Followers of Christ

What God declares the believing heart confesses without the need for further proof. Indeed, to seek proof is to admit doubt, and to obtain proof is to render faith superfluous. – A.W. Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy

Boy I was mad when I read this quote on my Facebook page the other day. The quote seemed to be used to excuse our ignorance and encourage us to avoid looking into the context to back our beliefs.

I recently have been part of a few frustrating conversations on Facebook. I was questioning the literalness of the Genesis story. There are many Christians who still consider the Earth to be six thousand years old. There are also many Christians who think it is wrong to question whether the Bible is infallible. Not only do the scriptures need to be divinely inspired, they must not have faults. What do these Christians use to back up their claim of the Bible’s infallibility? Well the Bible of course. This is like me saying I am without error because I say so. It doesn’t make sense. So here is where the quote comes in. We are not supposed to make sense of it. In fact, if we are to seek out proof of the Bible being infallible we are showing ourselves to be with doubt. Having doubt is a big no no in Christianity.

Well I must admit, I have my doubts about my faith. I find myself constantly questioning the validity of scriptures and sometimes even have my doubts as to whether or not God is there for me. But, to me the ones who show the most doubt are those who are not willing to ask or look into the tough questions. If one truly has faith in something he or she should be willing to test it. Instead most Christians I have encountered close themselves up. When I question one of their beliefs I am accused of wanting to start an argument. I am told Facebook isn’t a good forum for conversation or debate. Face to face conversation doesn’t seem to work out much better. I left Church about four years ago. Before I left however I sat down with many friends and talked with my youth pastor about the reasons I was frustrated. I told them about my problems with the Church and asked some tough questions about leadership’s doctrines and beliefs. My questions were almost entirely ignored. My pastors told me they would get back to me and never did. I wasn’t doing my job. I wasn’t playing my role as a mindless sheep.

Christians look at the world and say, “It needs salvation”. I want to know what is “salvation” to most Christians? Is it saying, “I accept Jesus”? Is it going to Church? Is it getting drunk in the Holy Spirit? I have seen people do all these things and nothing really fruitful has come out of it. I remember every year going to the Vision Conference with my Church’s youth ministry and observing countless people get “blown away by the Holly Spirit”. Leadership spent tons of time and resources getting videos made, surround sound working, and big name Christian speakers to come in so they could convert the unsaved youth. After each conference we heard about how lives were changed and God was going to show up and grow the numbers. As of now the youth ministry I attended is less than half the size it was when I left but they’re still preaching the same message.

An emotionally charged service can give you a high just like any other drug. I need to keep reminding myself when most Christians post statuses on Facebook like, “I am so hungry for God’s mysteries” they are not inviting conversation as much as inviting people to “like” their status or write a nice short, “Amen” or “That is so good bro”. I can’t blame them. Living on a high feels good. Seeing people “like” or complement me on my status makes me feel special. These are not unnatural things to want. However, they are selfish. What bothers me is the way some disguise them to seem noble and righteous.

I am reminded of a quote from Gandhi, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”. I think this is because where Gandhi found Christ open minded he found Christians closed off. Where he found Christ to be inclusive he found most Christians to exclusive. Jesus had no need to be in a building in order to minister. He did not go to the people who considered themselves religious; instead he went to the tax collectors, prostitutes, and those on the fringes. Jesus had us reexamine the scriptures. He built upon the teachings of the scriptures and made the people see His father outside the Jewish religion. Just look at Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 5 and the parable of the Good Samaritan.

The Bible does not become stronger when you deny its faults. Instead you are making it inaccessible by claiming righteousness where there is fault. Literally thousands of people were involved with creating what we now consider the Bible. And as of today there are several dozen different version of the English translation alone. You will read different commentaries from each theologian who writes the study notes you see on the bottom half of your Bible. This is because the Bible isn’t black and white. The Bible consists of sixty-six different pieces of writings, chosen from many other pieces that for holy or political reasons were left out.

The Pharisees could not see who Jesus really was because their religion blinded them. Let us not make the same mistake. I like the phrase, “The proof is in the pudding”. When we see religions advocating for feeding the hungry, healing the sick, and providing for the homeless, we need to stop and see where God can be seen. As Christians lets seek out the proof of our God, no matter where it takes us. We must not fall into the same trap the followers of the crusades, supporters of slavery, or those responsible for the many massacres of the Native Americans used to justify their follies. Even today the Bible is being used as support for dehumanizing homosexual relationships, justification for woman to not be allowed in leadership, and an excuse to not to take care of the natural resources of this world. Without our God given ability to reason we can make something as wonderful as the Bible support awful and destructive things. God does not want mindless followers. He wants followers who are so confident in their faith proof will only strengthen it.

