10 Fundamental Questions about Christianity

evangometerI just spent some time arguing certain tenets of faith with a self professed Christian Evangelical /Fundamentalist. I found his remarks to be fairly typical of most conservative Christians so I thought they might be worth discussing. I’ve generalized my questions to him in the hope for at least some sort of brevity. I wonder where many of you stand on these issues. 1.) Isn’t it possible, as CS Lewis suggests in Mere Christianity, for a person of another religion to encounter Christ? (such as the centurion that Jesus lauded for having great faith):

How can I find Jesus in another religion, when the only “religion” He preached was the Christian/Biblical one? Now, you may be saying that we can find elements of Christianity in other religions, and use them to show them Jesus. But Jesus cannot be found (literally) in another religion.

2.) What about, for example, the fate of a young Hindu boy, never having encountered a missionary or a Bible:

As tragic as it is, I would say that yes, if the boy never believes and has faith in Jesus Christ, then he would go to hell whenever he dies.

3.) So then there is no way for someone, who is not a Christian, to realize their salvation?:

That’s exactly right! In order to go to heaven and spend eternity with Christ, you have to believe in Him and the fact that he is the ONLY way to Heaven!….If you don’t believe that, then you can’t go!

4.) But that does not seem to be consistent with the picture of the Father, a God of love, as revealed through Jesus’ ministry here on earth:

Yes God is a god of love. He would desire all to partake of heaven, but some won’t. Simple as that. If you don’t believe that that John 3:16, and John 14:6 then you cannot call yourself a Christian. Because you aren’t following the Christ of the Bible.

You struggle with accepting the fact that God could create a place of eternal punishment. Why? Why is that illogical? God is love, and as such he sent his Son to die! We now have a way to escape the eternal punishment for our sins. There would be no Hell if we hadn’t sinned, or if Satan hadn’t rebelled.

5.) The doctrine of Hell looks to be un-biblical, certain foreign ideas about such a place appear to have been incorporated into the various translations of scripture:

Either you believe in the Bible’s truth or you don’t. There’s usually no gray areas with scripture. Usually.I’ve stated it already, read John 14:6. If you do not believe that, and believe that only through faith in Christ we can live eternally with Him (John 3:16), then you are not a Christian. You are not a believer. If you were to die not believing that, then you would sadly not be in Heaven, but rather Hell. I have no problem saying that because God said it not me. Something inspired by God must be infallible because a perfect God thought of it. You contradict yourself way too much. The Word of God is open to interpretation because as humans, we’ll never fully understand everything but that doesn’t make the Word fallible. It’s only a reminder of how fallible we are. If you don’t believe the divinely inspired Word of God is infallible than you deny that God is infallible.

6.) How about divine revelation through creation? Can’t someone know God through nature?:

I would agree with you that people can see God’s work in nature, but they have to attribute that to God, the god of the Bible

7.) When we talk of the Christian religion, Jesus knew of no such thing. He was a practicing Jew that demonstrated what living out God’s law looked like. Even, Paul, in his letters, never lost sight of the fact that he himself was Jewish and one of his great challenges was how to instruct others into welcoming the Gentiles into a Jewish faith community:

Paul was a Jew? That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. So the whole experience on the road to Damascus was just a random event? Paul encountered God on the road, and made a fundamental shift to spreading the gospel. A Christian is someone who follows Christ.

8.) It seemed that Jesus spent much time speaking out against religion, particularly those doctrines that were so rigid that they tended to obscure the spirit of God’s law:

Rigid doctrinal walls are necessary and they will always be necessary. I will never back down from the basic doctrines I believe in. Though I may be labeled fundamentalist, judgmental, ignorant, divisive, I attribute all that to the Bible.

9.) But isn’t Jesus’ message of love and forgiveness the real ‘meat’ of the Gospel? Although described by some as coming from a ‘fluffy and cuddly’ Jesus, isn’t this message the hardest to digest? Just look around; is anyone truly following him?:

I don’t want my faith to be fluffy or cuddly. I want it to be defined very clearly….I find incredible joy knowing that my beliefs are substantiated by the Word of God. Though I will never understand everything, that does not limit the infallibility and wonderful nature of God Almighty…..A fundamentalist such as myself is not anti-witnessing or relating to people, I do that everyday. I’m merely wanting others to know exactly where I stand. I’d rather a non-believer know exactly where I stand, than leave it up for debate in the hopes of gaining a friend.

10.) What about those people who are turned off by fire and brimstone rhetoric? Perhaps we are doing the Gospel a disservice by being so confrontational;

….only those with the eyes to see, and the ears to hear will accept Christ.

