their lives away for the sake of Christ. I’m guessing when they saw Jesus face to face again in heaven, they were then able to see through the class clearly (to paraphrase 1 Cor 13).

3) You’re right, that can be taken to the extreme, but that’s not my intention. My only intention is to point out that each person has to respond to what God has revealed to them. We can only be held accountable for what part of Truth has been revealed to us. A person can still submit to Christ, though they don’t know the name “Christ.” Have you read “The Last Battle” by CS Lewis? One of the last chapters in that book gives a powerful image of what that looks like.

4) It’s been a few years, but Adam Hamilton of the Church of the Resurrection once did sermon series on the religions of the world. It was beautifully done. He pointed out all the good and the pictures of truth that exists in each religion, then explained how that particular religion comes short of the Truth revealed through Christ. I actually have to disagree with your comment, “While there are “good points” in many religions, I don’t know that it’s a good idea for a Christian to “go looking” for truth in other religions – that can be very dangerous.” I don’t think it’s dangerous at all, in fact, I think it’s really healthy. Seeing truth outside of Christian teaching shows how God’s spirit is working in everyone’s heart, to bring them toward Jesus. For example, the idea of Karma. That fits with Jesus’ Golden Rule. There is truth in that, as we treat people it will eventually come back to us. If for no other reason, to misuse people means we’re turning ourselves into anti-kingdom people, which will bring the ultimate bad-karma of being left out of the Kingdom. However, Karma stops short of the Ultimate Truth of Jesus because Karma doesn’t deal with grace. That God loves us so much he gives us what we DON’T deserve. We point out the reflection of Jesus that exists in that other religion and then use that reflection to point toward the reality of Jesus.
To paraphrase Rob Bell from Velvet Elvis, “if anything is good or beautiful – claim it. If it’s ugly or evil (even if it has “Christian” label) – reject it.” For an AWESOME reading on this, check out “No Perfect People Allowed” by John Burke. He wrote a chapter on other religions. I reviewed that chapter on my blog, look in the “evangelism” tags, but I’d suggest reading the chapter yourself.

I could be misinterpreting what he meant, but I don’t believe Will Smith was saying all religions are equally valid. I think he was saying that no matter the religion, God is pleased when people work together to bring healing and goodness into the world. I wondered if anyone would call out Will Smith for calling God (the Christian view) the same as Allah. I don’t agree with Smith on that point. I could say that Muslims are searching for God through their religion, but their thought system falls short of the Truth of Christ.

Well, that was long. I realize I didn't directly respond to everything you asked or wrote, but I hope something in that long response made sense…

Chris said...

Hello, Donnie! Yes, this is the Chris that led last week. We’ll see if I’m ever invited back after this discourse!  Thank you for replying to my post and clarifying some of my questions. I do have a couple more thoughts/questions that I want to run by you related to a few of your points above:

Point 1: I am with you on that stuff. As for your first point, it’s all semantics. Unfortunately, the term “Christian” doesn’t mean much these days without some sort of qualification. As for your second point, it sounds to me like you’re referring to General Revelation, which is cool with me. This is a debate that will never be solved on this earth. I just don’t want people in America (theoretically, people reading this blog) to walk away from this thinking that they don’t need the Bible, etc.

Point 2: I don’t think I’m on the same page with this one. I am with you on most of this stuff, but I am not so sure on the point you made with the example of a Mormon and Matthew 25. I don’t think Matthew 25 has anything to do with getting into heaven or not based on beliefs. It sounds like it is pretty focused on the aspects of living it out. Now, the issue I have here is that I could do everything right in my life, I can live the holiest of lives on this earth and serve my fellow man; but, if I don’t believe that Jesus is the Son of God or that he died and rose again, then I am serving a different “Jesus.” In my opinion, you have to belief in a core set of beliefs in order to be saved. Period. Otherwise, you’re just a good person, and being a good person doesn’t earn you Salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9). As for the Mormon, if he is truly a Christ-follower, then he’s not a Mormon. If he is a straight up Mormon, then he’s not a Christ-follower. You can’t have it both ways. The Mormon faith is messed up. If you adhere to even a portion of the unbiblical beliefs (which contradict Scripture), then whether you say you are a “Christ-follower” or not is irrelevant. You may be following and trying to replicate the actions and deeds that Christ committed, but he certainly is not your Lord. If Christ is indeed your Lord (rather than simply a role-model), then you can’t buy into the stuff that Mormons buy into and adhere to.