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21 comments on “Followers of Christ

  1. Jacob, I appreciate this post. Which quite honestly is surprising since I had some influence on your frustration.

    But nonetheless, I understand and validate that frustration. Indeed, I have the same frustrations, though I deal with them differently.

    We have disagreed countless times and I fear that I have alienated you to some extent by disagreeing with you, and through poor reactions I’ve had to your prodding.

    For this I am sorry and I take the blame fully.

    I think that, even though I don’t see us agreeing on theological doctrines and Christian traditions, we can both agree that God severely loves people, even to the point of death.

    We just express it differently.

    Thanks again for being honest.

  2. Jacob says:

    I must say this is the kind of comment I am so frustrated with. This is not to say I think you trying to irritate. But it doesn’t seem like you are trying to understand either. Let’s start at the beginning. You tell me you appreciate this post but you never explain the way you appreciate it. You believe however saying, “I appreciate this” is kind so you do it. That type of comment is meant as a great compliment. Yet, I see nothing from the rest of your comment that suggests you actually do appreciate what I said. And if the rest of the message you sent me privately were public I could point out from your own words that you instead thought my post sounded bitter toward my brethren. That to me does not sound like appreciation. You say you have the “same frustrations”. In what way? I know we don’t agree about the fallibility of Bible. So you don’t share that frustration. I don’t remember a time where we were in a conversation and I accused you of just wanting to argue. So you don’t share my frustration with frequently being told that by you. I generally try to answer all your questions and address each issue you bring up. So you can’t feel the same frustration I do about being ignored or told in a private message that my motives for debate are selfish or impure. So honestly, while I realize you are probably frustrated with me and my behavior for your own reasons, I can’t seem to find a frustration we share.

    We have had many disagreements on the idea that people outside of our personal faith might know God. You have always taken the stance you need to be Christian in order to truly be in a relationship with God. I have contended people do not need to know the name of Jesus to reflect God’s true heart and character, that people of other faiths may actually understand different and important attributes of God better than many of the Christians I know. You have never alienated yourself from me by disagreeing with me. Generally, I like people who disagree with me. When I meet someone who doesn’t share the same view as I do I know I am in a position to get a wider perspective. The only poor reactions I have encountered are the ones where someone quits discussing the issues, says stuff that feels like false modesty, or simply declare that a public forum is not the place for open debate. Since those are all the kinds of behavior I have experienced from you but not behavior you have experience from me I don’t think you share my frustration on that point either. Again, even though saying you understand, validate, and share my frustrations sounds nice and you expect it to be taken as a compliment by itself, when I put it context with our prior conversations and your private messages to me I can’t understand how your statement can be genuine. One last point regarding appearances: although in your public comment you seem to want to take “full blame”, the private comment you sent me tells another story. Your private message feels like an admonishment and the whole thing like a double standard.

    In a general sense we do agree God severely loves people. We just see love walked out very differently. You think we are showing leadership love by following them and not publicly questioning their views. I don’t call that love especially if we are critical of leadership behind their backs. You think the most loving thing we can do to show the world God loves them is to warn non-believers of their impending doom. I think we need to do less preaching and more listening, seeing the other’s perspective, finding evidence of Jesus already working in their lives. You have no problem calling a God who predestines a given number of His creation to everlasting torment in hell loving. I definitely have a problem with equating that type of behavior with love. So no, in my opinion we don’t just express God’s love differently, we see it differently, very differently.

    As for the part of the message you sent me privately, I thought about posting it to the end of what you said here, publicly, since you did say you tried to post it on here first. But I will resist. I’m not going to imply your past actions have been falsely humble and then turn around and behave in a similar fashion so I will also resist spewing platitudes like I hope I haven’t hurt your feelings by what I’ve said, or I don’t mean to offend. I understand that my criticism is pointed. I mean it to be specific as well as corrective. As I indicated before, the rest of what you sent to me privately suggested to me that you see the problem I have as less your fault and more mine which contradicts what you said above and makes the above look nice to the outsider but feel really shallow to me.

