How Much Do You Have to Hate Someone Not to Proselytize?

Francis Schaeffer on the Origins of Relativism in the Church

One of My Favorite Songs

An Inspiring Song


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Just How Much Can You Get Wrong and Still Be a Christian?

Shortly after I got saved, I heard one of our church deacons say--I'm afraid I can't remember the context--that we didn't have to have perfect understanding of all the Bible in order to be saved, and that was a good thing, as otherwise we'd all be in trouble.

I have thought of those words many times since then. I thought of them last night. You see, I just read a post, and skimmed/read the comments thereon, that reminded me of them. I rather got the impression that a pretty fair number of folks in the Christian blogosphere have come to the point where they are seriously ready to say that anyone who doesn't publicly denounce a person who's made certain doctrinal errors as a false teacher or a heretic is himself a false teacher or a heretic.

Now, before I go on, let me say that Scripture, in the main, is not that hard to understand, and the main--principle--points of doctrine are really quite unequivocal, and that THERE ARE points beyond which a person cannot go and still be considered a Christian. To deny the bodily resurrection of Christ, for example, is one of those points. To deny that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone, is another. Those are what one blogger--I almost hesitate to mention his name, so controversial is he in some circles--Wade Burleson, might call "primary" doctrines. Those are doctrines that one cannot simultaneously deny and be said to be holding to the Christian faith.

But there are other doctrines, what Burleson and others might refer to as secondary or tertiary doctrines, which, while important and certainly worth the effort of getting right, the denial or misunderstanding of which would not necessarily be an indication of a person having left the Christian faith. Problems--to say the least!--arise when some folks act as though every doctrine is primary, as though a deficiency in understanding about mode and timing of baptism or poor reasoning about the nature of "filthy talking" is enough to make one a false teacher or an apostate.

Sometimes issues arise when people just make mistakes, or are taken out of context. I have read, in the dim and distant past, some people say, for example, that Martin Luther taught justification by works, that is, that it was necessary, in order to be saved, that a person get certain sacraments right. I will admit that I have not read Luther exhaustively--actually, all I have read is his The Bondage of the Will and part of his Commentary on Galatians, but in those, Luther's insistence that salvation is by grace alone, that it is all of God and none of man, that man's works are of absolutely no avail when it comes to salvation, comes across so clearly that I can't help but think that people who are willing to say that Luther was a heretic who taught works-salvation have seized on some of his words to the exclusion of others and greatly mistaken his meaning.

I get the impression that there are bloggers out there who would separate from a preacher if he shared a stage with Martin Luther, or if he, not possessing exhaustive knowledge of every jot and tittle of some other preacher's doctrinal irregularities, generously assumed that the other preacher wasn't a heretic until it was definitively proved otherwise. I would suggest that when you have gotten to this point, you have gone a little bit too far.

1 comment:

  1. I know when I got saved, a lot of doctrine was absent. All I knew was that I did experience regeneration. I did not intend on reading the Bible, go to church, believe that hell existed, or that there was a devil roaming the earth. But I knew I was saved (from what, I was still unsure).

    There was only one thing I did know, is that I was following Jesus Christ. I held onto that, and given the time, everything else becomes clearer. I'm convinced, following Jesus is the essence of our faith, and "the best part."

    Jesus saved me from the wrath of God on June 23rd, 1998. (Around 8:45pm.. EST)

    God bless, Richie