Point 4: I agree that studying other faiths can be a good thing, again, for the sake of apologetics and understanding those around us. Christians are a terribly ignorant people sometimes. However, I also believe in staying far away from things of other faiths. I think that actually “looking for” truth could be dangerous. This is because someone could become enticed by what they find over there, and justify themselves into “switching.” Now, hopefully a better grounded, seasoned Christian won’t have this problem, so this is probably a pretty limited issue. As for the Will Smith/Muslim thing, yeah, I couldn’t let that one go!  To say that Allah and the God of the Bible are the same is nowhere near true.

So, as you can see, I have a couple lingering questions, primarily related to point number two. I am quite curious to read your thoughts in regard to my additional questions. Thank you for taking the time to engage in this discussion!

Donnie Miller said...

I think you might be “hearing” something from me I don’t intend to communicate. I don’t mean that correct beliefs don’t matter, I’m all for correct beliefs. I’ll teach people about Christ based upon the official creeds and interpretations of the historical Christian church. I think what I was doing in this post is reacting to two extremes: The one extreme of a person having “right” intellectual beliefs but not living with any commitment to Christ and someone trying to live for Christ with all they’ve got, while having some “incorrect” beliefs. I use parenthesis because none of us have it all perfectly figured out. Is a person who has no kingdom values in their life, yet they ascribe to orthodox Christian beliefs a part of the Kingdom for eternity while a person who doesn’t ascribe to orthodox beliefs yet has been responding to the light that has been revealed to them left out?
Ephesians 2:8-9 is a great passage to illustrate the point. First of all, “faith” isn’t just a list of intellectual beliefs, it’s reorienting your life around Jesus. The central question of this discussion might be the limits of grace. Does the grace of Christ cover our bad theology in the same way it covers our sins? From my Wesleyan Theological perspective, we’d say that grace covers our unintentional sin but if we consciously choose to repent of sin, grace won’t cover the sin. God won’t force his grace upon us. But if I’m ignorantly doing something against the teachings of scripture, God’s grace is enough to cover that sin. So, apply that to doctrinal beliefs. We’re saved by the grace of Christ, even if we have some misguided views. God’s grace can cover our false views (fortunately for all of us). The “works” of verse 9 might very well also be applied to correct thinking. We’re saved no matter what, when we respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. I don’t believe the grace is applied only when our beliefs align themselves to orthodox teaching.

But that begs the question, to whom are we responding if our views on Jesus are misguided? I don’t have an answer to that and that’s maybe what you’re getting at with “another Jesus.” That’s for Jesus to decide when he looks into our heart and determines whether we’re at home in his kingdom, which is what Judgment is all about.

“you adhere to even a portion of the unbiblical beliefs (which contradict Scripture), then whether you say you are a “Christ-follower” or not is irrelevant. You may be following and trying to replicate the actions and deeds that Christ committed, but he certainly is not your Lord. If Christ is indeed your Lord (rather than simply a role-model), then you can’t buy into the stuff that Mormons buy into and adhere to. “
That’s what I’m leaving in Christ’s hands. The reality is that every single one of us have views or behaviors that contradict scripture in at least some way. None of us perfectly live out the sermon on the mount, but that’s where grace comes in again.
And what does it mean to say Jesus is our Lord? It means he’s in charge of our lives. If God convicts a person about some misguided beliefs and they refuse to repent, then God will deal with their sin. If a person is willingly rejecting God’s leadership in their lives, then Christ is certainly not their Lord and they aren’t a part of the Kingdom (at least in some way, none of us have perfect obedience and yet grace covers that).
If a person is responding to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and living out the teachings of Jesus, then Jesus is their Lord. That’s the point of Matthew 25, that Jesus never asks what they believe but how they lived, because ultimately, our beliefs dictate our actions.
If a person is intentionally rejecting the guidance of the Holy Spirit by “buying into Mormonism” then God’s going to deal with that sin. If a person has more orthodox intellectual beliefs about Jesus but is refusing to live out Matthew 25, (serving the poor) then God is going to deal with that sin.
“Lordship” is determined by motive. Why is a person serving the poor? Because it looked cool on TV or because they’re responding to whatever the Holy Spirit is doing in their lives and they’re honestly trying to live for Jesus. Not everyone who serves the poor is doing so out of a response to Christ but for those who are, it demonstrates that they’re taking steps toward Christ being Lord in their lives. The whole point of following Jesus is that he becomes more and more of our Lord. So when do our missteps, omissions or false beliefs determine he’s not Lord? That’s a question of the motive of a person’s heart. This is messy, not clean-cut, not a clear line of demarcation indicating who is “in” and who is “out.” I’m going to do my best to challenge people to have a wholistic commitment to Christ, but I’ll leave the final decision of “in/out” in his hands.