    • Let me reply per topic:

      1. I did not explain why I appreciated your post, so allow me to explain: I appreciate it because I believe that it is from your heart, and in reading it, I can see that the issues you bring forth in it are indeed true issues that you struggle with on a day to day basis. So I appreciate it for what it is: honesty.

      In response to the private message, I chose to word it differently because it was a one-on-one conversation, and I didn’t wish to make you look negative in the public sphere of your readers.

      But since you’ve brought what I deliberately chose to make private out into the public, I suppose maybe you don’t care that I be honest in both the negative and positive aspects of my response toward your posts, and I will remember this for the future.

      So yes, in regards to what I said in the private message, I do read a bit of frustration and anger toward your brethren; in particular, towards me, since I was the one who posted the comment that got you so “angry”.

      2. I have the same frustrations in the fact that the body of Christ isn’t unified. Indeed, I have a similar frustration in that as you think I am being close-minded and not willing to debate, I feel as though all you wish to do is debate. And not with those who don’t follow the Christian traditions, but with those who claim to be Christian’s themselves.

      This is frustrating, as it never allows you and I to find common ground, which was the basis and intention of my public comment to you on this post.

      3. There are times where I’ve quit debating with you. This is sometimes out of false modesty, I won’t deny it. But other times, it’s because of past experiences that have shown the more I debate, the more riled up you get and the more frustrated we both get.

      So to me, there doesn’t seem to be any fruit most of the time.

      I would like to believe that you embrace differing views as a perspective increase, but this has hardly been my experience with you. All of my views are what you would call “traditional” and “close-minded”.

      A point can be made here that I don’t necessarily disagree with you that I am close-minded. The creed of my faith (that being, that you can only find God the Father through Jesus the Christ) insists that I have a close-minded belief to anything that might threaten this doctrine. It’s the nature of my faith.

      However, you seem to talk a lot about tolerance and allowing other views to challenge your own. But in our discussions, you haven’t been true to your claims and have battled with me to prove that my stance is wrong. This is a betrayal of how you proclaim your version of the Christian faith. In contrast, the nature of my own faith demands that I disagree without tolerance on certain, fundamental issues.

      4. I would agree that we see God’s love differently, and the word “express” was a poor choice.

      5. Allow me again to address the subject of the private message I sent:

      I believe that corrective discussion must take place personally, before it is ever a public rebuke. I would’ve appreciated you discussing your personal feelings about my message to you in a private setting, so that I could be more honest with you.

      While I understand that it may seem a shallow move on my part, I can honestly tell you that it was a move of discretion so that I wouldn’t “publicly rebuke” you without talking to you personally first.

      And as to that, I wasn’t actually rebuking you, but rather letting you know what your posts feel like when I read them. Indeed, I wished to hear a response from you concerning those feelings.

      However, to know that your posts are intended as specific as well as corrective explains a lot. But I wonder why they are posted for the world to see, and not brought to the specific attention of those they are directed to?

      • Jacob says:

        Instead of replying to each point in one comment I want to just highlight two points and work from there.

        First, about my posts intending to be specific as well as corrective. I was not talking about all my posts when I used that terminology. I was talking about the two different voices I hear in your writing–the public one and the private one. I wasn’t intending the term “corrective” to imply I thought you were in any way in sin. As for my posts in which I write about my frustrations with Christianity, they are usually written in order to illustrate a broader spectrum of Christian views. I have many non-Christian friends who do not want anything to do with our religion because they have only seen one side of Christianity. I want to show them another side. I want to point out publicly I have some of the same problems they have with Christians. I have been part of Christianity for long enough I can point out specifically why I have those problems. And I want to communicate how individuals can have differing views and still be considered par of the Christian faith. Just look at the comments on the link to my Facebook page and I think you would agree there are some productive conversation that happen through my posts about these topics.

        When you use language like, “The creed of my faith insists…” and do not label it your personal understanding you come across as speaking for the whole instead of for yourself. I have difficulty hearing that language and feeling included in your definition of a Christian since I do not agree with your point of view. In this way I have been inclusive and open minded toward your point of view while feeling shut down and excluded.

        Neither one of us can honestly speak for the whole because Christianity itself has so many different ideologies.

  3. minnow says:

    Jacob, we share similar feeling on this topic. As difficult as it is to say and hear your irenic critique on the subject I believe it needs saying. Thank you.