Unfortunately, the conversations often ended this way:

I may not be understanding you, but if you can bring me Biblical proof to substantiate your claim, I’m all for it.

What say you?

Advertisements
  1. #1 by Jason on April 2, 2008 - 7:40 pm

    it’s a start, but the context of this thread, and the majority of your current work, is related to salvation or eschatology. Is Matthew 25:31-46 meant to address that or not? If so, let’s start looking at it.

    If salvation is not earned, upon what is it based?

    Lastly, please provide evidence that the word says behavior is more important than calling Him Lord, and then, if you can, explain how that is anything other than earned redemption based on what we do.

  2. #2 by Christian on April 2, 2008 - 8:44 pm

    I think that though my ‘work’ and this thread may be related to salvation and eschatology, it is not devoted to it. It is really devoted to how we, as Christians, relate to and interact with those who are not.

    I think salvation is based upon God’s infinite grace and mercy, as well as his love and sacrifice, as shown on the cross.

    “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 7: 21

    Again, salvation is based upon God’s love for us, what we do should be based upon our realization of this salvation.

  3. #3 by lavrai on April 2, 2008 - 9:37 pm

    If you want to know the Truth and how to know GOD and how to be acceptable in HIS sight, just read the Holy Bible.

    It doesn’t mince words that some people will have eternal life in Paradise and that others will suffer eternal damnation, which sounds really terrible when Jesus the Christ says ‘there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

    Jesus said the most important of the 10 commandments was to love — Matthew 22: “34 But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together.
    35 Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying,
    36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”
    37 Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’
    38 This is the first and great commandment.”

    The LORD said it was the great, not the only commandment — there are other important principles GOD gave for living an acceptable life before HIM and HE knows that when you first learn to love without restrictions (imagine loving a GOD you cannot see, hear or touch in the traditional sense), abiding by the other commandments may be easier (and you can’t love your GOD and other people, if you don’t first love yourself).

    And Jesus the Christ said so many times in the Gospels that the only way to attain salvation was to believe on HIM. If you can’t or don’t believe that Jesus the Christ was the Son Of GOD and shares the same Spirit with His FATHER, then He too will deny you before the FATHER who is in heaven.

    And one of your questions mentioned above concerned those who have never heard the Gospel and who die — what’s their eternal fate? It is written “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” as GOD said to Moses. Also consider what GOD told the youth Jeremiah when HE called him to be HIS prophet, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:4-6)

    It seems quite possible that GOD has already numbered HIS people, some already are, and some soon will be.

    In Jesus’ final prayer before being seized by the state, He prays first for Himself, saying ‘FATHER, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify YOU.”

    He then prays for his disciples whom GOD had given Him saying, ‘They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.”

    He then goes on to say, ‘I pray for them. I do not pray for the world, but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.’

    And finally, Jesus prays for His future believers saying, ‘I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their (the disciples) word: that they all may be one…”

    What I am saying with all of this is that GOD already knows who believes HIM and who denies HIM. If someone dies without having heard the Gospel, I can’t imagine the LORD does not know about it (but remember, Jesus promised that He would not return again until every nation in every corner of the world had heard the Good News).

    There is no middle ground with the LORD’s Word. You either accept it as it is or you deny it…and when you start making exceptions or ignoring certain parts of the requirements for salvation, you have denied HIS Word already.

    You should read about the ‘lukewarm’ church Jesus the Christ describes in Revelation (there is no middle road)… you’ll see what kind of followers He finds acceptable and those who need to work out their salvation.

    As for finding GOD in nature or Jesus in other religions… when you look at others and all that is around you, it is GOD’s creation you see (the hand of GOD) — not GOD HIMSELF, that would be idolatry. There is only one Jesus the Christ, so if a religion is talking about Jesus the Son of GOD born into the world of a virgin named Mary, who died, came back to life, ascended to heaven and will one day return — then yeah, they’re talking about the same Jesus that told Peter to build his church called Christianity.

    It’s a rough road to hoe, but you can’t make concessions. Jesus didn’t, so follow Him.

  4. #4 by Jason on April 2, 2008 - 9:42 pm

    “It is really devoted to how we, as Christians, relate to and interact with those who are not.”

    I don’t understand. Isn’t your whole entry at the top of this thread about various interpretations and teachings? I know you say that it is a matter of how we relate but you have so many pet doctrinal projects, and much more often than not devote a great deal of time to insubstantially, usually via homespun parables – i.e.: straw men – critiquing multiple biblical teachings, I just think that you saying this is all about community is disingenous. The do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do escape hatch.