A Christ-honoring life is about the balance between orthopraxy (right living) and orthodoxy (right belief). What happens when one of those is off, even if we know it’s off in some way or another? As pastor, I have the responsibility of challenging people to live in both. Ultimately, however, it’s the discernment of God that will make the final call and I honestly believe God’s grace is enough to make up for our shortcomings, both intentional and unintentional.
And yes, we’d love to have you back to lead music sometime in the near future.

David Brush said...

Ephesians 2:8-9 (NLT) 8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.

Okay, here is my really rough translation from Greek.

For God's grace, which keeps us safe, sound and rescues us now and forever from the evils which obstruct the salvation Christ delivers to us, is given to us as a gift when we posses a faith in the eternal faithfulness of Christ. It is not out of any actions we have performed, job we have done, or are doing; so that we never take the glory.

In verse 10 it goes on to say that good works are the result of salvation, not the cause of salvation. However God has not given the church, the bride of Christ, the job or power of discerning the source of right actions. Right actions by them self do not point one way or the other, salvation has to flow out of faith first.

So the key, even for those outside of our understanding of Christian, is actions born out of a faith in (and obedience to) something that will provide deliverance from the dangers of sin.

As I stated before the church was not given the role of gatekeeper to Christ, rather we are the one who continually points towards the Christ. Christ said 'I am the way', he did not say, 'the christian church is the way'. While Christ is the path to God, Christ uses all truth to point towards some aspect of his embodiment as The Truth, and The Way.

just a few thoughts.

Donnie Miller said...

And the Michael Jordan of blogging scores again!

Chris said...

Thanks, David. I do agree that we are not the gatekeepers of heaven. That is not in our power. However, I don't see any problem with Christians "calling the kettle black" according to Scripture. I agree that we shouldn't just run around telling people they are wrong and are going to hell, but I think we can discern the state of their hearts to an extent.

I have to disagree with you to a point in that I think that we are called to discern the actions of those around us. Obviously, only God truly knows the heart, but we can discern actions and, compared against Scripture, discern whether they reflect a live driven after Christ or not. Look at Matthew 7:15-19. Now, this verse helps to support the point that how we live is very important. It is a clear statement that points to our actions/words/mindests as evidence of the state of our heart. This verse shows that we will "know them by their fruits."

To tie this into the previous posts above, I consider "misguided thinkings" to be a form of "fruit." If someone commits murder, I think it is fair to suggest that things are not right with God in that person's heart, based on their "fruit." If someone tells me that they believe that Christ simply beat Satan in a contest that allowed him to be the one selected to come to earth (Mormonism), then I think it is safe to say that they do not know the Christ of the Bible, based on their "fruit."

In 1 Corinthians 10:15 we are called to "judge for yourselves what I say" indicating a right to weigh the words (actions, beliefs, etc) as righteous or not. We do this by comparing to Scripture.

I guess the point here is that we are indeed able to and even called to discern right from wrong. If someone doesn't believe as the Bible dictates, it is perfectly appropriate to make the assertation that they are not lined up with the God of the Bible. Also, people can't pick and choose. Perhaps they agree with some things, but disregard others. In that case, I come to the same conclusion - they are not wholly submitted to Christ, which speaks to the state of their heart.

I do agree that we shouldn't necessarily walk around proclaiming that people will or will not be doomed to hell. However, I think we can proclaim that people are not living a life reflective of a soul surrendered to Christ. And of course, the harvest of not living for Christ is indeed death.