  4. I swear, I’m having the hardest time commenting, haha (if you haven’t noticed the 3 different alias’ I’ve used). Either way, I think your comment threads are limited to a depth of 3, so I have to start a new comment.

    You list some valid points and here’s a response:

    1. I agree that people can have differing views and still be part of the Christian faith (though I might say that the differing views must be limited in some way or another, or the faith is no longer Christian). I have read the responses to your post, and (this is just me), most of the comments seem to agree with you and suggest that you are spot on.

    You’ve said that disagreement or debate is the fruit of a good conversation, but I don’t see that happening in the Facebook comments.

    That being said, I definitely agree that it is still a productive conversation, at least in your circle.

    2. I can see how using the term “creed of my faith” would imply that I’m speaking for the whole of Christianity. I certainly don’t want to presume that I have that authority or wisdom, and I think you are right when you say it is more accurately termed as “my understanding of the Christian faith”.

    At the same time, I believe that there are instances in which the creed of the Christian faith is not up to personal understanding, but rather that personal understanding must conform to the principles set forth by the Gospel.

    For example, when Jesus says “No one can come to the Father, except through me”, you have two choices:

    a. You either believe what this says, and therefore must deny any other path to the Father.

    b. You don’t believe what it says, and believe that Jesus is not the only way to the Father.

    In regards to these views, they are heavily influenced by the individuals existing world-view, as well as the culture in which they are born.

    My world-view is that the Bible is authoritative and not under speculation, but I also recognize that I am interpreting the Bible through the lens of the Western society. So I do my best to look at the Bible for what it says, and not how I might interpret it based on my upbringing.

    Admittedly, this is hard. But I believe the alternative is dangerous in that it must lower the Bible to an ancient historical piece, and thus put it on the same level as every other ancient writing. After this, historical science must study it with objectivity and not place it on a pedestal of importance over other writings.

    This is because of the culture in which we live, a post-Enlightenment period which says that the scientific method is the only rational thought process for study. Therefore, the Bible can’t be treated any different, because it wouldn’t fall in line with our Western culture, and the way that we think.

    This is a bit of a tangent of our original discussion, so I don’t wish to go into it too much. However, I think it’s worth pointing out as a cause as to why we interpret the Bible so much differently: I believe it’s because my world-view cannot allow the Bible to be just “another ancient piece of writing”, but yours can.

    • Jacob says:

      I wasn’t trying to say there was a big debating going on with the Facebook thread. I agree most of the comments seem to agree with me, but they all seem to bring up curtain parts of what they agree with and express how it resonates with them. The post allows them an “in” to Christianity they may not have had before.

      To the point of “No one can come to the Father, except through me”. Even though Jesus said this before he died, many take it as Him claiming, you need to accept he died and rose again in order to be Christian. I must say this is probably the greatest reason I still call myself a Christian. I do think Jesus died and rose again. However, I do not think that is what Jesus is talking about when He says, “No one can come to the Father, except through me”. As of today both you and I belive Jesus is not dead. I believe He is living inside all of us. Jesus even said later on in John 14, “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me.” And there are tones of people who keeps Jesus’ commands who would not ever call themselves Christian. So, you do need to go through Jesus. But not the literal Jesus who died 2000 years ago. I am talking about the Jesus who is alive today and who you believe is in your heart. I have seen Him work through many other peoples hearts. It is like working with water. People don’t need to know the name “water” in order to do great things with it. Even if you may not agree with this interpretation, there is more then two ways to look at that verse.

      We can not help but interpret the Bible based on our personal upbringing. We also have literally thousands of years of doctrinal changes and organizational changes before we get to the Christianity we see in today’s society. For example the doctrine of Hell wasn’t even created until hundreds of years after the Bible was put together. Yet you consider it a invaluable doctrine to Christianity. So even if you refuse to be influenced by today’s society, it is impossible not to be influenced by the thousands of years of Christianity. Each time you go to Church and hear a message from the pulpit you are hearing an interpretation of what the Bible says. It is impossible not to interpret the Bible, for you are taking a piece of writing from thousands of years ago and trying to apply it to today’s world. Then we run into the way Jesus often spoke, in parables, and we need to do more interpretation. I know it is nice to think you are taking the high road by not being influenced by the current age in the way you read the Bible, but it can’t be helped. I think the best way to battle against this influence is looking into the context of the scriptures, from both inside and outside sources. We need to figure out what was going on during the time of the writings and how those writings might have been influenced in the last 2000 years of Christianity (where we now have thousands of differing denominations of the religion).