    “as shown on the cross.”

    So the cross is an expression of grace and mercy, not the means of grace and mercy? And if so doesn’t that mean that God could save his people without the cross? Did anything actually happen there other than the only rightous person who ever lived being tortured and murdered? I know I have asked it before, but you have never answered and now there is a whole new bunch reading your stuff, so is what you said above the sum total of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ?

    Your quoting of Matthew 7:21 doesn’t support your assertion that behavior is more imporatant than calling him Lord in salvation. It only speaks to the absence of certain works in some who may call him Lord. Does that mean that they call him Lord, and he really is their Lord, and yet they do not do what he says? This of course is unlikely, as John hammers in his gospel and his epistles (yes, I know, they are way down on your hermeneutical totem pole). Is it not more likely that their testimony does not match their actions?

    As an example dealing with a causative look at the matter of the works which Christ says we are to do is Eph 2:10. Those works are prepared beforehand, and the execution and very attention to them is predicated on justification having occurred beforehand.

    No matter your caricatures of on these pages of highly academic strains of biblical Christianity, the reality is that I can’t think of one faithful teacher who does not teach that the one who endures to the end wil be saved, but the endurance is not based upon works, the endurance is the result of having been justified, like Romans 5:1, the hinge for all the promises of Christ, that peace with God, which comes by grace through faith in God who saves (a mystery to those who came before Christ, but nevertheless, as Job even in the midst of not understanding it, my redeemer lives). Romans 3:25 indicates that the only reason God put up with sin at all was because that the cross would, to those who believe, cleanse them from their sins and bring them to everlasting life. God indeed saves, but he does it by and through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, not because he just lets stuff slide off his back.

    As I have affirmed literally dozens of times, the works corrective, of which you are a part, in current teaching is biblical and greatly needed and appreciated by me, decisional regeneration theology had nearly ruined American strains of Christianity. But there is not one verse of which I am aware which speaks of works as causative of salvation nor as more important than the fact of loving the Lord your God with everything you have and trusting his ability and design to save through Christ. The one above does not indicate importance, it only indicates a lack of action in those who assert the lordship of Christ, but obviously, per John, he is not their Lord at all. Just as with Matthew 25, nothing about the language makes works salvifically imperative, only indicative. But if you can find any verses which demonstrate this, or if you think I am totally wrong, please, proceed.

    The gospel is presented as a fact of history, that Christ died for our sins. Believing the gospel is repeatedly taught to be the starting gun on what is said to be a lifetime of obedience. Perhaps you are saying that one can lose salvation, even though it comes by the power of God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The idea that his death was an expression of his love is presented, but it is a distant third in substance and volume to dying for sins and taking on himself the wrath of the Father.

    “salvation is based upon God’s love for us”

    This can mean either nothing or everything. You must be able to more clearly deliniate this.

    “what we do should be based upon our realization of this salvation.”

    I’m not sure how this pertains, either. This idea certainly is present in Hebrews, and I would not at all dispute its stand-alone veracity, but how that goes towards evincing or helping us to understand, “how we should behave [being of greater] importance [than]…calling him Lord” is uncertain.

    Perhaps return to Matthew 25 since you feel that it lays this out so well.

  5. #5 by Christian on April 2, 2008 - 10:06 pm

    Welcome, lavrai. Thanks for joining in.

    The LORD said it was the great, not the only commandment

    But didn’t he say that it summed up all the other commandmens?

    There is no middle ground with the LORD’s Word. You either accept it as it is or you deny it…and when you start making exceptions or ignoring certain parts of the requirements for salvation, you have denied HIS Word already.

    Is it that simple? No middle ground? Off/on, black/white, hot/cold? Would it only be like that. But we have 2000 years of examples where people who call themselves Christians, who call Jesus ‘Lord’, cannot agree on precisely what he said. We also have millions of people who are in various stages of their journey with God, some near, some far. That’s why we talk.

    Does that mean that they call him Lord, and he really is their Lord, and yet they do not do what he says?

    Precisely. Or they say that they choose to follow him but then they choose not follow his teachings. Which is tantamount to not really accepting him as lord at all.

  6. #6 by lavrai on April 3, 2008 - 12:45 am

    CHRISTIAN:

    You said: But didn’t he say that it summed up all the other commandmens?

    Yes, that’s what the LORD says in that particular verse…but are you implying that Jesus the Christ meant that is where we are supposed to stop?

    It is written in Matthew 19: Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?”

    So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”

    He said to Him, “Which ones?”