Just calling the kettle black.

Also, I wanted to touch base on Donnie's post(s) above regarding the grace of Christ covering all sins, even the unintentional ones. To reword this, does Grace cover ignorance? In terms of sin in the life of a Christian, I think the answer is yes. I think that if you're a true follower of Christ, and you sin unwittingly, then you're covered. if you're heart is covered in a state of repentence, then you're good to go. However, if we're talking about salvation, then we're getting into the whole General Revelation matter. I have a hard time putting a final nail in the coffin on this one. On the one side, why would a loving God create humans if he knows that there is 0% chance of them ever hearing the name of Jesus? This is where some say that they may look to the heavens and acknowledge a "creator" and worship that creator the best way they know how. Well, what if that includes virgin sacrifices and cannibalization? Are they still covered and do they still get into heaven? On the flip side, the Bible clearly says that Jesus is the ONLY way to salvation.

Interestingly, it occured to me that there is nothing Scripturally that even suggests that one can somehow get a "pass" into heaven by simply observing the majesty of creation and forming a religion to honor their interpretation of it. However, the Bible is quite clear that Christ is the only way to acquire salvation. Plus, if we take General Revelation to the furthest extreme, why would we want to continue pursuing missions? I'd rather not send out missionaries, as those people then have the opportunity to reject the message, thereby dooming themselves. Ignorance is bliss.

I know that last part got off on a bit of a tangent. Thanks for continuing the conversation, guys. I am enjoying this discussion thoroughly! And, sorry this one is so long!

Chris said...

Also, it just occured to me that I had the General Revelation issue a little backwards. General Revelation is actually an argument against the "ignorance" theory, not for it. Oh well, the principles still apply :)

Aaron Bonham said...

I came here to post something I found that and I thought Donnie might find interesting and related to his original post (I'll put in a separate comment), but came across this discussion that I can't help but throw my hat into. I must confess, I'm no theologian, and I'm probably far more loose in my understanding of the authority of scripture and the need for salvation than anyone who's commented thus far. But, much of this discussion has triggered the alarm in the 'outsider' part of my brain and so, I can't help but comment.

The way I understand it, the basic protestant framework for 'salvation' is that one must believe Jesus is God incarnate (God's son) and be 'born-again' by asking Him into his or her heart. This discussion begins to get into some of the nuance underlying those statements, and I'm not trying to rehash that part of the discussion.

The main point of Donnie's initial post is that there is value in being Christ-like and that belief is often much less important than pursuing a life that Christians understand to be Christ-like, whether that pursuit is intentionally Christian, or whether it's unintentional. Chris seems to be saying that Donnie is not stringent enough in his understanding of who we ought to consider 'saved' and who we ought to consider 'unsaved', that correct thinking is critical in order to achieve 'salvation'.

Following this 'correct thinking' line of thought for a minute; assuming that you and I come to an agreement about all these various nuances and details about what 'salvation' actually entails, we say all the same words, we profess all the same things, we behave in exactly the same way, we even believe that our understanding is exactly the same. However, it seems like everyone agrees here that language of generally a degraded proxy for our thoughts and mental representations. So despite our perceived agreement, each of us has our own mental representation of what 'salvation' actually is and, as a presumably intelligent being, so does God. If orthodox thinking is truly the lynch pin of salvation, then how do we know that our mental representations are anywhere close to the same thing as one another, or more importantly, close to God's mental representation.

If God requires correct thinking, which I can only presume would be thinking that matches his thinking with regards to 'salvation', then how could anyone know whether they have it right? And, with God's superior intellect (i.e., computational power), my guess is that nobody could get it even close, and we simply ought to presume all are 'unsaved'.

My point is that isn't the whole idea of salvation through correct thinking/belief kind of arbitrary anyway? Is belief really what God requires, and what do we mean by belief anyway? Certainty? Hope? Wishful thinking? If God's all powerful, then why would he be constrained to saving humanity by requiring us to believe that Jesus took our place as a cosmic form of blood atonement? I'm sure in His creativity, God could establish rules that are far less barbaric for saving humans.

Aaron Bonham said...