      Thanks for the continual conversation Calvin. Even if this kind of conversation might not feel like it helps you, I do think the readers will have a better perspective hearing from two differing views. And as always I find it interesting hearing your views on the subject. I will try to stay objective about what you have to say.

      • First off, I actually do find this conversation beneficial. To your credit, your handling of the conversation is much more like a conversation than a debate, which is what I prefer. You’ve definitely grown in your ability since the early days of our disagreements 🙂

        So, a couple thoughts:

        1. You think that Jesus is alive and in all of us. The thing is, Jesus was a real person, just like you and I. And when He ascended to Heaven, He did so in His bodily form.

        So we both agree that Jesus is alive today, but I don’t think it’s in our hearts. This notion of “Jesus living in our hearts” is also a result of our culture and what we’ve grown up believing. The way I see this phrase, is that Jesus lives in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, whom He sent.

        But Jesus Himself is sitting at the right hand of the Father, and in Acts it said that the angels said He was coming back one day in the “same manner that He left”.

        That leads me to believe that He will come back as a real, tangible man. This has significant implications to my world-view.

        2. I agree that I am a slave to interpretation just as much as the next person. I’m not taking the “high road” in saying that I strive to not allow my presuppositions to influence how I read the Bible. I’m simply saying that I try my best to not allow them.

        The doctrine of Hell really isn’t a matter of life and death to me. The doctrine of there being judgment, and that judgment being final and eternal is foundational to my belief.

        The doctrine of “Hell” as we know it, might have been expounded upon over the years, but it doesn’t negate the reality of a Day of Judgment, which is so visually evident in the Bible. But if we want to go further, it’s evident in almost all ancient writings, including the Book of Enoch and the Apocrypha, which I would say aren’t necessarily on the same level of the Bible.

        3. The actual name of Jesus is something I’m still working through. I know that people can see God as evident today, even though they might not know His actual name.

        So to say that you must know His name in order to be saved is not something I would necessarily say as absolutely critical.

        I do believe, however, that once you learn His name and have heard the Gospel (that He died and rose again, and that in order to be saved (from the coming judgement), you must believe that He is faithful to save you.

        Once you know this, you are responsible to it.

      • Jacob says:

        I do not think the idea of Jesus Christ living inside us has come from our current culture. I think Paul speaks about it many times in his writings. The Bible often treats God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit as one. The main point I was getting at is the idea that you are thinking quite narrowly if you think Jesus was only talking about his physical self when he spoke of coming to the Father through Him. In Matthew 25 Jesus applies himself to be “the least of these” and the ones in the story of the sheep and the goats who ended up receiving the Kingdom were the ones who fed, clothed, and welcomed Him even though they had no idea it was Him who they were doing those things for.

        It is easy to make Jesus into as simple as a thing as a name. This creates an easy “in or out” type of system. Either you know His name and accept it or you don’t, it is as simple as that. However, I think Jesus was much more complex. The place it all seems to focus around is our views on “salvation”. Unlike you I do not see salvation as something we can achieve by saying the right words. However, you seem to be saying that a foundation of your faith is once you hear of the name of Jesus you need to “believe He is faithful to save you”. This puts salvation in our hands not God’s. I believe the Bible tells us He has already saved us, we can’t earn His salvation. So the big thing I concentrate on is how that salvation is manifested. It’s like if I saved you from a burning fire. You have been saved from death but that doesn’t mean you are living. The same can be applied to my view of God’s salvation. True salvation is a journey to me. None of us are perfect and thus none of us has truly acknowledged God’s great gift. You look around in today’s world and see many non-Christians taking care of this world better then Christians do. I see them as acknowledging part of God, for it is His creations they are working towards helping. See Calvin it is so easy to acknowledge a simple name. It is much harder to acknowledge the true essence of God and make an effort to be stewards of His creation. This is why I do call myself a Christian– because I acknowledge a man who died and rose again two thousand years ago– but I don’t make that fact become a highlight of what it means to know God.

