January 18, 2011

Test of Faith

So there is a little test I would like you to take right now. It's called; 'Are You a Christian?' So go and grab a pen and paper I'll wait........

OK, now that your ready lets get started.

1. Have you declared that, 'Jesus is Lord', out loud to some quantity of people?

2. Do you believe that God raised Jesus from the dead?

If you answered yes to both of those questions congratulations, and welcome to the family!

You may or may not be wondering where I came up with my little test. If you are I found it here in Paul's letter to the Romans, "If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."

I have another question for you, two really. First did you expect my test to be longer/ did you wonder to yourself what crazy things does he have on his test? And second do you at all feel like the test I made up, or the criteria that Paul gives ought to be longer?

There is something in the air right now that seems to make us really want to add a lot of subtext to this passage. We really seem to want to add qualifiers to the gospel message. Maybe it isn't really something that is in the air, after all it is hardly a new problem. The entire letter to the Galatians centers around the questions of; what is the gospel of Jesus and how can you really be saved? 

Apparently there were some who wanted to sure that converts to Christianity also followed the Jewish law, up to and including circumcision. Paul in no uncertain terms told them they were wrong and that adherence to the law did not complete the gospel.

I suspect there is no one in your Christian circle of friends chastening you for eating a bacon double cheese burger, and when visiting a church you likely have not been asked to drop your pants so they can check out the goods before you take communion. We for the most part seem to have moved on from this problem.

Do you eat these? For some that was enough to invalidate your claim of being a Christian

But we clearly have not moved on from the core of the problem. Right now any number of subtext and qualifiers are being added to the gospel. As far as I can tell they come in two varieties; moral reform and intellectual assent. 

On the moral reform side we subtly or not so subtly imply that a person simply can't really have accepted Jesus as Lord  if they are still be doing X. X can stand for a lot, how can they still be living together unmarried, how can they still smoke, how can they swear,  how can they still call themselves gay. That last one is a biggie for a lot of people, up to the point that they would say it is impossible for a person to be both gay and a Christian.

The other variety is intellectual assent. They can't really believe God raised Jesus from the dead if, they believe the earth is old, in evolution, that the bible is not verbal plenary inspired, that Moses didn't write the entire Torah, and on and on it goes. The argument tends to go if you  don't understand that the bible says X how could you possibly believe that it says Y. One of the odd things I have found is that it doesn't matter how non-related X and Y are from each other; simply failing to affirm one means you are not legitimately affirming the other.

Now I don't want to appear flippant. Many if not all of the above issues are serious. They are things we need to think through debate, wrestle with, and pray about. But what they are not, and cannot be is tests of faith. 

Disagree with me if you must. Call me liberal, or emergent, or postmodern. Say things like I don't take the bible seriously enough, or that I am trying to compromise the gospel to appease this generation. But whatever you say, don't dismiss me as non-Christian. Because I too have publicly proclaimed with all my heart that Jesus is Lord, and I believe with every ounce of me that God raised him from the dead.