Barry has been engaged in an interesting discussion called Ownership of the Christian Message in which all the various forms of Christianity are being looked at. Which then begs the question, how do you cope with all these different views and how do you know which one’s are true?
I’ll tell you how I cope, I tend to descend into complete hysterics and start shrieking about moral ambiguity while tossing teacups at people’s heads. I only partially jest here, a world without any rules at all where anything goes is a bit like free-falling through the universe and sure to evoke complete panic in someone already as melodramatic as I am.
Keep in mind that I am not talking about slight variations in doctrine, like the way some believe the Lord’s prayer says “forgive us our sins” while others believe it is “forgive us our trespasses” and still others believe it says “forgive us our debts.” These are trivial things in a world run by insane clowns, let me tell you. No I’m speaking of things like the atheist church or those who don’t believe in the Divinity of Christ or those who have removed Christ from the picture entirely. I call these people “-ians.”
Barry mentions some “clergy who have taught that belief in the Resurrection, Christ’s divinity, and God as a being, are not essential to the Christian faith.” Yes, this is a real thing in the world, although somewhat rare because that is so contrary to the entire foundation of faith. From Catholic to protestant, through all denominations, there is one thing that unites us all and that is the Divinity of
Christ, His resurrection, and our own salvation through Him. That is the basic fundamental message. Take that away and no, you cannot be a Christ-ian. Look at the word there. Now some may well call themselves disciples, followers, prophets, or saints, but we’ve all got the Divinity of Christ in our minds and hearts.
Everything from that point forward becomes a matter of belief, study, opinion, the language you speak. You do not really have to believe in creationism or the end times or hell or even in the trinity. This is all just background noise, feedback from the speakers, or perhaps the spices and flavors we add to our food. It is not the bread itself. Accepting the Divinity of Christ and surrendering to your need for redemption, is often called justification. Sanctification is a word sometimes used to describe the process of allowing Him to do His work within you. Faith is a process, we are all works in progress.
Outside the context of faith and theology, and into the realm of emotion and psychology, there is this thing called spiritual abuse. There are people in the world who call themselves Christians, who abuse children, who condemn, ostracize, and bully others, and they do it under the guise of faith. Good grief, this is an appalling thing that will truly mess with your head. I have a powerful faith, I am not a child, and it still messes with my head. This is an issue that truly pushes my buttons. It is wrong to abuse others, but to attempt to separate and alienate them from their Creator just takes it to a whole new level. The harm that can be done there is just astronomical. These days it seems as if many people coming to faith actually have to first unlearn things, rather than to learn things. That is not so easy.
I’m reminded that scripture addresses this issue in a myriad of ways, from clearly stating that those who lead others will be held twice as accountable, to making it quite clear that “whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.” There are wolves in sheep’s clothing and false teachings. In the bible Christ Himself spends a great deal of time addressing the religious leaders of the day, the pharisees. In the final chapter of the bible, Christ does not have a bone to pick with prostitutes, addicts, and atheists, He has a bone to pick with churches. It is not the lost who are accountable for Christ’s word, but rather the found.
So in answer to ownership of the Christian message, it belongs to those of us who claim Him name. Now needless to say Christians cannot control the actions or behaviors of everyone, but if we are talking in a moral and spiritual sense, I believe we are all called to get the word out and to properly represent the faith, to heal some of those spiritual fractures, and to speak up when we see something wrong. Once again, it is not the lost who are accountable for Christ’s word, but rather the found.
Spiritual abuse however, is not doctrine, it is not faith, and it is not the church. The personal is not political. One’s experiences and suffering at the hands of others does not define all of Christianity. Christ is to be our representative, not some lost or abusive soul professing His name.
So how do you discern, how do you know what is Truth? You go straight to the Source, you ask Christ into your heart and you invite Him to teach you. You humble yourself and you allow Him to speak to you in a language you understand. You pray, you read the bible, you allow the Holy Spirit to fill you and teach you and guide you. You avail yourself of bible studies and other believers, of church, always remembering who is at the top of your relationship, whose favor your seek. Christ should always be first.
This entire discussion, all the confusion over what to believe, the uncertainty over who owns the Christian message, all stems from putting people in Christ’s place, from not recognizing who the Source of our faith really is, from transferring authority from Christ over to a group of believers or a denomination….or over to people who abused you while professing His name.
It is both simple and complex, but if you truly wish to discover the Truth, you let go of all that you think you know, you surrender yourself to Christ, and you allow Him to light your path. It is a leap of faith, but you can trust that He will show you the way and order your steps.
Will you ever be asked to change how you perceive something or what you believe in? Most likely. Will He ever lead you astray? Nope, not ever, not if it is Christ who leads you.