        I agree with you the Bible does talk about “A day of judgment”. So the big question is what is this day of judgment going to be? Do you think God is going to judge whether we are saved or not? This belief would go against the foundational Christian belief that we are NOT saved through works. For even the Revelation 20 verse says the dead “were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done”. Though I think the Bible never gives a black and white answer to this Judgment, I consider God to be a constructive father not a destructive dictator. If He makes a judgment on us it would be out of need to cleans away our sin so we can see him more clearly, not out of a need to punish the sinner. Not saying the judgment won’t hurt, but that isn’t the reason for the judgment.

        If you want to continue on this thread just click the “reply” on my last comment I made. Even though it looks like you will be posting ahead of these last two comments, you actually post behind them.

      • At this point, we might start going around in circles. I just want to clarify some things, but overall, I just want you to know I’m not ending the conversation for the sake of ending it. You’ve said plenty of things in the last statement that I want to think about.

        I think that there is truth to what you are saying. I also think that there are some things missing (I am in no way exempt from this. I know that I am missing things as well).

        So I’ll just respond to what you said, and we can go from there on whether or not we want to keep going:

        1. I am not so stuck up on the name. While I believe that the name of Jesus is important, I believe that because I know the truth of who He was and what His name is. I also have to take into account when Paul said that you must “confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord, and you will be saved”.

        According to your interpretation, this is an act of works. Which I believe is completely a wrong way to look at it (to be blunt). It’s not my righteous works that cause me salvation. It’s believing that Jesus did enough on the cross, that I know longer need to do good works in order to be saved. That is no longer my motivation. My motivation is love for Jesus, and the fact that He died for me.

        I think it’s kind of foolish to equate believing something as the same a “righteous work”. In Hebrews, it says that we (along with those who didn’t know Christ beforehand) were justified before God through faith in Him.

        It says in the same section that they were not justified through their righteous acts.

        This being said, I believe you are correct when you say that the Godhead resides in us. Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit reside in our hearts through faith, but this doesn’t negate the still true fact that Jesus is a literal Man, and that that man is not on the earth, but will be at the end of the age.

        2. Our disagreement on salvation might be due to some assumptions. So let me be clear on what I think salvation is:

        I think it is an ongoing process, and an ongoing choice to choose Jesus and not this earth, and not myself. I don’t think it’s all wrapped up in a prayer, like most of America, but I believe it starts with repentance…a turning around of the heart, and that one must continue to choose this state of repentance.

        I also think that true faith will bring forth good works and helping the “least of these”. But I do not believe that “helping the least of these” is knowing God, nor is it salvation, for that would be to equate salvation with good works.

        Salvation is knowing that judgment is imminent (because of the rebellion of humanity), and it is knowing that Christ died in order so that we might be saved, and that in order to be saved we have to believe that He did it all and we cannot do anything more.

        In Hebrews, it says that those who return to good works as their method of salvation from judgment regard the “blood of Christ as unclean”, and therefore throw away their salvation, and that the only thing they can expect from God is His wrath.

        Plain and simple, that’s how I view salvation, and that’s how I seem to read about it in the Bible.

        I also hope that makes sense. I realize my comments are rather long, and that’s just because I feel like sometimes I don’t make myself very clear.

      • Jacob says:

        So Calvin, What I hear you saying is you think salvation was accomplished by Jesus’ death and resurrection. But, in order for us to have access to salvation we must do the following: 1). Acknowledge what Jesus did. 2). Recognize that we needed Him to do it. (repent) and 3). Be in a continual state of repentance. Is that an accurate statement?

      • I would say yes, in simplest terms, that is what I believe salvation is. Also, defining repentance might be necessary here. I believe it to mean a “turn around; a sincere rejecting of old, worldly ways, and a pursuit of ways that are godly, or reflect Jesus”. Basically, by a constant state of repentance, I mean a constant rejecting of worldly ways and beliefs, and a constant recognition of my need for a savior.

      • Jacob says:

        Well that sounds like an awful lot of work to me. And it is also hard to define those terms. As we talked about earlier, there are many people who seem to embrace a way of life that reflects Jesus without them being Christian. And what exactly does it mean to “sincerely reject old worldly ways”? There are some Christians who would call environmentalists worldly. Are we supposed to be in a constant state of wondering if we are doing it well enough? I mean you are asking for a pretty tall order. There will be times in each of our lives where we will not be embracing Jesus like we should be. So what exactly is the line between embracing Him and rejecting the world well enough to be saved, and falling short?

        Another key question is why bother? As you said before, you believe knowing Jesus’ name isn’t absolutely critical. But once they have heard it and heard of the gospel (that he died and rose again) you must believe in Him. Well we are imperfect Christians. So there is plenty of chance for us to share the “message of Jesus” but not do in as caring of a way and neglect to reflect aspects of who Jesus really is. So we are relying on our imperfect selves to save the people we minister to. What if people reject Jesus because the messenger was bad? What if someone was unlucky enough to be brought up in the wrong religion? As you know because you have grown up Christian it is that much harder to share another religion like Hinduism or Islam with you and have you believe it. The same goes with Hindus and Islams when we share Christianity. So do you think there are people who will fall short of salvation due to the simple fact they were born in the wrong religion or the wrong culture?

        I think you have explained clearly where you stand. Rehashing that would be just going in circles. But these questions I think are just some of the reasonable questions that comes out of your way of thinking. And to me it just doesn’t seem like a faith that is built on grace at all.

  5. minnow says:

    Well, it seems to this casual observer, Jacob, that you want to be right more than you want to understand what exactly Calvin is saying. Your first paragraph is rather confusing and frankly sounds angry. You might want to reread it and figure out what you are actually stating and what you honestly want Calvin to answer. It’s frustrating when you seem to imply an answer for Calvin that you haven’t given him a chance to address.
    @ Calvin–Your definition of repentance left me needing a couple other definitions. What would your list of worldly behavior include? And contrastingly, what would your list of godly behavior include? I am assuming you are talking about behavior since you use the term ways but if that’s not what you mean I probably need some clarification.

    • I define them as follows:

      1. Worldly behavior is anything that sets itself against the teachings of Jesus and the narrative of the Bible. It can’t be only this, however, since we deal with things that aren’t addressed in Scripture. I believe that most of society sees and always feels the difference between right and wrong, and so that is also a guide. Basically it’s “selfish desires and behaviors”.

      2. Godly behavior would probably be summed up best in the word “love” and in “selfless sacrifice”. I could expound on this, but we might be talking for quite a while 😉

    • Jacob says:

      Gosh leave it to a mother to put her son in his place. You are right mom. I do think I wrote my last comment in a bit of haste and some anger does show. This is where conversation stops because gratuitous argumentative spirit ruins constructive debate. For my selfish behavior I am truly sorry Calvin.

      Something we are very much in danger of here is going in circles. I want to figure out a way to not do that yet continue our conversation. It feels as though we always get to a point where we don’t see eye to eye with one another and we don’t feel we can be real with each other while staying civil. This is not just the case with you Calvin. I run into this wall with many of my Christian friends, including some of my siblings. And I do think I have some involvement in creating this wall. My last comment is an example of my contribution.

      So let me refocus my response. I personally think my mom is doing a good job addressing my issue so I will keep my comment short. I just want to explain the first paragraph of my last comment.

      I feel you Calvin are creating many rules for attaining salvation. You said you believe salvation “starts with repentance…a turning around of the heart, and that one must continue to choose this state of repentance”. My problem is how do you measure that and how do you not consider that a work?

      • Jacob,

        No worries 🙂

        1. Your first question, “how do you measure that”, is a hard one to answer. The only answer I can come up with at the moment is that only God measures it, because He sees the heart, and the heart is essentially where salvation takes place. I know that sounds deflective, but I’m not sure how else to answer it.

        2. I feel like its not work, because it isn’t trusting in my “good works” as salvation, but rather constantly trusting that His sacrifice was what saved me from death. Your interpretation of God and salvation seems to run along the line of good works, though.

        You always refer to Ghandi as a perfect example of God showing through a person. While this may be true, it can’t possibly be an indicator of salvation, or that would be to say that his good works saved him.

        The way I see it, is that good works are a result of salvation, but they don’t necessarily cause it.

  6. minnow says:

    So, Calvin, where do those people fall whose understanding of the Biblical narrative differs from yours? It seems, and correct me if I’m getting off track, that you are talking more about motives when you mention “selfless sacrifice” than about visible action. The phrase “sets itself against” seems to also imply an intent to go against. Do you mean to then be suggesting that a person could go against the teachings of Jesus without malice and not necessarily fall into “worldly behavior”? It’s an intriguing thought but I’m not sure I can go there.
    One idea I think Jacob has sort of touched on in the past that I’d like your thoughts on is the idea that a person can, without knowing the name of Jesus, embrace an other’s focused (selfless) way of functioning in the world and therefore show himself to be in line with the character of God. Where does this type of person fit into your understanding of who is or is not saved?

    • Minnow, you asked a lot of questions so I’ll try my best to sum them up into two responses 😉

      1. I definitely am talking more about motive than by visible act. For example, Jesus and all his disciples knew that their motive was love for God and for His children (whether they were saved or lost). The motive wasn’t for recognition (like the Pharisees), but for God’s glory. It wasn’t about them.

      This of course, is hard to measure from our perspective. Moreover, I believe that God holds humanity accountable to what it knows. Ultimately, it’s impossible to know and say whether someone will be eternally judged or forgiven at this time in life, and I definitely believe that we aren’t called to cast that judgment (since it is clearly God’s place).

      2. Let’s take Ghandi, for example sake. He did many great things, was a servant to humanity, and in all regards was apparently selfless, and demonstrated God in a way that many people don’t.

      This shouldn’t be disregarded and I never do so. But from my understanding, he knew about Jesus and what he did, and knew that Jesus claimed to be the only way to salvation.

      If Ghandi denied this, and refused to trust in Jesus, all his good works don’t mount up to salvation, and think we all agree to that point.

      3. I just want to make a point here: it seems that the root of our disagreements comes from out understandings of salvation. One party believes that God saved all of humanity, whether they wanted salvation or not. This of course, would render the conversation of salvation as less important. But the other party believes God “offered” salvation, and that humanity can take it, or choose the punishment.

      Some would say, well why the heck would people deny salvation? Well, it’s hard to say but I would say it’s because we naturally love sin more than God. One is selfish (us) and one is selfless (God). If Satan could rebel while in the midst of the presence of God, undiminished, I think that it’s possible for humans to reject God even in his presence.

      4. I hope that made some sense. I probably raised more questions than I answered, but I tried my best.

  7. minnow says:

    We do indeed see salvation differently. I think where we differ more is with regard to the nature of man. But I’ll save that discussion for later. I think humanity as a whole is on a spectrum between not knowing, recognizing, reflecting, God’s character, nature, image and knowing, recognizing, and reflecting it. And yes, I believe where we find ourselves on that spectrum has less to do with our labeling ourselves believers (or being labeled by others as non-believers) than it has to do with how we relate to the rest of creation. In this sense I’m probably closer to the James 2 camp.
    I am confounded when you make statements like: “Jesus and all his disciples knew that their motive was love for God and for His children (whether they were saved or lost). The motive wasn’t for recognition (like the Pharisees), but for God’s glory. It wasn’t about them.” because I don’t know what “love for God and for His children” looks like to you. I don’t know what you mean by “The motive wasn’t for recognition but for God’s glory” because I don’t know how self recognition VS God’s glory is interpreted or recognized by you.
    I sincerely trust that you believe what you say when you make statements like this: “I definitely believe that we aren’t called to cast that judgment (since it is clearly God’s place).” And yet, I experience such a strong declaration of what is TRUTH in much of the rest of what you write that I often feel judged. I suspect my arguments have a similar effect in reverse. It makes me wonder what the best next step should be. I would no more expect you to quit advocating for the truth you see/understand than I could expect that of myself and so I am glad you have continued in this discussion. Ultimately I believe so long as we can continue in civil discourse the Body is served. I hope that you feel free to ask for points to be clarified if what I say doesn’t seem to make sense or collides with your understanding.

    • Minnow,

      Thanks for the response. I actually do find this type of discussion helpful. While I may not reply immediately, please don’t take it to mean that I am not interested. Life may get the better of me and one day I’ll forget 😉

      Anyway, you bring up some good points. I realize that some of my posts may come across judgmental. That is actually the nature of disagreement, however. To disagree is to not agree with another party for personal reasons, and therefore to judge them as wrong.

      There is a difference between disagreement and conversation. There are things that I certainly disagree with you on (and I suspect the same toward myself), but there are plenty of things (like this discussion) that I find conversational and edifying to both.

      However, I am trying my best to not get offended if you judge me to be wrong in areas. Indeed, it’s not only your right but your responsibility to judge right from wrong, and choose which way to live.

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