Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Who Is My Brother?

When we talk about what someone has to believe in order to have our fellowship as brothers and sisters, what we're essentially saying is what defines a Christian. Who is a Christian? Who is my brother? And that can very quickly become a slippery slope. 

Again, what is essential? 

Do intent and earnestness matter? In other words, if someone truly believes himself to be a Christian and is doing his best to live and love accordingly...but is still getting it wrong...is it okay for us to say that he's not really a Christian? To excommunicate him? To cast him out of our assembly? If that's the case, then that's bad news for all of us because there's not a single one of us getting it completely right. 

In the philosophy class that I used to facilitate, we often talked about deism - the belief that there is a God, but He's more of a clock maker, putting all of the parts together and setting it in motion, then stepping back and letting it run on its own. What we discovered in looking at this was that many of the Founding Fathers of America were actually deists, not theists (what we would typically call Christians - believers in an active, involved, intervening God). So we would then ask the question: is America, then, a Christian nation? Was it ever? 

Often, the students would say that America could not have been a Christian nation because the Founding Fathers were deists, not Christians.

Okay, but what if the Founding Fathers thought they were Christians? What if that's what their Christian faith looked like to them? We can look back at what they believed and say that they were deists, but what if they thought they were theists? What if they were doing the best that they could and truly believed they were Christians acting Christianly and had Christian intents in mind, despite their beliefs not being quite fully theist? 

In other words, could America be a Christian nation if the Founding Fathers were trying to make it a Christian nation but were just getting it a little bit wrong? Is it less a Christian nation because their faith wasn't fully formed in certain ways? Because we do not judge them to be "true" Christians, even if they thought they were? 

It's tough. Do you get that? It's really tough. On one hand, we have to absolutely draw a line against heresy, as the church has had to do throughout its history. But on the other hand, we can't just throw out everyone who's not getting it right. There'd be no one left. Who among us would remain as a Christian if the standard were something more than earnestness and intent? 

So back to the issue we were looking at yesterday that kind of sparked all of this - is this church in question not a Christian church because they teach something that other churches disagree with or even call heresy? Do they believe themselves to be Christian? Are they attempting to live faithful to the Gospel as they understand it? Or are they attempting to change the Gospel to be something they want it to be for their own purposes?

The truth is...most of us are earnest in our efforts to be Christian. We are. Most of us are doing the best that we can, and we're trying to get it right. We're trying to live a life of faith as we understand it, taking God at His Word as we know it. We absolutely have to take a stand against heresy, but there's a difference between heresy and interpretation. Most of us are getting it wrong one way or another, somehow. Not one of us is in perfect faith. If the standard is getting it right, then we're all out. We're all heretics.  

That's why I love so deeply my Restoration Movement heritage that asks only one question of anyone who would be our brother or sister: do we agree on the essentials? That God, the Father, created the world in Triune fellowship with the Son and the Holy Spirit, that Jesus is the Son of God, fully man and fully Lord, who came, lived, died, and rose again for the forgiveness of our sins, that the Holy Spirit dwells in us and among us as Counselor and Friend, leading us onward to that Promised day when we will dwell with Him again? These are the essentials - that God is God and we are not, that He is who He says He is and who His Word reveals Him to be, that He is love and we are, too. Do we agree on the essentials?

Then on the non-essentials, let us say: love you, brother. Love you, sister. And then, let's talk about things and see if we can't, together, come to a place where we're both getting it a little more right. 

No comments:

Post a Comment