Donnie,
In order to pass the time on my morning commute, I've started listening to a book on CD that I think provides a great example of a person living 'Kingdom of God' values, while perhaps not possessing orthodox Christian faith. It's a true story called 'Three Cups of Tea' and is about a man who becomes separated from his team following a failed attempt to climb K2. Being lost, he stumbles into a small village in one of the harshest and poorest regions of the world. He ultimately builds relationships with the village people and has spent his time since then working to provide schools and medical care to the poverty stricken people of this region. As far as I've listened, it's a compelling narrative and describes a mans heroic devotion to what I believe are kingdom ideals and actions. Thought you'd find it interesting and you may be able to harvest some useful tidbits for a sermon one day as well.
Aaron.

Donnie Miller said...

Aaron,
Do you have that book or is it from the Library? It does sound interesting. Thanks for the comment.

Donnie Miller said...

Chris,
Good points about discernment, the body of Christ has the responsibilty of calling people toward orthodox Christian thought. And that's also a great point about discernemnt, that if a person is refusing to submit their belief structure to the Christ revealed in the Bible, then they're not demonstrating one aspect of the Spirit's work in their lives, ie fruit.

I'm siimply exploring the far reaches of God's grace, not what's normatie, those who are still ignorant of the Christ of Scripture. Like you said, that's what we entrust to the justice and mercy of God.

And for "general revelation", I think we're both making the same point from the opposite side. As you mentioned in your last post, maybe general revelation isn't the correct term, but we're referring to how God speaks to everyone's hearts, no matter where they are; Paul's line in Romans 1 about "no excuse."

From one side, God speaks to every person in some way or another, even if they're ignorant of the "name" of Jesus and the Christian Bible. Anyone who responds to God's tug on their heart is responding to Christ and being saved by the cross of Christ, though they may be ignorant of those general concepts. That's really in a nutshell, everything I was saying in this blog post.

And the reverse is also true, as you were affirming, that every person has had a chance to turn to Christ, even if they don't know the name of Christ. And if they reject whatever glimmer of light the Holy Spirit put into their lives, then God will hold them responsible for that rejection.

Everyone has some sort of opportunity and everyone has some sort of responsibility. God's grace is fathomlesss, scandalous and his love is relentless.

Aaron Bonham said...

I have it out from the library, I'm sure they have the actual book too. And BTW I'd prefer to read it (rather than listen to it), but the Cd's are easier to fit into my heavy reading list, they burn up my dead time in the car, and help abate my 'road rage' in morning traffic.

Chris said...

Thanks, Donnie. It all sounds good to me. I just wanted to have some additional clarification as to the context, and I appreciate you taking the time to convey that.

I have zero problem with what has been discussed. I have thoroughly enjoyed the conversation as well. I like hashing this stuff out. Iron sharpening iron, you know?

Thanks again for the dialogue!

Donnie Miller said...

Chris, you're welcome.

Thanks to all of you for your input.

Monte Asbury said...

Donnie, it's a beautiful post, and I find it perfectly orthodox. It reminds me of the final chapter in the old Philosophy of Religion text by Elton Trueblood.

Say I'm at a street crossing in a high traffic area. I step in front of an onrushing car, but someone behind me snags my collar and wrenches me back just in time. When I turn around, there's a crowd, and I don't know who pulled me. Am I dead?

We've read meaning into Jesus' comment "No one comes to the Father but by me." His words do not exclude the possibility of someone yielding to the Spirit and being rescued by Jesus himself, without ever knowing it was Jesus who did it. And so it was with CS Lewis's Emeth, as you point out.

"I don't know if he's a prophet or not," said the man formerly blind. "One thing I know: I was blind, and now I see."

So are we: people who slip around under cover serving others until their hearts are magnetized by the Spirit toward the Jesus that we only have barely begun to know ourselves.

Chris said...

I'm back! You know me - I can't resist a good discussion!

Monte, I appreciate and enjoyed your thoughts in your post. I do, however, have a question for you:

You said in your post the following: "His words do not exclude the possibility of someone yielding to the Spirit and being rescued by Jesus himself..."

Could you explain more in depth what you mean when you say "someone yielding to the Spirit" outside of a knowledge of Christ in terms of Salvation?

Thanks!