    Jesus said, “ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and your mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

    So, Christian, do we still stop at love and ignore the other commandments Jesus the Christ said we are to follow “to enter into life?”

    As for your comment: Is it that simple? No middle ground? Off/on, black/white, hot/cold?

    The Holy Bible, the Word of GOD Almighty, indeed makes it that simple. When you read that section in the Book Of Revelation I recommended, then perhaps we can really talk. Here is what Jesus says about those who are not either hot or cold, but are lukewarm, you know, not black or white, but gray:

    “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.”

    Does that make it clear to you? And I notice that you seem to reference the world when trying to prove your points or support your opinions. How is that the world has a say in the things of GOD?

    I leave you with this, friend:
    Matthew 15:8-10 – ‘ These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”

    Beware of the leaven of men…who may turn your heart from GOD.

    -http://www.lavrai.com/blogs

  7. #7 by Christian on April 3, 2008 - 6:28 am

    “Jesus said, “ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and your mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”….So, Christian, do we still stop at love and ignore the other commandments Jesus the Christ said we are to follow “to enter into life?”

    I think Jesus’ point here is that if we have love, as defined by God and not by our egos, we will ‘naturally’ be following those commandments that we struggled with obeying before. You are right, we are to follow him, do as he commands us, if we want to realize the abundant life that God has given us, the life that comes from repenting or our sin, the eternal life that begins right now, not just after we die.

    Although I agree with what you say, but couldn’t it be construed as a ‘works’ based salvation by some who are committed to Luther’s doctrine of Sole Fide?

    As far as Revelation goes, I have read it many times. You see it differently than I do – the lukewarm church is the one which is fixated on selfish concerns of personal salvation and ignores the more difficult concerns of Christ- that of an active faith that looks towards the well being of all God’s children. They honor Christ with their lips, their prayers, their hymns, their creeds but their heart is not with him, they have no heart for service. And their leaders teach doctrines that perpetuate this.

    This man made Gospel, cooked up for over 2000 years of religious idolatry infects the faiths of millions. just as leavening spreads from host to host.

  8. #8 by b4dguy on April 4, 2008 - 2:14 pm

    lavrai –

    If we truly and completely loved the way Jesus commands us to love, there would be no other sin. It’s not so much that the rest is ignored, it’s more like the rest simply becomes a non-issue.

    I think of it like this: Jesus told us the two most important commandments, that is to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. He also gave us a new commandment – to love one another. If these are the three most important commandments that we are called to follow, and we don’t do them right or completely, why in the world would we focus on any of the other/lesser commandments? We’re not getting “graded” on total effort, nor does God “grade on a curve.” I will spend the rest of my life focusing on achieving perfection in these first three commandments; I don’t have the time nor the inclination to settle for less.

    Here’s two analogies along these lines:

    Bank tellers are trained to detect counterfeit money by touching and handling real money. They handle real money so much that when something fake crosses their path – they know it’s not real.

    There are many ways to approach growing a healthy lawn. One requires running around and killing/spraying/removing every weed that crops up. Another approach focuses on growing healthy grass, and in doing this there becomes no room for weeds to crop up.

    Healthy grass == love.
    Weeds == sin in our lives.

    The attention to love as the first and foremost commandment, while not dismissing any of the other commandments becomes a matter of emphasis, or perhaps it’s semantics. Love first, and you won’t be doing all the other things. Focus on all the other things and you WILL miss the opportunity to love.

    Make sense?

  9. #9 by Christian on April 4, 2008 - 3:47 pm

    Double A-Absolutely!

  10. #10 by ANonfundamentalistChristian on October 26, 2009 - 6:42 pm

    1.) Isn’t it possible, as CS Lewis suggests in Mere Christianity, for a person of another religion to encounter Christ? (such as the centurion that Jesus lauded for having great faith):

    Christ appeared to people of varying religions in his own day–to Jews, and to Romans who were most likely pagan. However, that isn’t saying that Christ could appear in another religion (with a different name and face). Christ was a physical person at one time–it would be impossible for him to be another. Also, Christians acknowledge that while there are a great many prophets, there is only one Son of God, so no, I don’t think Christ could appear in a different religion (besides, I think if Christ were at the centerpiece of a different religion, that religion would by definition be Christianity).

    2.) What about, for example, the fate of a young Hindu boy, never having encountered a missionary or a Bible:

    The Bible says that God’s law is written in the hearts of men, so the above response is incorrect. The Bible says that some people instinctively know the truth in their hearts. Basically that means if his heart is in line with Christian ideals, that God will forgive him (because there are many who haven’t heard of Christ–how can you punish someone for not knowing? But knowing and rejecting are another story).

    3.) So then there is no way for someone, who is not a Christian, to realize their salvation?:

    That’s up to God to judge. Not knowing is different than rejecting–people who reject make a conscious choice and are responsible for the consequences, while people who don’t know may have agreed and followed Jesus if they had heard. It all depends–is the love of God in your heart, or are you focused mainly on yourself?

    4.) But that does not seem to be consistent with the picture of the Father, a God of love, as revealed through Jesus’ ministry here on earth:

    God is a god of love, and he has given us a choice. I’ve heard it said that a loving God could not condemn any to hell, or that hell is for people who choose to separate themselves from God. If so, why was it necessary for Jesus to die? Kind of trivializes his crucifixion, if all are saved. So while it is true God is loving, he gives us free will to make choices, knowing what the consequences are. His request is actually very simple–believe in my son Jesus, and try to then live out God’s love. You may fail and that’s okay, because no one is perfect. But you have to believe (that is what will save you, because Jesus’ death makes up for your sins) and you have to try to put that belief into action (otherwise you’re just saying you believe–if you believe with your heart, you can’t help but try to spread God’s love).

    5.) The doctrine of Hell looks to be un-biblical, certain foreign ideas about such a place appear to have been incorporated into the various translations of scripture:

    I hate to say this, but the previous responder was right–you have to look at the Gospel of John. Jesus mentions being condemned if you don’t believe, many times.

    6.) How about divine revelation through creation? Can’t someone know God through nature?:

    God is of course present in nature, and nature is a great way to see the beauty of God and admire the mysteries of the world. Science is another way (very similar to nature). So nature is the first step often in revealing God, but then it’s up to a person to explore the God they find. And who wouldn’t want to know what a God who made such an intricate world is like?

    7.) When we talk of the Christian religion, Jesus knew of no such thing. He was a practicing Jew that demonstrated what living out God’s law looked like. Even, Paul, in his letters, never lost sight of the fact that he himself was Jewish and one of his great challenges was how to instruct others into welcoming the Gentiles into a Jewish faith community:

    Paul was of course a Jew. I’m not sure what the question is here but Christians come from a variety of previous backgrounds. If the question is about if one has to be Jewish to be Christian, Peter and Paul had this very debate and Paul won–he said Christianity was for everyone, and that there was no need for Gentiles to convert. Basically Gentiles were free to keep their customs as long as they believed in Christ as the messiah and believed in his message.

    8.) It seemed that Jesus spent much time speaking out against religion, particularly those doctrines that were so rigid that they tended to obscure the spirit of God’s law:

    Yes, in some places he did and this is where I believe fundamentalists err. There are 2 ways to read the Bible: as the literal inerrant word of God, or not. Even literalists say that the inerrancy is in the original text–all translations contain errors or miss some of the meanings just because we can’t translate all the connotations of the original words (both due to language inabilities and not knowing additional historical connotations).

    So not all Christians (in fact the majority) don’t read the Bible literally. But I think almost all Christians will concur that certain messages or meanings are strung throughout the Bible. So while it’s really easy to argue about 1 sentence, it’s harder to disagree if it’s promoted time and again in the Bible.

    9.) But isn’t Jesus’ message of love and forgiveness the real ‘meat’ of the Gospel? Although described by some as coming from a ‘fluffy and cuddly’ Jesus, isn’t this message the hardest to digest? Just look around; is anyone truly following him?:

    Yes, Jesus’s message is love–but it isn’t loving aimlessly. It’s loving him in appreciation of the sacrifice he gave for us, love of God, and love of one’s neighbor because we’re all God’s creations. I’d say many Christians (most Christians) DO follow that. The sign-holders and haters are a small minority, but very vocal. Don’t be fooled. Real Christians do lots of acts of love that aren’t recorded by the news, and most are actually very nice people.

    10.) What about those people who are turned off by fire and brimstone rhetoric? Perhaps we are doing the Gospel a disservice by being so confrontational;

    Yes indeed. Fire and brimstone is one technique used to make people aware of their sins–unfortunately I think it just turns people away from Christianity. I think Christians need to show more of the love and the hope they receive from being a Christian–after all the early Christians travelled from place to place just sharing, not forcing, their religion. And Christians, including myself, feel like it is Good News and wish to share that promise of love and hope with others only because it makes us very happy, and we wish to share that happiness (wouldn’t you, if you found The Answer to How to Be Happy–and it’s essentially free?). It’s up to you if you take it.

1 7 8 9

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: